Mona’s Gingercake (and a Gluten-Free, Vegan version)

I once made about a dozen gingerbread recipes and invited my friends over to taste all of them.  It was an obsessive episode (not unlike my recent situation with cauliflower,  only nowhere near as healthy).  I refer to this episode as my gingerbread glitch.  The funny thing was that, out of ALL of the gingerbread recipes that I made, my favourite turned out to be my Aunty Mona’s gingercake recipe.  Often, “the best recipe” is just the one that you have the most memories attached to.  Aside from having many fond childhood memories attached to it, this cake happens to be fabulous.  It is has a nice springy texture, it is dark, full of molasses and spice flavour and it is not too sweet.  It is very good with applesauce.

When I was baking a lot of (not gluten-free) cakes, I noticed that there were two styles of recipes that produced cakes that made me happy.  One style involved creaming butter and sugar, then adding eggs (sometimes just egg yolks), then adding the milk and flour bit by bit alternating between the two.  If the eggs were separated, you would then whip them and fold them into the batter.  I do believe that this is a very classic technique for making classic, fancy, buttery cakes.

The other (and less common) cake technique involved mixing shortening or oil with sugar, adding hot water and baking soda to the sugar and oil, and then adding all of the dry ingredients followed by the eggs.  The baking soda and hot water makes the batter fizz, and the cake ends up with a special springy spongy texture.   I only ever see this kind of recipe in old-fashioned, farm house or community cookbooks.  It is not fancy.  It is a way to make a lovely cake without spending money on butter. This is obviously a good style of cake to make for a friend who is allergic to dairy.   Mona’s gingercake is this second variety of cake, humble and perfect.

Many gluten-free cake recipes happen to be dairy free as well.  It is not uncommon for folks with gluten allergies to also be unable to eat dairy.  Also, non wheat flour does not have the same magical love affair with butter.  Often the butter in gluten-free recipe will just ooze out and make the baked goods gross and greasy.  When I was learning how to bake gluten-free cakes, I was encouraged to find a teacake recipe (in the first Babycakes cookbook) that used the hot water and fizzing baking soda technique.  This cake recipe was the inspiration for my gluten-free lemon blackberry ginger tea cake,  gluten-free wedding cake,  gluten-free sticky toffee pudding and now for this gluten-free version of Mona’s gingercake!  Its spongy and springy, just like Mona’s!

I will include recipes for Mona’s Gingercake and my Gluten-free (and vegan) version below. Enjoy!


  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ginger (I always used more like 3 tsp)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • 2 eggs well beaten
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 or 350.
  2. Prepare a bundt pan with grease and fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Start the water bowling.
  4. Cream the shortening and the brown sugar together in a large bowl.
  5. Add the molasses, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg to the creamed sugar.
  6. Sift the flour, baking powder and ginger together into a medium bowl and set aside.
  7. Put the soda into a wet measuring cup and pour the boiling water over it.  immediately pour the soda and water mixture into the sugar and shortening mixture and stir to combine.
  8. Add the flour to the butter gradually stirring to combine without lumps.
  9. Beat the eggs and then beat them into the batter.
  10. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes.
  11. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes before turning it out of the pan.

ERIN’S GINGERCAKE (inspired by Mona’s gingercake, Gluten-free and Vegan)

  • 1 cup garbanzo-fava flour
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup potato starch (not potato flour!!!)
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot starch
  • 2 and 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (any mild oil would be fine)
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 and 1/4 cup hot water
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Oil 6 large muffin tins or mini bundt pans, or one big bundt pan.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the gar-fava flour, brown sugar, potato starch, arrowroot starch, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
  4. Add the oil, applesauce, molasses and hot water to the dry ingredients and beat to combine. The batter should fizz a bit.
  5. Pour about a half cup of batter into each prepared tin and bake for 40 minutes.  Allow the cakes to rest for 10 minutes before turning them out.

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Glenda says:

    Yum! Thanks for the gluten free version on Mona’s ginger cake! I am making this on Friday, when I have a day off. Love, Mum

  2. Katherine says:

    Right before Christmas I went on a gingerbread glitch and intended to do as you did, test many many gingerbread recipes and subject my family to many tastings of delicious, spicy cake. Alas, I hit on THE BEST gingerbread recipe my first time out. You won’t be surprised to hear it comes from Smitten Kitchen, it’s the recipe from Grammarcy Tavern in NYC. It contains Oatmeal Stout (or Guiness) and is very dark and spicy! We had this for Christmas and it will now be a new Christmas tradition. After Christmas I also made the “Damp Gingerbread” from one of Laurie Colwin’s books and despite the kind of gross name, this is also very delicious. And very different from the Grammarcy Tavern one. I have Auntie Mona’s recipe in my collection (from your gingerbread glitch) and perhaps I will try that one next!

  3. I made that damp one during my glitch! The dark and spicy one sounds great too!


  4. Mona Banek says:

    I haven’t made that cake in such a long time. I’m remembering how delicious it is.

  5. Mona, do you recall where you got this recipe?


  6. Kate K says:

    I wonder if a non bean gf flour could be substituted? I’m not fond of the flavor imparted by most bean based flours. Perhaps I’ll have to experiment after all. 😉 Thanks for the inspiration. Will try your recipe with some other flour mixtures.

    1. One other idea…
      You could try replacing the total quantity of flours, starches and gum with an equal weight of Jeanne’s all purpose gluten-free flour mix. You can find it on the Art of Gluten Free Baking website. I’d give you the link here, but I can’t figure out how to make a link stick in this comment box. Sorry I am better with food than computers. Jeanne’s mix generally works quite well and it has an absolutely neutral flavour. I am personally not a fan of the little bit of crunch from the rice flour in this sort of spongy cake, but you might not mind it!

  7. I agree that bean flours have odd, strong flavour. However, this cake is so heavily spiced and flavoured with molasses that I do not detect the bean flavours in the final product. I encourage you to give it a try. Garfava flour has a wonderful moist crumb and works well in cakes that are highly flavoured. I have not tried this cake with other flours in place of the garfava flour, but if I was, I would try use 4 oz of sourgum flour instead of the 1 cup of garfava flour. Let me know how it turns out!

  8. Sach says:

    The bundt pan is currently baking in the oven. I am baking the Gluten Free version. Is it normal for the batter to be a soupy consistency?

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