James Beard Award-winning Cookbook Author

Fresh Ginger and Coconut Oil Cake

The Original Recipe

I first baked this cake after David Lebovitz republished the recipe in his December, 2022, Substack newsletter.  Lebovitz’s recipe has been reprinted on many food blogs, and recently the New York Times featured it again.

What I focus on in the New York Times rendition of recipes is the comments. And boy, can they be all over the place. For the fresh ginger cake I read through over 200 comment.  Most were focused on health.  The cake has a light melt-in-your-mouth texture, and the ginger flavor and aroma lured me in immediately.

What is fresh (summer) ginger?

Ginger grows is Hawaii year-round, but what I call summer ginger is young ginger that springs up in July. I find it only in farmers’ markets. As you see below in the recipe, it’s beautiful and alluring. I keep it on my kitchen counter and cut slices to flavor tea or to chop up for stir-fry dishes.

Brown-skinned ginger works fine in this recipe, too, and is my go-too rhizome for most of the year. Sometimes I peel it if the skin is especially tough.

Using Coconut Oil

Here is what I did and the cake was great.  Chop the ginger with the sugar to create a fine granular mix. This step is a timesaver. And it also assures there are no renegade large nubs of ginger that escaped the chef’s knife.   I subbed in coconut oil for the suggested vegetable neutral-flavored oil. Coconut oil adds a bit of sweetness that combines well with ginger’s assertiveness.  I use coconut oil a lot in my regular cooking.

And now, let’s get baking! This cake is delicious all by itself. I cut a slice off the cake whenever I happen to be walking by. Excellent with tea.

Fresh Ginger and Coconut Oil Cake

Makes 1 large loaf or one 9-inch round cake.


  • 4 ounces fresh ginger, unpeeled or peeled unpeeled or peeled
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup Grandma’s molasses
  • 2 1/2 cups (350 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 large eggs


  • If making a loaf cake, you will need a pan with the following outside dimensions: 11 ¾ inches long by 5 inches wide; inside dimensions: 11 ¼ inches by 4 ½ inches. Capacity of this pan is 8 cups.
  • If making a round cake, use a 9-inch diameter springform pan 2 ½ to 3-inches tall or a 9 x 3-inch tall one piece pan.
  • For either pan, butter the bottom and sides and line the bottom with parchment paper cut to fit.
  • Adjust an oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 350˚F.
  • To liquefy coconut oil, put the jar into a large deep bowl and add hot water to surround the jar. Swirl the jar occasionally until the oil has liquefied and continue with the recipe.
  • Peel the ginger if it has a tough brown skin. Do not peel the ginger if the skin is so thin you can see the flesh through it. In Hawaii, what I call summer ginger, fills the bill.
  • Cut the ginger into small chunks and put them into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the granulated sugar and pulse the machine 4 times for about 1 second each.
  • Then let the machine run continuously for about 20 seconds until you have a ginger/sugar purée.
  • Scrape it into a large bowl and whisk in the coconut oil and molasses.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and salt. (NOTE: if measuring flour instead of weighing: stir the flour in its container, dip in and fill to overflowing your measuring cups for dry ingredients; level with a straight edge. Do not shake the cups.)
  • Put the water into a medium saucepan and bring to the boiling point. Off heat, stir in the soda. The water will become fizzy. Whisk the hot water into the ginger/sugar purée, coconut oil and molasses mixture.
  • Sift the dry ingredients about ½ cup at a time into the above combo and whisk each addition in until smooth. Then whisk in the eggs. And that’s it.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the loaf for 45 to 55 minutes or until the cake is a deep brown color with a crack or two on top. It springs back when you press it gently with a fingertip.
    Use Tip: A cake tester or wooden skewer should come out clean. The internal temperature measured with an instant read thermometer should be around 202 degrees. A round loaf may need less time, so start testing at 35 minutes. If the cake top is browning too much before the cake is done, lay a piece of foil over the top.
  •  Set the cake in its pan on a cooling rack. Cool for 30 minutes, then unmold the cake—it comes out of the pan without a struggle—and set it top side up on the rack until completely cool.
  • This cake is also delicious slightly warm. Wrap leftovers airtight. The cake stays fresh for several days at room temperature. You can also store it in the fridge or freeze it to serve another time.

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