Yield: 10-12 (3-INCH) SQUARES
Prep time: 20 MIN
Cook time: 32 MIN
Total time: 1H 25MIN
This simple sheet cake is the perfect dessert for any holiday gathering. Brown sugar and molasses provide a bold flavor and mellow sweetness. Finish it up with a tangy dollop of cream cheese frosting that takes only about 10 minutes to prepare.
FOR THE CAKE:
1 cup (225g or 8 ounces) light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup (85g or 3 ounces) unsulfured molasses, not blackstrap
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (2g) kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3 large eggs, straight from the fridge
2 sticks of 8 ounces unsalted butter, melted and cooled to about 100°F (38°C)
1¼ cups (5½ ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (2½ ounces) whole-wheat flour, not stone-ground
1 cup (8 ounces) cultured low-fat buttermilk or kefir
FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
½ cup (3½ ounces) sugar
⅔ cup (5 ounces) heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume
8 ounces plain, full-fat cream cheese, cold
TO MAKE THE CAKE:
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350°F (180°C). Line a 9- by 13-inch anodized aluminum cake pan with parchment, then grease lightly with pan spray.
2.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine brown sugar, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cloves, five-spice powder, black pepper, and eggs. Mix on low until moistened, then increase to high and whip until foamy and thick, about 8 minutes.
3.Reduce speed to low and drizzle in melted butter, then add all-purpose and whole wheat flours, followed by the buttermilk. Once combined, shut off mixer and fold batter once or twice from the bottom up with a flexible spatula, then scrape into prepared pan.
4.Bake until cake is puffed and firm (though crust will retain a light impression when pressed with a fingertip), about 32 minutes. Cool in pan until firm, then slice into squares with a knife.
TO MAKE THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
1.Refrigerating the mixing bowl and sugar until they have cooled to 70°F (21°C).
2.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or using a hand mixer, combine sugar, cream, vanilla, and salt. Mix at medium-low speed until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Increase speed to high and continue beating until cream is about as thick as Greek yogurt, about 2 minutes longer.
3.Begin adding cream cheese 2 tablespoons at a time; this should take about 30 seconds altogether. Once it is incorporated, shut off the mixer. The frosting will look a bit curdled, like cottage cheese; this is the result of incomplete mixing rather than over-whipping, so don’t be alarmed.
4.Thoroughly scrape bowl and whisk, then continue whipping on high until frosting is smooth and light, with only a few small flecks of cream cheese (they will disappear into the frosting over time). This may take 2 to 3 minutes with a stand mixer, or more if using a hand mixer. After whipping, the frosting should be about 60°F (16°C). Use immediately or refrigerate until needed.