An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked



In the most minimal fashion, much like the twenty-second year preceding it, my twenty third birthday came and went. There was ice skating with my dad, a shared lunch, a black and white movie at home, and cake; no party, and no candles. Not so much a day of celebration as a day of rest, which sounds just about right to me.

Birthdays of mine have been historically bad days in the past, taking into consideration both apocalyptic winter weather and borderline psychotic meltdowns, so this quieter, uneventful rendition was a merciful change of pace. Less a marker of having arrived at some milestone, I found the date reassuring, a small checkpoint within the greater journey. I’m still here, twenty three years later, and it’s beginning to look like I may just be here in another twenty three as well. Imagine that.

Corresponding with my laid back non-celebration, the cake at hand was simple, unfussy- Homely by some estimations. All I wanted was a dark, moist, spicy gingerbread cake, one that reminded me of The One That Got Away. Ten years ago, scouting out a location for my Bat Mitzvah, I chose the final restaurant based solely on the gingerbread cake served for dessert. Dripping with caramel and finished with a fluffy halo towering over the plate, it’s now all I remember about that meal. In my youth and excitement, it never occurred to me that the event would be catered, and I would never see that beauty of a cake again. In fact, the restaurant has since gone out of business, just to close that book entirely.

So I made it for myself, ten years later. (Ten years. 10. It bears repeating because it seems wildly impossible that so much time could have passed.) Even if there were no candles and no fanfare, it was the perfect ending to my non-celebration.

Gingerbread Blackout Cake

2 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
3 Tablespoons Black Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
6 – 7 Teaspoons (2 Heaping Tablespoons) Ground Ginger
2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 Cup Brewed and Cooled Coffee
3/4 Cup Molasses
3/4 Cup No Sugar Added Pumpkin Butter or Apple Butter
1 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
3/4 Cup Canola Oil

Vegan Butterscotch Sauce (From Vegan À La Mode, coming soon!) or Caramel Sauce, and Whipped Creme

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9 x 9-inch square baking pan; Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda, and spices. Whisk well to distribute all of the dry goods throughout, and double-check that there are no clumps.

Separately, mix the coffee, molasses, pumpkin butter, sugar, and oil until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry, and stir with a wide spatula to bring the two together. Being careful not to over-mix, stir just until the batter is smooth and not a second longer. Transfer the batter into your prepared baking pan, smooth out the top, and pop it in the oven. Immediately turn down the heat to 325 degrees, even before you close the oven door.

Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean- Perhaps with a few moist crumbs sticking to it but certainly not wet. Let cool completely before slicing and serving with butterscotch sauce and whipped creme.

If time allows, this cake does get better with age, so try to make it a day or two in advance for the flavor profile to become more nuanced and balanced.

Makes 16 – 20 Servings

Printable Recipe

Author: Hannah (BitterSweet)

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

55 thoughts on “Twenty-Three

  1. Happy birthday, Hannah! This cake sounds so wonderful. I’m also very excited about your ice cream book! The attachment for my standing mixer is arriving this afternoon, so I can’t wait to try out all your frozen treats.

  2. Happy Birthday Hannah! And your cake looks lovely:)

  3. Happy birthday Hannah! A day of rest with movies and ice skating sounds perfect to me!

  4. Oh, Happy Birthday, Hannah! Your birthday day sounds perfect to me…I’m also a lover of a special quiet day spent with loved ones. The cake is beautiful and the perfect way to celebrate the occasion.

  5. You’re only 23? I think you should celebrate like a fiend. Look at all you’ve accomplished and shared at only 23. That much contribution to the world is worthy of a big celebration.

  6. Happiest (belated) birthday, Hannah. You’re day sounds absolutely wonderful to me as well. I too have been known to suffer from some not so great birthdays :) May this year bring you much joy and growth; being young and yet already insanely talented, you have so much to look forward to in your years to come!

    And, on a more selfish note, I am terribly excited for Vegan À La Mode!

  7. Happy belated birthday, Hannah! I’m glad to hear you had a nice, relaxing day with your family. You’ll find that birthdays come with less celebration/significance/hoopla as you get older, but a quiet day spent the way you want is just enough to start a new year. Mind you, at 23 I was still partying up a storm! ;)

    Looking forward to your new book!

  8. Happy birthday Hannah! This looks amazing. Two of my favorite flavors blended into one recipe.

  9. Hope your 23rd year is happiest of all! That cake looks seriously divine. And I know exactly what you mean at the thought that you could be alive and remember and have life experiences in the past 10 years. Haha, it’s crazy. Hope you have a fabulous weekend!

  10. Happy B-Day Hannah! I too am a fan of the low-key birthday. Best wishes for an amazing 23rd year.

  11. Happy belated birthday! Your casual celebration sounds perfect… and that cake sounds amazing. :)

  12. Happy birthday Hannah! And all January babies have to worry about winter weather in the northern hemisphere. (I normally get a ton of snow for my birthday at the end of the month.)

    And that cake looks heavenly. I think I will have to make this for my birthday cake with the caramel sauce.

  13. Happy Birthday, Hannah! I’m sure I’m not the only one who had no idea you are that young. I wish I’d have accomplished as much as you in my 23+5 years! The cake sounds delicious and you inspire me to do more :)

  14. Happy birthday, Hannah! You’re not old at all… I’m old enough to be your mom, lol! I know what you mean about time going so quickly though. I remember being in elementary school, never imagining graduating from high school. In the blink of an eye, the years whirred past me. Now, I’ve been married for 23 years and have 2 children.

    Your birthday sounds like it was a lovely day. It’s actually my kind of day, quiet, simple, and spent with those I love. :)

    You are an amazing young lady, and I know you will be a blessing to our lives for many many years to come! (((hugs)))

  15. It sounds like you had the perfect 23rd birthday, Hannah!

  16. Happy Bday Hannah! Beautiful cake!!!!! :) Beautiful blog, beautiful lady! xoxo

  17. Happy Birthday Hannah!.. ok i feel old now.. i mean u already have cookbooks out at 23! Wish you a wonderful birthday and rest of the year.

  18. Happy birthday & beautiful cake!

  19. Oh boy the description of the cake you had to celebrate you Bat Mitzvah is mouth watering ! You know that I saw this picture of your so-nice-lookin-awesome-yummy chocolate cake, and I rarely reblog picture of vegan food – however I clicked to re-post it, and then I realize that it was from you. No doubt you make great recipes and take really amazing pictures :)

    I did not know that you were born on a 13th, maybe it will make me change my mind about 13, and even more so when these are Fridays.
    So merry unbirthday (because no celebration) to you !
    (actually I am not the kind of person who likes celebrating a birthday, and who makes a big deal of a day that is almost like every other day)

  20. Happy Birthday Hannah!
    Funny it’s you who gave us the bday present.
    Thanks for the cake recipe. Can’t wait to try it. Thanks for all you do!

  21. Happy belated birthday Hannah! And look at you, gifting an amazing cake recipe to all of us. You know how I love ginger!

  22. Happy Birthday! I rarely celebrate my own with a party either. Your quiet day sounds just right to me. x

  23. that is a FABULOUS reason to choose a location for your bat mitvah! HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Here’s to a nice wonderful mellow year!

  24. This looks delicious. Happy Birthday!

  25. I hope you’re enjoying a fantastic birthday, Hannah! The cake looks like a great way celebrate =).

  26. Happy Birthday!!

    Every venue for celebration should be chosen by the quality of its cake!

  27. Happy Birthday! I have to say, and I hope you won’t take offense by this, but it looks like the most beautiful, edible box of tissues! :)

  28. Happy Birthday!

    Is that ginger cake sticky? (I would love a sticky ginger cake recipe!)

  29. This sounds absolutely delightful. Happy Birthday!

  30. Happy Birthday Hannah! The cake sounds great. Cheers to many more.

  31. it is such a lovely gingerbread! the picture is fantastic and that sauce on top made my mouth water

  32. My birthdays are always dotted with psychotic meltdowns. It’s actually incredibly stressful, though I’m not quite sure why! I’m so glad yours was restful though and happy, just the way you wanted it. And that you got your cake. That’s the most important part!

  33. Happy birthday inspiring lady! Not-the-greatest birthdays must be yet another hallmark of being a Hannah. I spent my 21st alone in a hotel room and last year alone after an entire day at a work forum called “Let’s Chat About Dying”. So this birthday of yours, with rest and cake, sounds perfect to me :)

    *hugs hugs hugs*

  34. happy birthday, hannah! and your cake looks amazing, not homely at all, in my humble opinion ;)

  35. This looks delicious! Happy Birthday.

  36. Happy Birthday!! That cake looks amazing :)

  37. Hannah, I was looking for a chocolate cake for my wedding… and this will be it, I love the look of it.
    All the guests are omnivores, so they will be having a taste of my “food” as they call it! (Nobody will refuse the wedding cake)

  38. Happy birthday, Hannah. I agree you are accomplished beyond your years. Your writing is so lovely and your photos so beautiful. Congratulations! Best wishes for a great year!

  39. Happy Birthday Hannah!! You’ve accomplished more in your 23 years than many people have in double that. Thank you for that gingerbread cake recipe! I had the most delicious gingerbread cake on Christmas that my aunt had brought – turned out she had made it from Trader Joe’s gingerbread mix! I’ve been hoping to create a comparable from-scratch recipe for that, and your photo looks exactly right. I can’t wait to try it.

  40. Love the combination of gingerbread, molasses and coffee. Sounds divine!

  41. I think that cake would make my birthday perfect. I hope it did the same with yours, happy birthday Hannah!

  42. It’s like you read my mind! Just the other day my husband said “Remember that gingerbead cake you used to make?” … which meant I needed to find a vegan version. I’m totally going with yours because I know that it will be perfect!

  43. Happy Belated Birthday! Glad to hear you enjoyed your b-day celebration! Like your yummy cake, you get better as you age too. :-)

  44. Happy Birthday…Sounds like the perfect way to celebrate :)

  45. Wow, this cake looks amazing!!! :)

  46. Happy birthday! Only 23 and already accomplished so much. Just imagine what you can do with the rest of your life–it can be most amazing!

  47. Oh, yum! Love love love you pretty little lady!

  48. A belated Happy Birthday! The cake sounds fantastic.

  49. Happy belated birthday Hannah!

  50. Happy (late) birthday, Hannah! ^^

  51. HOW DID I MISS THIS!!!!! Gingerbread…the salve of the common man or narf7 in this case. I ADORE gingerbread and ginger in all of its heated sweet and savoury forms. Ginger is to narf7 as chocolate is to other people. This recipe is so “Me” it could be called “Narf7’s Gingerbread” :). Kudos and overenthusiasm entirely directed at you ma’am :)

  52. Pingback: The 27 Best Desserts On the InternetRefreshingly Simple | Natural & Effective Laundry & Home Care Solutions

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s