How to Make Acadian Molasses Cake/Gâteau à la Mélasse

You saw the picture in the magazine; now here's the recipe for delicious, from Simon Thibault. You're welcome.
Photo by Noah Fecks

An Acadian pantry is incomplete without molasses. I found many versions of this cake while digging around. It is a very simple yet dignified cake that can easily be eaten out of hand or as a quick snack when you’re headed out the door on a cold winter’s day. At the end of a meal, it’s a great little finish and can be jazzed up with some maple whipped cream or, as one test-baker suggested, a caramel sauce.

The original recipe would have been mixed by hand, but I find that mixing the batter with a hand-mixer or standing mixer yields a better result. I did have to do some playing around with this recipe, as the original version did not state what kind of cake pan was used. The recipe here suggests using a 10×10-inch cake pan, with a baking time of 45 minutes. If you don’t have a cake pan big enough to accommodate that space, a couple of loaf pans used for baking bread, or a bundt cake pan may be your best bet. Be sure to adjust your cooking times if you use another cake pan size. The molasses and baking soda reacting together will give the cake its rise, so be sure you have enough room for the cake to do so, with at least a 3/4-inch space. Otherwise you’ll find yourself with cake batter splattered all over the bottom of your oven. Be sure to grease your cake pan very well, otherwise the cake will stick to it; I tend to grease the pan as well as add parchment paper, to make sure it doesn’t.

2 cups molasses
1 cup lard or shortening
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon all spice
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (optional)

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Grease a 10×10-inch cake pan, and then dust generously with flour. Alternatively add greased and floured parchment paper and place into a cake pan.

Using the paddle attachment on your mixer, fold the flour and lard together on low speed until completely combined, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the molasses, cinnamon, fresh ginger (if using), and allspice, and mix on low. Make sure to occasionally stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure all the molasses, lard, and seasonings are blended.

Add the baking soda and salt, then the milk to the batter, and stir until well incorporated.

Pour the batter into the pan, and place into the oven.

Bake for 50 minutes, or until the cake has receded from the edges of the pan and a toothpick placed in the centre comes out clean. Depending on the size of your pan, it may take a bit more or less time. Just keep checking until it comes out nice and clean.

Leave cake in pan for about 20 minutes, and then invert onto a rack. Serve on its own, or as a dessert with Maple Whipped Cream (see page 176 of my book, Pantry and Palate), Easy Caramel Sauce (page 177, Pantry and Palate), or Brown Sugar Sauce (page 202).

Pantry and Palate: Remembering and Rediscovering Acadian Food
Simon Thibault
Nimbus Publishing

Written By

Simon Thibault is a Halifax-based journalist and food writer. His work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Vice, East Coast Living, Saltscapes, and is a regular contributor to CBC Radio in the Maritimes. Palate and Pantry is his first book.

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