the longshoreman who baked molasses cake

My grandfather Ekstrom was a longshoreman. Those of you not from the Maritimes are probably not familiar with this line of work. Longshoremen load and unload cargo ships. We live on the Bay of Fundy and have a deep water port. Our port was busiest in the winter because the water didn’t freeze. Then the Canadian government decided to invest elsewhere. But that’s a story for a different blog; back to my grandfather.

Whenever I slept over night at my grandparents house on a work day, I would get up and have breakfast with Pappy before he left for work. His alarm would sound at 4:14 am. He would have our breakfast on the table by 4:30 am. He’d stand in my door way and ask, “Pal, are ya up”?

It was dark outside. The sun wouldn’t crest for another couple of hours but I was always up. I loved the time with him before he left for work. Before he’d be outside in sub-zero weather with winds howling off the Bay for hours in sleet, snow or hail loading and unloading cargo. He was the toughest man in the world to me.

He also baked delicious molasses cake.

It wasn’t until I started writing this post that I realized his molasses cake was actually a poor man’s version of gingerbread cake. Gingerbread is generally served with whipped cream. He served his molasses cake slathered with butter so I never put the two together. While I was baking this cake, the recipe and technique felt vaguely familiar. Once it started to bake and fill the house with a gingery aroma, I knew. His recipe uses oil instead of butter and less spice than most gingerbread recipes that I’ve read but there’s no doubt his molasses cake is gingerbread.

He used a nine inch square pan which made his cake higher than mine. I don’t own a nine inch square cake pan so I used a nine by thirteen. It worked fine but I prefer to sink my teeth into a deeper cake. If you’ve never had gingerbread with butter, give it a try. Add a tall glass of cold milk and you’ll have the snack that I shared with my Pappy Ekstrom.

OLD FASHIONED MARITIME MOLASSES CAKE
Preheat oven 325*F
Makes one 9×9” cake

1/2 cup vegetable oil, I use Becel oil
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup fancy molasses
1 cup hot water
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt

THE STEPS:

  • Grease and flour a 9“x 9“ pan then set aside.
  • In a bowl, beat oil with sugar until fluffy.
  • Beat in egg.
  • Blend in molasses.
  • Stir baking soda into hot water until combined
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, ginger, cinnamon, salt and cloves.
  • Add to molasses mixture alternating with hot water mixture three times.
  • Scrape batter into prepared pan.
  • Bake for about 50 minutes or until cake tested inserted in centre comes out clean.
  • Let cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes.
  • Serve warm or cool with whipped cream or butter!

THE LOVE: I bake this cake with the oven rack lifted up one from the bottom. Start checking your cake at 45 minutes to make sure you don’t over cook it.

click for printable recipe

one year ago: Yorkshire pudding

two years ago: sun-dried tomato and cheddar cheese tea bread

Thanks for reading.

  • Even if it’s already spring I still can’t get enough of all the gingerbread tastes so this recipe just seemed to shout out to me over there at foodgawker ;-). I love the story of your grandfather, it seems like such a sweet ritual. In this way thanks for sharing and I hope to try it out soon (of course with butter and the glass of milk!)!

    • Michelle

      Hi Sabrina, thank you so much for dropping by. Let me know if you like the recipe!