The Shoo Fly Cake- a moist molasses cake #vintage #recipe #cake

Today I am sharing a recipe that is close to a 100 years old, called the Shoo fly cake.

So, I have a serious disease. I am sure most of you food bloggers/lovers out there have it too. Its this obsessive habit of buying cookbooks. Hoarding on cookbooks.

Even before I started blogging or for that matter cooking I had this fascination for cookbooks. The pictures, the recipes, the stories, the techniques – I loved going through it all. As a child I would flip through my mom’s cookbooks, with not a single intention of cooking, but instead asking my mom why she doesn’t make such and such recipe.

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To be fair (to me), I did cook once or twice from her books- like the time I went home during my undergrad college break and made Ono-Ono chicken- a chicken dish cooked in sprite, a recipe I took from this book of recipes the ladies of the US staff college course had compiled and I am proud to say nailed it  B-) .

I also baked melting moments, chocolate barfi and donuts (all from scratch) in grade 8th for Diwali (or was it the 9th grade?) which turned out pretty good and my mom was very impressed with my baking and cooking skills, proudly displaying and telling everybody who came visiting that I made all the sweets B-) .

And then there was this really not so tasty whole wheat birthday cake for my dad (made a tad bit tasty with lots of frosting) in the 7th grade. My dad still ate it though, and my mom still complimented me (and now that I think about it makes me doubt the credibility of the comments she made on my Diwali treats).

Yup. That’s all the baking/cooking I did before 2009. Mid 2009 I decided I want to open a cafe cum boutique with my friend The Pious Hippie and tried a few recipes here and there with her, only to get married a few months later and move to the US and start a blog instead.

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Anyway I digress.

So cookbooks.

We were talking about cookbooks.

And my hoarding disease.

The first post I ever wrote was just the beginning of that disease. In that post I mention how V was supportive of my cookbook buying spree. Now, not so much. More than the money (I anyway mostly pick up second hand books that are pretty good steals these days), its the shelf space that these beautiful treasure pieces take up which V has a problem with. Of course, I always reason its for blog research and buy another book. Who listens to the husband anyway!

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The latest symptom of my disease resulted in the purchase of the Vintage Cakes book by Julie Richardson. And today’s recipe of the Shoo-fly cake comes from that very same book.(See V, I dont just hoard, I DO use the cookbooks I buy!)

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The Shoo-fly cake is supposed to be an old Pennsylvanian Dutch favorite. Its basically a molasses spice cake with a crumb topping.

The name for this particular cake allegedly originated from its namesake, the sweet, sticky shoo-fly pie (which has all the same basic ingredients as the cake but is gooier than its cake counterpart). Because of its sticky nature, Dutch settlers were known to “shoo” away the flies that hovered around the pie, allegedly giving rise to its name. I know the name doesn’t sound appetising but it was enough for me to be intrigued by the recipe and try it out.

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The molasses lends a rich and tangy taste to the cake, which the spices and the coffee only make better. I know not everyone is a fan of molasses or gingerbread flavors, so this cake might not be for everyone.

But V loved the cake, and so did V’s colleague who specially came to V’s office and while eating a piece of the cake gave V a thumbs up for it.

As for me, I love anything with a crumb topping. Like seriously anything. I was never a molasses fan, but the more I am experimenting with it, more I am warming to it. This cake might not beat a chocolate cake in my book, but it was something different and I kind of liked it.

Julie recommends eating this with chocolate ice cream and I can see how that would be a great complement to this cake, so would coffee ice cream or just plain old whipped cream.

Also, this is one of those cakes that taste better the next day.
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5.0 from 1 reviews
The Shoo Fly Cake
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: cake
Cuisine: Amish
Serves: 8-10
For the Crumb Topping:
  • ⅓ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • ¾ cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ cupunsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes
For the Cake:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ¾ cup unsulfured blackstrap molasses
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2½ cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup warm coffee
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Grease a 9 X 2 inch cake pan with butter.
For the crumb topping:
  1. Combine brown sugar and flour in a bowl. Toss in the butter. Using your fingertips, pinch the butter into the dry ingredients to make crumbs. Place the bowl in the freezer while you make the cake.
For the cake:
  1. Whisk together the sugar, butter, molasses, and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
  2. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Whish the ingredients together.
  3. Stir the flour mixture into the batter in three additions, alternating with the coffee in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  4. Pour the thin batter into the prepared pan, and sprinkle with the chilled crumb topping.
  5. Bake in the center of the oven until the top is just firm, about 45 minutes, until tester comes out clean. Be careful not to over bake or it will be dry. Cool the cake on a wire rack for about 30 minutes before serving warm from the pan.
  6. Well wrapped and kept at room temperature, this cake keeps for 3 days.

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8 Thoughts on “The Shoo Fly Cake

  1. I love the deep, rich colour and flavour of these. When I saw this contained three of my favourite things – ginger, cinnamon and molasses, I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed.

  2. The cake looks very nice. Just have a rustic feel to it.
    indugetscooking recently posted..Homemade Pita Bread, Tahini and PicklesMy Profile

  3. I also love cookbooks, especially ones with awesome photos as we first eat with our eyes and then if it looks good I look at the recipe ingredient and then lastly the story behind the dish. I am glad you gave this recipe a go as I like the look of the topping

  4. i refused to buy cookbooks for the longest time because I hate hoarding ( or atleast I tell myself so) but now a days I am so tempted to start a collection. Like you mentioned, its the pictures and stories that gets me.
    Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health recently posted..Bircher Museli + A GiveawayMy Profile

  5. So beautiful and I love the flavour!

  6. Sherina Ali on 3 October, 2017 at 11:30 pm said:

    I tried this recipe and must say the result was a divine cake. I loved the molasses flavor and the topping just gave this wonderful creation the perfect finish.
    The only problem I had though, was I had to google the source of this recipe to find out how much baking soda I needed. The method indicates baking soda but there was no mention of it in the ingredient list, which by the was is 1tsp baking soda.

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