Billie’s Ginger Cake

ruth reichls ginger cake

ruth reichls ginger cake

One of my favorite little luxuries is ending the day curled up in crisp white sheets with a good book. This time is so precious, if a book doesn’t entice me with the sample chapter I won’t continue on. Although, come to think of it, recently this happened with The Goldfinch and thankfully my friend Joanna urged me to restart it and now I’m hooked. Have you read it?


Another one from my summer reading list that’s worth a read is Ruth Reichl’s Delicious!. It’s Ruth’s first foray into fiction. If you love food (which I’m safely assuming you do, why else would you be reading this blog?), love reading about family relationships with a little romance and mystery thrown in, you’ll enjoy crawling into bed (or a lounge chair) with this culinary adventure.

It may start off a little “bubble gummy” but stick with it, it’s quite enjoyable and interesting. I’m still missing the main character, Billie Breslin. Isn’t it funny how when you finish a good book with a great character you miss them from your life? Though the book takes place in NYC, Billie was from Santa Barbara, a tidbit that was especially fun for me. Maybe, I’ll bump into her outside the Sur la Table on State Street?

ginger cake

Throughout the book, Billie’s Ginger Cake is constantly mentioned. It almost it’s own character! I was delighted when I reached the end to find that Ruth (we are on a first name basis) had included the recipe. Ruth has included recipes in her non-fiction books, so I was happy to see that tradition crossed over to Delicious!

I was excited to make the cake for guests this week, but also a little bit nervous. Would it live up to the hype created in the book? The results — it was very good; airy, moist and very gingery, there’s a ¼ cup of grated fresh ginger in the mix.

What was the most interesting was all my super tasters tasted something different. From the obvious ginger to picking up the nuances of cardamom and orange.

 Spiced Cake

Note: Do not cool on a rack, you’ll have a hell of a time getting up that bourbon soaked cake bottom. Sticky. Super sticky.


cake batter

As always, creaming the butter and sugar to pale white is super important.

ginger cake

Also, make sure you butter and flour the pan well. Well, at least it tasted great!


Billie’s Ginger Cake

Billie’s Ginger Cake

Billie’s  instructions say to grind your own spices. I’m a total fan of this route, but only had the ground options on hand and it came out fine. I adapted only the glaze (just a tad) from the original recipe.


Whole black peppercorns

Whole cloves

Whole cardamom

1 cinnamon stick

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

1 cup sour cream

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (6 ounces)

1 cup sugar

2 large pieces fresh ginger root (1/4 cup peeled, finely grated & tightly packed)

Zest from 2-3 oranges (1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated)


Preheat oven o 350 and butter and flour a 6-cup Bundt pan.


Grind your peppercorns, cloves and cardamom and measure out 1/4 teaspoon of each. You can use pre ground spices, but you’ll lose some flavor.Grind your cinnamon stick and measure out 1 teaspoon.


Whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt in a small bowl. In another small bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolk into the sour cream. Set aside.


Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer until the mixture is light, fluffy and almost white. This should take about 3 minutes


Grate the orange zest and ginger root — this is a lot of ginger (you’ve been warned). Add them to the butter/sugar mixture.


Alternate the sour cream and egg and the flour mixture into the butter until each addition is incorporated. Alternate between the two, the batter should be luxurious as mousse.


Spoon batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes, until cake is golden and a wooden skewer comes out clean.


Remove to a rack and cool in the pan for 10 minutes.




1/2 cup bourbon

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar


While the cake cools in its pan, simmer the bourbon and the sugar in a small pot for about 4 minutes.  It should reduce to about 1/3 cup.


While the cake is still in the pan, brush half the bourbon mixture onto it’s exposed surface (the bottom of the cake) with a pastry brush.  Let the syrup soak in for a few minutes, then turn the cake out onto a cake plate. If you put it on a rack then the entire bottom with the bourbon soak will stick to the rack. Gently brush the remaining mixture all of the cake.




1 cup powdered sugar, sifted or put through a strainer

5 teaspoons orange juice


Once the cake is cooled mix the sugar with the orange juice and either drizzle the glaze randomly over the cake or put it into a squeeze bottle and do a controlled drizzle.