For the last seven Christmas Eves, I have made the gingerbread cake Claudia Fleming made famous during her time at Gramercy Tavern. The first year, I was so excited about it that I made it twice, first, for the holiday and then so I could tell you all about it because I think we all know that a Deb-fitted torture chamber would be me making some awesome cooking discovery and not being able to run to the internet to tell you about it immediately.
But every year after that, it’s given me a hard time. At first, I shrugged it off — a chunk stayed behind in the pan, I pasted it back on and showered the cake with an extra blizard of sugar “snow.” Two chunks stayed behind, we teased it for its lopsidedness while eating it with no-less-diminished vigor. But it didn’t get better from there. I assumed it was my greasing technique; maybe this cake was no match for my beloved Baker’s Joy? I doubled-down on the buttering and the flouring and was rewarded with the cake equivalent of a gap-toothed 6 year-old. I did the same but gave it 20 minutes to set in the freezer; it mocked my efforts. I switched to the Crisco my mom swears by for pan release; the hungry hungry bundt still ate a third of the cake. I questioned the half-life of factory-applied nonstick coating, but it was hard to ignore that the same coating was mighty effective at releasing other cakes. Finally, I pulled in the big guns, this mix of shortening, oil, and flour many more talented bakers than myself swear by; the situation was so bad that year, I had to make this cake at the last minute instead.