Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Dark Molasses Cake with Streusel

For me, this is an unusual cake because it doesn't have any sugar in it. Instead, it relys on molasses for sweetness. Though molasses is derrived from boiling sugar cane when it is processed into sugar, it is not entirely sweet. The darker the molasses is - meaning that it comes from the second boiling of sugar cane as opposed to the first - the more likely it is to have a bitter quality to it. This can be rather off-putting if you don't anticipate it. The bitterness goes fairly well with a cup of coffee, but it has been offset here by a light topping of streusel, which does contain a bit of sugar.
Once baked, the cake stays fairly moist, while the streusel crisps up nicely. On the first day it is made, there will be a lovely, contrasting crunch from the slightly sugary topping. If you take care to have streusel and cake in each mouthful, the strong molasses flavor of the cake will be perfectly balanced. It will soften once the cake has been wrapped up, but that doesn't take anything away from the flavor.
If you prefer to use light molasses, your cake will lack the slight bitterness that the darker molasses gave mine. To avoid this entirely, or if you cannot get molasses at all, you can substitute golden syrup or treacle for the molasses. The lack of refined sugar in this might be enough to qualify it as a "lo-carb" cake. I'm not completely sure, but perhaps Elise might know, since she is looking into lower-carb options this month.
Overall, I really liked this cake. I worried that it would be too dark or too strong, but it was neither. It was moist, interesting and, perhaps best of all, topped with streusel. It was easy to put together and a little bit different from the usual fare. Perfect for a cold winter morning and outstanding with a cup of hot coffee.

Dark Molasses Cake with Streusel
1 ¾ cup ap flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
1 egg
¼ cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
½ cup milk
½ cup dark molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract

Streusel Topping
(Feel free to double if you want extra)
1 tbsp butter, cold
1 tbsp ap flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp oats (1-minute or coarsely chopped rolled oats)
½ tsp cinnamon
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 8x8 square baking pan with butter or cooking spray.
In a small bowl, combine all streusel ingredients and rub butter in with your fingers, until the mixture is crumbly and evenly blended. Set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.
In a medium bowl, lightly beat egg, then add melted butter, milk, molasses, and vanilla. Whisk thorougly and pour into flour mixture. Stir until just combined, scraping the sides of the bowl, and pour into prepared pan.
Top evenly with streusel mixture.
Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Cool on a wire rack.
Serves 9-12, depending on how big you like your pieces.