Gingerbread Cake: A Dessert for All Seasons

Is there any dessert as satisfying and adaptable as gingerbread cake? O.K., O.K., I know you chocolate people may beg to differ, but bear with me.  Consider gingerbread cake, delicious in cool weather with a warm caramel or lemon sauce, delicious in warm weather with a frozen topping or fresh fruit.  What’s not to like?

I’ve long admired the gingerbread cake served at Chow restaurants in San Francisco and the East Bay.  It’s nearly perfect, dense and rich, gingery and sweet enough, but not too sweet;  they serve it warm with pumpkin ice cream and caramel sauce.  It’s a dessert I’ve happily eaten once a year or so for the past ten years and never been disappointed. As it is one of their signature dishes, I never thought they’d share the recipe.  Imagine my surprise when I saw the recipe in print a few weeks ago in the S.F. Chronicle’s Sunday food section… So naturally, I’ve come up with a vegan version of their recipe, using natural sweeteners.  While it’s the best gingerbread I’ve ever made, check back here, as eventually I hope to perfect it further (if you think I’m a little obsessive about gingerbread, you’d be right!). I’ve also devised a recipe for my version of caramel sauce which does not involve refined sugar.  Make both and enjoy both, warm if possible.


Preheat oven to 350º F, lightly oil a 9 x 9-inch cake pan

Wet ingredients:

3/4 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)

3/4 cup maple syrup

3/4 cup soy or rice milk

1/2 cup canola or similar light oil

2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and  grated (about 3 tablespoons)

4 tablespoons finely ground flax seeds dissolved in 3/4 cup water

Dry ingredients:

1 cup unbleached white flour

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

tiny pinch of salt

1. Combine the ground flax seeds and water in your blender bowl.  Blend on high until completely blended.  Add the remaining wet ingredients and blend well on high.

2. Sift the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.  Stir well to combine.

3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir well to combine.

4. Pour this batter into an oiled 9 x 9-inch baking pan and bake at 350º F 40 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

5. Cool partially on a cooling rack before cutting and serving with fruit, whipped or frozen topping or caramel sauce (see below).

VEGAN CARAMEL SAUCE (yields 1 1/2 cups)

This sauce can be made in about five minutes, but allow 15 minutes for it to partially cool and thicken.

1/2 cup barley malt syrup

1/2 cup rice syrup

1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional, but adds to complexity of flavor)

2 tablespoons Earth Balance

2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup soy or rice milk

tiny pinch of salt

1. Combine the first four ingredients in a sauce pan.  Heat over medium high heat, stirring constantly, just until it comes to a boil. Turn down heat a bit.

2. Measure the soy milk into a bowl, add a tiny pinch of salt and whisk in the corn starch or arrowroot, making sure it is completely dissolved, then pour this into the syrup mixture.  Whisk constantly over medium heat for about two minutes.  Pour into a serving bowl and allow this sauce to cool and thicken before serving.  Will keep for ten days to two weeks, refrigerated.  Always warm before serving.


2 responses

  1. I tried this today and it was delicious! It was moist, not too sweet, and the combination of different spices and sweeteners created a nice depth of flavor. I also loved the caramel sauce but did substitute the earth balance with virgin coconut oil. My favorite thing about both components of this recipe is that the sauce would work with just about any cake/dessert and the cake would be deliciously dressed with probably any kind topping! Thanks chef Gary!

  2. Hello Gary ~
    I wanted to suggest that if you substitute 3 tab. of chia seeds for the ground flax its a great alternative, as the chia are tasteless and lend a ” wonderfully springy moist texture ” to any baked good, griddle cake etc.!
    Simply add the 3 tab. of chia to the water, immediately stir and then stir again in 1-2 min. or it will become layered and stiff. Then add the water and chia to your batter and voila you’ve got it!

    Paul Pitchford, author of Healing With Whole Foods Book, (great book btw) says that canola oil is unfortunately not unrefined and is used for
    factory operations, hence the crop is sprayed, heated and refined.
    Not a good choice for humans. Extra V.Olive Oil, or unrefined coconut oil would be a much better choice. Please help spread the word:
    Canola Oil has not come out with an unrefined organic version yet!

    Thank you for your wonderful site Gary ~ your recipes are amazing and you are so witty and upbeat! You inspire us all to be better cooks!

    Love & Happiness,

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