Abigail Adams' Coffee Ginger Cakes, Modified and Made
Although I had planned to make a full batch, limits on available ingredients, as well as limits on my appetite, compelled me instead to make a half-batch. That created an unexpected challenge: this seems to be a recipe that does not scale linearly; in other words, simply taking half of every original measure is not quite right. A little experimentation resulted in the conclusion that, although everything else is fine at exactly one-half of its measure in the original recipe, somewhat more than half as much flour is required; otherwise, the batter comes out too thin. I also discovered that molasses makes for one really sticky batter that is beyond my patience in trying to roll out. That's why my variation on the recipe is for coffee ginger cupcakes.
Now, as fair warning to those who will make this, cakes and certain other snacks and desserts that would have appealed to the tastes of a late-18th/early-19th Century person would often be, by today's standards of sweetness, somewhat on the joyless side. I speak from the experience of having been raised in a very old family, where many times I was less than thrilled with what the old people of my father's generation called "dessert." In fact, when I first bit into one of these coffee ginger cupcakes I had made, I was taken aback by how much it reminded me of cake-type snacks I had been fed in my youth. Interestingly, whereas back then I would have quietly disposed of the offending thing, I now find the whole experience entirely pleasing. The cake is heavy, with an immediate sense of dryness that only after a few bites gives way to a deep, rich feeling in the mouth. As you'll notice in the last picture, I did allow for my more modern sweet tooth to have some fun by dusting the cupcakes with confectioner's sugar. It adds only a marginal sweetness overall, but it does take away the initial, almost bitter grab, especially at the crustier edges.
With all of that having been said, here are the step-by-step measures, pictures, and final results.
3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon soda
Into a large bowl, combine and sift ingredients three times.
Work by hand into the sifted flour mixture.
½ cup dark molasses
½ cup hot, strong, black coffee, freshly brewed
½ cup (1 stick) butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Slowly bring just to simmering boil, then remove from heat right away.
Slowly stir hot molasses-butter-coffee mixture into flour mixture, making sure to thoroughly soak all flour, leaving no lumps or beads of flour. Do not, however, whip the batter.
Lightly butter the bottoms of the cups in a 12-cup muffin pan, then pour batter, filling each cup no more than about three-quarters of the way to the top.
Bake in 400° F oven for 16 to 18 minutes. Slide a toothpick in at 16 minutes to see how close to being done they are. When toothpick comes out clean, remove immediately and let cool.
½ cup confectioner's (10X) sugar, poured into shallow bowl or onto deep plate
After about 15 minutes, remove cakes from muffin pan. This might require using a thin fork along the side of each one to carefully lift it out of its cup. Dip the top of each in confectioner's (10X) sugar, and place on wax paper to finish cooling.
Serve, eat, and enjoy.
The Dark Wraith, with the help of Minstrel Boy, has once again delivered the evening's nourishment.
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