Gingerbread Cake (Piernik)

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2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup light molasses
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup packed (peeled and minced) fresh ginger (from about 1 [5-inch] piece)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
Slightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving (optional)


Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a cake pan with butter and dust with flour, tapping out the excess; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the measured flour, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and salt to break up any lumps and aerate; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the molasses, oil, and sugar until smooth.
In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Whisk in the baking soda, then whisk in the molasses mixture until combined; remove from heat. Using the rubber spatula, stir the ginger into the molasses mixture.
Whisk the dry ingredients, a little at a time, into the batter until just combined. Using the rubber spatula, stir in the eggs until just combined. Again using the rubber spatula, transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly.
Bake in the oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Place on a rack to cool for at least 30 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the pan and remove the cake from the pan. If you choose, dust with powdered sugar and serve with whipped cream. You can also use chocolate glaze.


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