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Gingerbread Cake with Root-Beer-Poached Pears

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Serves 8 (with leftover cake)

Root beer’s aromatic, spicy sweetness makes it a great poaching liquid for pears. Serve both the gingerbread cake and the pears warm or at room temperature. Note: be sure your cake pan has a volume of at least 10 cups.

For the gingerbread
  • 1/2 oz. (1 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 3 large eggs
  • 9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1-3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup root beer, preferably an artisanal brand
For the pears
  • 4 firm-ripe Bosc pears, peeled, halved, and cored
  • Four 12-fl.-oz. bottles root beer, preferably an artisanal brand
  • Freshly grated zest of 2 medium lemons
For Serving
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar
Make the gingerbread

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Coat an 8- or 9-inch square cake pan (at least 10 cups in volume) with the butter and lightly dust with the granulated sugar. In a small bowl, stir the oil, molasses, and eggs until combined. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt.

In a small pot, bring the brown sugar and root beer to a boil. Meanwhile, add the molasses mixture to the flour and stir to combine. Add the hot root beer mixture and quickly beat until combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack until warm, about 40 minutes. Invert the pan to remove the cake and turn the cake right side up. (The cake may be prepared up to 4 hours ahead.)

Poach the pears

In a medium saucepan, combine the pears, root beer, and lemon zest. Bring the mixture to a slow simmer over medium-low heat and cook until the pears are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. With a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the pears to a plate. Bring the poaching liquid to a boil and boil until reduced to a syrup, about 15 minutes (watch carefully towards the end because it can burn quickly); you should have about 3/4 cup. (The pears and syrup may be prepared up to 4 hours ahead. If the syrup thickens, reheat before serving.)

To serve

In a chilled medium bowl, beat the cream and sugar with a hand mixer until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Cut the gingerbread into 8 pieces of whatever size you choose and place one on each of 8 plates. Arrange a pear half against each piece of gingerbread and drizzle each with the syrup. Top with a dollop of whipped cream and serve.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 800; Fat (g): fat g 39; Fat Calories (kcal): 340; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 11; Protein (g): protein g 6; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 15; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 112; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 12; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 550; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 115; Fiber (g): fiber g 4;

Photo: Christopher Hirsheimer; food styling by Melissa Hamilton

I used a 8x8x2 pan suggested by the by FC_Editors. What a mess. Burnt smoke filled house and a destroyed oven. And now, I need to start over...with a different recipe.

What else could you poach the pears in instead of rootbeer? I don't like rootbeer

It's nice to see that mine was not the only one that didn't look picture perfect when it was finished. No overflow but, did rise up pretty high in the middle which created a bit of a crater on the bottom. Tasted fine, used gluten free flour mix as a replacement. All in all a success I would say! Put a little triple sec in the rootbeer sauce as it was reducing. Very nice :)

I baked this cake out of the magazine recipe. I guess my pan was big enough because I had no problems and the cake was amazing. It did sink a tiny bit in the middle, but not enough to change my opinion. I didn't make the pears/sauce, just the cake. The kids loved it, hubby loved it, it was (I thought) even tastier on day two. I recommended the recipe to a couple of friends and they loved it too. This is going to be one of my stand-by recipes. I actually went out and bought a 12-pack of root beer (which we never drink) just so I could make this cake whenever I want! PS Also made this recipe as cupcakes. It makes about 20, so I used two 12-cup trays and just filled 10 each (filled each just a bit above halfway knowing that this batter rises quite a bit). Used paper liners, so did not do the butter/sugar part. Baked both trays at 350 for 19 minutes (rotate & switch midway). Really, really good! Now this recipe is lunch box friendly too!

Great cake! I made mine eggless with egg replacer and it turned out great. Adding crystallized ginger is a nice touch. I used a pan larger than recommended.

Only 3 stars because of the mess it made of my oven, and the fact that it sunk in the middle. I did not see the magazine's admonition re: the pan size until after I made the cake, and it turns out that my pan only holds 6 Cups!! No wonder it boiled over like a volcano! I really did like the taste and density of the cake so I will rate it higher if it works out better in a larger pan. I did not make the pears this time around so I have no opinion on those. For those of you who used a large enough pan: Did the middle of your cake fall or no?

I am sitting in my smoke filled kitchen writing this review. I wish I would have got online and read reviews before I made this...I just used the magazine. I guess I will be cleaning my oven today. Some of what I lifted off the oven floor tasted great though. Just USE A LARGER PAN!!!!

This recipe worked for me. The pan I used was 8 inches square (inside dimensions) and 2 inches deep. The cake didn't overflow or fall. However, I thought the root beer gave it a slightly odd taste and may have detracted from the star, which should have been ginger.

I loved this recipe! Having the rootbeer reduction was a lot of fun. And, my cake sunk too, but I didn't think that it made the cake bad. It's terrifically moist and dense but not heavy- a great gingerbread.

To those who had overflow problems with this cake, we've added more info about the type of pan you need to use. It MUST have a capacity of at least 10 cups because the cake rises quite high. The typical 8x8 Pyrex pan, for instance, won't work, because the sides are tapered. A straight-sided 8x8x2 inch pan should work. If your 8-inch-square pan isn't big enough, use a 9-inch-square instead. It's worth finding the right pan, because the cake is quite delicious!

My cake overflowed as well. Luckily just onto the pizza stone that always sits in my oven so cleanup wasn't so bad, and I salvaged the cake. We liked the cake, and the pears and root beer sauce are terrific. I'll definitely make it again, but with a larger pan. There's definitely an error in this recipe, either too much baking soda or the pan size is too small.

The poached pears were delicious, but I did have to turn them and let them go another 10 minutes for them to be thoroughly poached. By chance I used an extra-deep 8x8 pan I have for the cake, and I'm glad I did or mine would have overflowed too. And, the center caved in so I think there's too much baking soda called for. The flavor was good and all my kids liked it anyway, but I thought it was more sugary/caramelly/something than gingery. I'm going to try it again just because everybody liked it, but it's not the recipe to make if you're looking for a classic gingerbread.

I think the size of pan listed in the recipe is incorrect. 8x8 is too small. The batter has risen quickly past the confines of the pan and is pouring all over my oven.

Followed recipe to the t - including the 2 TEASPOONS of baking soda - instead of gingerbread for dessert, I am trying to air the burnt sulfur smell out of my house. This is not gingerbread cake, it is a volcano!

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