Nothing makes a house smell more like Christmas than the sweet and spicy aroma of a freshly baked pan of gingerbread. The practice of baking and sharing gingerbread cake originated in Europe several hundred years ago.
Ginger and dried spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, and cloves when combined with affordable sweeteners (like molasses or honey) and farmstead staples (such as butter and eggs), this delicious and hearty dessert could be made by home bakers when more expensive ingredients were not an option. (If you don't have all the ground spices on hand, you can substitute two teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice along with the black pepper.)
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup molasses or sorghum syrup
2/3 cup boiling water
¼ cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk together brown sugar, molasses, boiling water, and cubed butter in a medium bowl until butter melts. Whisk in baking soda and salt. Let stand until lukewarm, about 25 minutes. Whisk in egg.
Whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and black pepper in a small bowl; add to brown sugar mixture, and whisk until smooth. Pour into a generously greased (with butter or cooking spray) and floured 9-inch square pan.
Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Transfer gingerbread to a wire rack, and cool completely, about 1 hour. (For the best texture, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container, and let stand at room temperature overnight before serving.) Store in an airtight container up to 3 days.
Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and cut into 9 squares. Serve with homemade whipped cream.