Sticky ginger cake with Turkish Delight icing
One thing was for sure when I was growing up, there was always cake in the house. Rock cakes, soft and eggy studded with glacé cherries and fruit; coconut cake, shaggy and moist; fruit cake packed with plump sultanas, Victoria sandwich cake layered with strawberry jam and buttercream; fairy cakes drizzled with water icing; seed cake studded with caraway; coffee walnut cake; bread pudding (which was sliced and eaten like cake) or, for birthday parties, chocolate rice crispy cakes.
They were always home-made; except for one. Once in while, usually if my Mum had taken the bus into town and visited the supermarket, there would be a ‘shop-bought’ Jamaica ginger cake (if you live in the UK you’ll know which brand). Oblong in shape and covered with a red wrapper, it was sticky, crumbly and incredibly moist. Of course, probably much to my Mum’s chagrin, we wolfed it down.
Here’s the nearest I can get to the childhood memory of that cake. I usually double this recipe and make two cakes at a time. They keep well wrapped in foil or in a plastic bag in the freezer.
There’s a P.S. to this recipe…
I joined in a cake feature for BBC Good Food Middle East magazine. I’d already done a test run with lemongrass icing inspired by a gorgeous cake I bought from Ginger Bakers at the Foodies Festival in Bristol. Then came the email “we have too many brown and white cakes” – hmmmm aren’t most cakes brown and white? As I’m a natural kind of gal, I wasn’t keen on using colouring and what else would go with ginger? Also how would this fit in with my childhood memories (where cakes were brown!)? In a eureka moment I thought about combining flavours of my current home with the traditional English classic. I whipped up a batch of icing loosely inspired by the flavours of Nigella’s Turkish Delight figs. I did add a tiny dash of Wilton gel pink food colouring for photographic purposes. Some fresh figs and mint leaves transformed it into quite a show stopper (to quote Great British Bake Off ). The quantity I made (as below) is far too much for this cake – so either halve it, use it for something else (like cup cakes) or give it to a teen to eat by the spoonful. If you like rose creams you’ll find this seriously addictive.
Sticky ginger cake
Wrapped in foil, in an airtight container, this keeps for ages and seems to get better i.e. stickier. The icings are entirely optional as it’s a good cake on its own. The lemongrass icing is quite subtle, the vanilla/rosewater icing for hey days and holidays or you can serve with custard as a pudding.
225g self-raising flour
1 level tablespoon ground (powdered) ginger
Pinch of fine sea salt
100g light, soft brown sugar
100g unsalted butter
100g molasses (or treacle)
155g golden syrup (date syrup could also be used)
20g of syrup from a jar of stem ginger
1 medium egg
1-2 knobs of stem ginger, chopped finely
- Preheat the oven to 180 C and arrange the oven shelf about 1/3 from the bottom.
- Grease a 900g loaf tin with butter and line with greaseproof or baking paper.
- Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl, followed by the ginger, then add the salt.
- Put the sugar, butter, molasses, golden syrup and ginger syrup into a saucepan (non-stick preferably) and warm over a very low heat until the butter has melted and the sugar is no longer granular (do not overheat or let it bubble). Stir with a wooden spoon to combine, scraping any sugar from the bottom of the pan and stirring to help dissolve it. Remove from heat.
- Measure the milk in a jug and break the egg into it. Beat together with a fork until combined.
- Pour the sugar mixture from the pan into the mixing bowl onto the flour. Add the milk and egg and then the chopped stem ginger.. Stir gently with a wooden spoon then use a large hand whisk to get rid of any lumps of flour (stirring with the whisk held upright, rather than beating the mixture).
- Pour the mixture into the lined loaf tin.
- Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes. Check if cooked by inserting a wooden toothpick or cake tester into the middle – if it comes out clean the cake is cooked. If mixture coats the toothpick, put back in the oven for up to 15 more minutes (put a piece of foil over the top if it is getting very dark at the edges.
- Leave in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out carefully, remove the lining paper and place on a rack to cool.
2 stems of lemongrass
150g icing sugar
Chop the lemongrass into small pieces and put in a saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover (about 5 cm deep). Place over a low heat and infuse for 20-30 minutes (depending on how fragrant your lemongrass is). Bring to the boil and reduce until you have about 4 tablespoons of liquid. Put a small sieve over a bowl and pour the liquid into it. Discard the lemongrass. Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl then add 2 tablespoons of the lemongrass water and stir with a metal spoon until you reach a fairly thick consistency which can be poured but is not very runny. Add more water if necessary a little at a time. When the cake has cooled, spoon the icing over the top letting it drip down the sides.
Turkish Delight icing
300g icing sugar, seived
80g sour cream or crème frâiche
50g unsalted butter
tiny pinch of sea salt (1/8th of a teaspoon or less)
1 teaspoon of real vanilla extract (not essence or flavouring)
1 tablespoon rosewater
A dab of light pink gel food colouring (optional)
Put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together, with an electric hand whisk or in a food processor with the whisk attachment, until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). You could also beat vigorously by hand. Pour over the top of the cake and let it run down the sides. This amount will make more than you need; keep in the fridge and ice some fairy cakes too.
A final P.S.
The magazine wanted a childhood picture to go with the recipe. On my first birthday I was very fascinated with the candle on the cake and everyone was happy to let me investigate. A second after this was taken I was crying my eyes out with a burnt finger. Other bakers joined in this feature, in print during October 2013; Pear Tree Diaries saffron and rose petal cheesecake and The Hedonista’s lemon cake recipes can be found online (Sips and Spoonfuls, Pastry School Diaries and A Food Affair also contributed).
Do you have any childhood memories of cake? And have your tastes changed?