Illustrations by John BurgoynePhoto: Kang Kim

Though tender, thin-skinned young ginger arrives in the spring, the strong flavor of the mature form is most often associated with the molasses-sweetened gingerbread of Christmastime. A rhizome rather than a root, the edible part of the plant is fibrous and gnarly and has long been prized for its purported medicinal and preservative properties. It plays the central role in both forms of gingerbread: the hard, decorative biscuits and the moist spice cake, like Grandaisy Bakery pastry chef Peggy Jacobs’s fragrant rye-flour version.

Peggy Jacobs’s Ginger-Spice Cake

5 cups whole-grain rye flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups sugar
2 cups canola oil
2 cups molasses
4 eggs
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups boiling water
4 ounces fresh ginger, grated
Zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350. Sift together rye flour, cinnamon, cloves, and pepper in a large bowl. (1) In a separate bowl, combine sugar, oil, molasses, and eggs until well blended. (2) Add mixture to the sifted ingredients and mix until just blended. Combine baking soda and water, and add to the batter along with the ginger and lemon zest. Mix until just blended. (3) Bake in a greased 15 1/2-by-4-inch loaf pan (or two smaller ones) for about an hour.