Big Sky, Little Kitchen shows us what’s nice about spice in this flavorful fall recipe

I’ve always been a bit spicy. Sure, sugar is sweet and it’d be downright sacrilegious to not have some decadent pie on a tow line behind a savory meal, but spice—particularly ginger—is nostalgic. 

When I was small, my grandmother would hand me slices of ginger as a treat, and we’d share laughs over how spicy it was. Its taste brings me right back to that kitchen—a paved path right back to the warmth of that childhood memory. This gingerbread recipe is an ode to yesteryear, following the old-fashioned, cake-type gingerbread, not a rendition of the popular cookie. 

This favorite recipe has stayed with me for years for a few reasons but mainly because it replaces most of the oil with applesauce, and that candied ginger adds a fruity, textured bite to the crumb of the cake. I’ve shared it at Thanksgiving and folks seem to love it as an alternative or in addition to the traditional spread of pies that are typically served. It’s easy to whip up and it invites that oh-so-satisfying blend of autumn aromas. 

Candied Ginger Gingerbread

11.25 ounces all purpose flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
2/3 cup molasses
4 ounces unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup nonfat or low-fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons candied ginger, diced (a couple large pieces), and more if using for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Weigh or gently spoon flour into measuring cups and level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, salt, and ground cloves in a bowl, stirring well. Combine sugar, oil, and egg in a large bowl, beat thoroughly at medium speed until combined either by hand or with a mixer. Stir in molasses and applesauce. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to egg mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Toss diced ginger in a small amount of flour. Fold pieces into the batter. Add batter to an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in a pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Cut into squares. To garnish, top squares with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and, optionally, a large piece of candied ginger.