In 1933 General Foods published All About Home Baking, a lovely little cookbook with recipes featuring products like Swan’s Down Cake Flour and Calumet baking powder. I have the 1941 edition, and the Gingerbread Upside Down Cake recipe recently caught my eye. It seemed like the perfect recipe for Fall, since it is heavily laden with ginger, cinnamon, and lots of molasses. Let me repeat that lots of molasses.
Preparation is Everything
This recipe almost caused me to have a major meltdown. Have you ever had one of those days when you have too much to do, but you only have a small window of opportunity to get all those things done? I was having one of those days, and feeling the self-imposed pressure of baking the cake in between too many other activities. Diving in, unprepared and overstressed, is never a good idea. I realized too late that I didn’t have enough molasses, which required a quick trip to the store. Then, I realized I didn’t have the right cake pan. Let the meltdown commence!
Pull it Together, Woman!
Before sinking into tantrum mode, I pulled it together, made it work with a slightly smaller pan, and made a separate little cake with the extra batter. That being said, I’m going to give you the (mostly) original recipe, without many twists or different cake pan sizes, although I did substitute butter for the shortening. My main tips are to know your oven temperature. If you are using a glass cake pan, take it down 25 degrees, and put a pan of water in the oven to help the cake steam. I’ve had trouble with these upside down cakes cracking. This seemed to help some. The larger cake didn’t crack, but you’ll see some cracking in the smaller one, which really didn’t matter.
- 2½ cups sifted cake flour
- 2½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup softened butter (the original recipe calls for shortening) + 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 egg, well beaten (at room temperature)
- ¾ cup milk (at room temperature)
- ⅔ cup molasses + ½ cup
- ¼ cup raisins
- 1 large apple
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 if glass baking pan)
- Sift the flour, measure out the 2½ cups, add the baking powder, soda, sugar, salt, and spices. Sift three times.
- Cream the butter. Add the dry ingredients, beaten egg, milk and ⅔ cup molasses. Sir until dampened, then beat vigorously for one minute.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in an 8 x 8 x 2" pan. Add ½ cup molasses and ¼ cup raisins. Heat over low flame (if you have a glass pan you can melt everything together in the microwave).
- Pare, core, and thinly slice an apple. Arrange the slices over the molasses/raisin mixture.
- Pour the batter over the molasses/raisin/apple mixture.
- Bake for 50 minutes with another pan of water in the oven to help combat cracking.
- After cooling for about 15 minutes, loosen the sides of the cake and flip it over onto a serving plate.
This cake’s molasses flavor is strong, which I like. but may be overpowering to some. The raisins and apples in the topping gave it a nice chewy texture, and the cake crumb was moist and soft. I may try making just the gingerbread next time. It you try it, let me know what you think!