Gramercy Tavern's gingerbead cake and a goodbye

I know I'd write more often if I just put up quick posts. A paragraph here and there about a new favorite restaurant, or this chicken tikka masala that I've made twice in the last month, but keep forgetting to photograph. Yet somehow, the minute I start typing, I can't help but go on and on. Suddenly, a recipe for crumb cake becomes a walk down memory lane, or a summery pasta post turns into a tirade.

Well, today will be no different I guess. I've been wanting to tell you about this gingerbread cake I made a few weeks ago. I found the recipe on Food Migration, and just as Cindy promised, the cake's combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, ginger and a cup of Guinness deliver a dessert that's super spicy, dark and rich. My friends Tim and Judith called it "the best gingerbread cake" they've ever eaten. I might have to agree.

I just know that should I ever make it again, I'll always think of our friends April and Josh. You see, I made it for a potluck dinner that Tim and Judith recently hosted. When we first planned it, a fall bounty was our theme, and over a number of emails, the menu evolved: pork loin (made my Judith, the nicest vegetarian on earth), hot apple cider (made by the world's best husband to help his wife cope with the fact that she couldn't have any wine or beer), April's acorn squash with a smidge of butter and brown sugar, macaroni and cheese, sauteed spinach, the gingerbread cake, and Allison's seriously good molasses cookies.

A few days before the dinner, Josh and April announced they were moving to Philly (in two weeks!), something we knew they'd been planning, but never expected (or perhaps wanted?) to come so soon. Just like that, our fall potluck became a farewell of sorts.

Daniel and I have known April and Josh for about five years. We met them through friends and today, they feel like family. Just like us, they love to cook and eat.

A few years ago we started a dinner club with them and the very friends that first introduced us all. Every month, we cram into a different couple's apartment for a multi-course, home-cooked meal. Daniel and I hosted our most recent one, a few days before Halloween. (In case you can't tell, he's Borat and I'm Pamela Anderson). Marie, Joe and their son Lach dressed like a family folk band and sang a song about how much they love dinner club. Little did we know, it'd be our last one all together in New York. But we plan to keep the tradition alive -- we'll just start having some in Philly!

I hear their new apartment has outdoor space, which is a good thing since they'll be leaving behind a gorgeous roof deck in the East Village. We spent many nights up there, both warm and cold, eating, drinking and admiring our gorgeous city.

And for the past few summers, we've spent a weekend together on the Jersey Shore, and this year they managed to get a bunch of us to go camping in Fire Island. A week later, April and Josh and Daniel and I celebrated our October wedding anniversaries over the same September weekend in Lake George, purely by coincidence.

Once we all realized we'd be up there at the same time, Daniel and Josh started scheming and surprised April and I with drinks at the Sagamore Hotel, followed by dinner at The Friends Lake Inn. Unfortunately, I was still battling some serious nausea at the time, but I'll never forget all the fun we had that night.

But now a chapter in their life is ending, and ours as well. These are our first friends to leave New York for good. It really is the end of an era. During our twenties, the four years we spent in college seemed like the longest and most monumental of our lives. But April and Josh's departure from New York City is making me realize that the last seven years I've spent here -- almost double my time in good ol' Easton, PA -- have truly been the most defining.

I've gotten married, moved from the Upper East Side to Brooklyn Heights to Cobble Hill to my first official home in Park slope, jumped from one job to the next before finally setting in at Food Network, where I just passed the five year mark. FIVE whole years. Not to mention that in just four months, I'll be a mother. It's the end of an era indeed. Good thing we all have so much more to look forward to.

I know Philly isn't so far away. I've just never liked goodbyes, whether they're at the end of a really fun night (like the aforementioned potluck where Daniel had to drag me, the pregnant lady, home at 2am) or worse, when I won't see someone again for awhile.

But who knows? Maybe Daniel and I will be so wooed by April and Josh's spacious apartment on Rittenhouse Square that we too will make the move some day. Either way, I know that we'll never lose touch with two people who have become such an important part of our lives. Philly's a food mecca of its own, so the way I see it, we have a whole lot of eating to do in this new era. I can't wait.

But before I go, back to that gingerbread cake. If you need something sweet for an upcoming holiday party, this is the way to go. Just pick up a bundt pan, some molasses, a bottle of Guinness and get baking. Served with a dollop of fresh whipped cream, it's a dessert that can celebrate fall or welcome winter. For me, it was the perfect way to say so long to two very special friends.

Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread Cake
1 cup oatmeal stout or Guinness Stout
1 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cardamom
3 large eggs
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Confectioners sugar for dusting
Special equipment: a 10-inch (10- to 12-cup) bundt pan
Accompaniment: whipped cream (you can add booze if you want)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter bundt pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess.
Bring stout and molasses to a boil in a large saucepan and remove from heat. Whisk in baking soda, then cool to room temperature.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs and sugars. Whisk in oil, then molasses mixture. Add to flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

Pour batter into bundt pan and rap pan sharply on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs adhering, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely.

Serve cake, dusted with confectioners sugar, with whipped cream.

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Judith said...

This is a serious tribute to April & Josh! I mean, they are only moving to PHILLY. Just kidding guys! We miss you already. That gingerbread really IS the best. I asked for a bundt pan for Christmas just so I can try it out.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story, so sad. I had tears welling up in my eyes, as I was reading this "food blog." Have you ever thought of writing a novel? The emotion your words emit is so strong. I will try the recipe -- I love gingerbread CAKE. My friend Peter once doused everyone's gingerbread at a dinner party I gave -- I think he was a little doused himself! Keep up the good work. I'm waiting to hear about your Thanksgiving dinner.

Anonymous said...

I’m crying at my desk.

You and Daniel are at the top of our list for things we’ll miss most in NYC.

I was really touched by your post today I’m kind of speechless.

Anonymous said...

Me too. I’m sitting here crying at my desk truly touched by your words. It is such a wonderful write up and it feels just so sad to be saying goodbye.

But anyway, your words are beautiful and we feel exactly the same way. You and Daniel have become such wonderful life-long friends of ours, making it oh so hard to say goodbye. I know we will continue seeing each other and hanging out but in a way it will be different. We can’t wait for you to visit with us and we will definitely make every effort to continue Dinner Club! Long live DC!

Lia said...

Ohh Judith, don't try to act all tough. You know you're going to miss them as much as I am!

Thank you, Turi. Maybe some day I will write a book! And, I remember when Peter doused everyone's gingerbread cake (with rum, right?).

Josh and April, I'm so glad you liked the post. I hope the move went well and I'll see you both soon!

Anonymous said...


Your posting was beautiful and I am sitting in my living room in Bolivia crying because your friends are leaving NYC. I continue to be impressed and in awe of your ability to write and capture so much with words! It was beautiful.

See you soon. Adria and I made pizza tonight with dough that we bought from a local girls orphanage. I thought of you and can't wait to eat pizza in Brooklyn with you.

Love Tracey

Lia said...

Thanks, Tracey! And I'm so excited to see you in December. You're going to love Lucali, the pizza place I want to take you to.

Tea said...

What a lovely and moving tribute! My goodness, beautiful writing. I hope you are doing well, bump and all--and that you had a wonderful time at Stinson (I grew up in West Marin).

Lia said...

Thanks, Tea! I'm doing very well and loving every minute of my pregnancy. It's such an amazing, magical experience. And our trip to Stinson was wonderful. I heart California!!


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