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Sticky ginger cake with Turkish Delight icing

October 10, 2013

Ginger cake with Turkish Delight icingOne 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
150ml milk
1-2 knobs of stem ginger, chopped finely


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C and arrange the oven shelf about 1/3 from the bottom.
  2. Grease a 900g loaf tin with butter and line with greaseproof or baking paper.
  3. Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl, followed by the ginger, then add the salt.
  4. 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.
  5. Measure the milk in a jug and break the egg into it. Beat together with a fork until combined.
  6. 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).
  7. Pour the mixture into the lined loaf tin.
  8. 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.
  9. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out carefully, remove the lining paper and place on a rack to cool.

Lemongrass icing


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.

Ginger cake with Turkish Delight icing

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).

My first birthday

My first birthday

Do you have any childhood memories of cake? And have your tastes changed?

  1. October 10, 2013 6:29 am

    This sounds amazing!

  2. afternoonlattes permalink
    October 10, 2013 6:40 am

    wow! amazing recipe and sweet!!would you mind checking out my blog and if you like it maybe giving it a follow?(:

  3. October 10, 2013 7:02 am

    I love the sound of both these toppings. The rose one is much more surprising but definitely something to be tried. I must admit I think I could still quite happily indulge my secret and guilty fondness for that bought sticky ginger cake (whose brand we won’t mention), sliced, microwaved, drizzled with golden syrup and swimming in a pool of packet custard. And then assuage my guilt with a slice of your much more sophisticated version.

    • October 22, 2013 8:17 am

      Euan – there is a time and a place for packet custard….I was brought up on the stuff. I too still have a fondness for the shop bought sticky ginger 🙂

  4. October 10, 2013 8:10 am

    Can’t wait to try this recipe. Thank you for posting it. I have similar fond childhood memories of Jamaica Ginger Cake! We used to have it sometimes if we were visiting my Grandma. My love of ginger definitely came from her. Beautiful photos as always too.

    • October 10, 2013 9:47 pm

      Thanks Suz – do you ever do ginger tablet?

  5. October 10, 2013 8:23 am

    I love ginger cake – I’m also a huge fan of pain d’epices – when I go to Provence, I’m so happy to be able to buy it for about €3.50 from the local boulangerie – saves lazy me from having to make it. That sticky/soft texture, spicy/sweet flavour, the gently burned sugar taste on the crust – mmm. Love it so much. Think lemongrass is a lovely idea for contrast. And after trying your rose creams (yes, I still remember them from 2 years ago) I’m totally sold on the rose frosting with figs too.

    • October 10, 2013 9:47 pm

      It does work surprisingly well Sarah – I thought it might gild the lily. You have to make pain d’epices now 🙂

  6. October 10, 2013 9:39 am

    That is an interesting combination and cake! I love the icing. Lovely childhood memories.



  7. October 10, 2013 10:21 am

    oh my! what AMAZING flavours!! You had me at ‘sticky’ x

    • October 10, 2013 9:45 pm

      Oh yes – got to be sticky.

  8. October 10, 2013 10:22 am

    another one to try!! the list is getting endless 🙂

    • October 10, 2013 9:45 pm

      Let me know if you do – it’s one of my favourites.

  9. October 10, 2013 10:44 am

    I love ginger and this cake is on my list as soon as I start baking again!

    Growing up mom used to make us Orange Cakes & A Chocolate & Vanilla Marble Cake!
    They were amazingly fluffy and full of flavour. But at one stage, we couldn’t have any orange cakes anymore! Haha

    The brown and white cake issue really made me laugh.

    I made some lemongrass icing for a ginger cake I made for Ahmed when he left for the 6 months! It’s an acquired taste. Not everyone likes it!

    • October 10, 2013 9:44 pm

      Oooh – marble cake….another classic. I know what you mean about lemongrass – but I love it.

  10. October 10, 2013 10:50 am

    There’s something about that particular cake – a pivotal part of childhood in 60s/70s Britain, when ingredients were so dull and limited. My mum – who loved to cook but rarely made cake – would slice it lengthways and fill it with home-made coffee icing. Delicious!

    • October 10, 2013 9:43 pm

      That flair in your family – it’s continued with you Charlie. And yes – watching ‘Life on Mars’ reminds me of how brown and deprived everything still was.

  11. October 10, 2013 11:02 am

    What a gorgeous cake, and how sweet is that pic of your first birthday!!! I wish my mum baked when I was a child, she really is a disaster in the kitchen so if I wanted cake, I had to bake it myself! Congrats on the feature in the magazine, well done you!!! x

    • October 10, 2013 9:41 pm

      That’s why you are such a good cook – I was spoilt!

  12. October 10, 2013 11:15 am

    Very good icing recipe..sounds and looks great. Very pretty cake with the figs and mint.

    • October 10, 2013 9:40 pm

      Thanks Roger – uncharacteristically decorative for me 🙂

  13. October 10, 2013 12:33 pm

    You may believe this, or not, but I was actually looking for a recipe for Jamaica Ginger cake just yesterday – I too have very fond childhood memories of ‘that brand’ of cake. I am a great fan of ginger and use it in many things. I currently have a bucket on a kitchen worktop with melon, ginger & sugar in – that will become melon & ginger jam later today – with a bit of luck! The icings sound lush as well. Many thanks for the recipe. 🙂

    • October 10, 2013 9:40 pm

      I like the sound of that bucket 🙂

      • October 10, 2013 10:03 pm

        It’s bubbling away right now! The smell is unbelievable 🙂

  14. October 10, 2013 12:46 pm

    What an adorable little poppet you were – lovely photo.
    The title of this alone has me hooked and I am still salivating. We too grew up with many wonderful baked things always in the kitchen, although there were too many to pin point just one.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    • October 10, 2013 9:39 pm

      Ha ha – shame I didn’t stay that way!

  15. October 10, 2013 1:15 pm

    The childhood photo is too cute! I mainly remember sticky glutinous rice cakes for Chinese new year, but were they the best ever!

    • October 10, 2013 9:39 pm

      Gosh – have never tasted those. Childhood taste memories are so vivid aren’t they…

  16. October 10, 2013 2:02 pm

    Which topping to choose from…..I may have to try half and half!

    • October 10, 2013 9:38 pm

      Both are good but the Turkish Delight pips it at the post…just

  17. October 10, 2013 5:15 pm

    I’d forgotten about Jamaica ginger cakes – they were very good, weren’t they! As my kids have yet to discover the shop-bought version, I’ll be using your recipe to impress them… gives me an excuse to make some Turkish delight icing too.

    • October 10, 2013 9:38 pm

      They were SO good. I like shop-bought ginger biscuits too.

  18. October 10, 2013 8:24 pm

    I will quickly have to convert this to cups as I am flying to the States to see my Dad and he would love this! Alas, no metric scales 😦 Both icings sound fabulous and would be great on a variety of other cakes and bakes. Congrats on the BBC Good Food Middle East feature too x

    • October 10, 2013 9:37 pm

      Sorry Kellie – I just can’t do volume measurements – can you imagine measuring syrup by volume in this quantity?! Enjoy your time with your Dad.

  19. October 11, 2013 12:44 am

    I love the thought of both the icings – lemongrass icing – I have never ever come across something like this. I really really want to try this. I am personally fascinated by figs. They are like gems and jewels, much like pomegranates. Supercute pic of you Sally – sorry about the burnt finger – awww!

  20. crasterkipper permalink
    October 11, 2013 11:25 am

    I still occasionally buy the Jamaica ginger cake. Do you remember pineapple upside down cake?! It was hearty and covered with custard. How we were so thin I’ll never know – I guess the days before computers when most free time was spent ‘playing out’!

    • October 16, 2013 11:37 am

      Pineapple upside down cake! I suppose I thought of it as pudding as we had it with custard. Ah memories

  21. October 11, 2013 12:12 pm

    We love a ginger cake..and turkish delight icing sounds amazing!

    • October 16, 2013 11:36 am

      My daughter ate the leftover icing single handed.

  22. October 11, 2013 4:58 pm

    yum Sally – that’s my kind of cake!! childhood favourites include chocolate broken biscuit cake (sometimes called Polish cake), flapjack and rock cakes…the secrets of these I have passed on to my children!

    • October 16, 2013 11:36 am

      Love your flapjacks – broken biscuit cake is a new one to me…

  23. October 11, 2013 5:09 pm

    Tuekish delight anything does it for me! Thanks for sharing Sally 🙂

    • October 16, 2013 11:35 am

      Yes – I love those subtle flavours too – thanks Tandy

  24. October 14, 2013 4:00 am

    I love the combination of string bd genre flavours, so clever and interesting on the senses. Congrats on your feature, it’s a lovely feeling isn’t it x

    • October 16, 2013 11:35 am

      Thanks Deena – it was nice to be featured with other bloggers I admire

  25. October 14, 2013 8:12 pm

    Mmm… so tempting! I pinned it right away, and hopefully will make it soon. If there was one given thing when I was growing up, there WASN’T any cake around the house…ja!

    • October 16, 2013 11:34 am

      Ha ha – I can’t imagine that. My Mother complains that I don’t feed my children puddings 🙂

  26. October 16, 2013 9:07 pm

    Amazing…reminds me of a Polish gingerbread cake and the Turkish Delight icing is inspired! x

    • October 18, 2013 1:49 pm

      We used to eat those honey cakes (German I think) from a packet at Christmas, made of ginger, spices and coated with a crisp layer of icing sugar. Did you?

  27. October 16, 2013 10:32 pm

    This post Sally is a delight to the senses. I will buy those syruped ginger next time I am grocery shopping to make it, perhaps with your white frosting. By the way does the ginger taste come out strongly?

    • October 18, 2013 1:46 pm

      That’s a tough question to answer – it’s not too strong for me but I’m a ginger fan. It’s soft ginger not harsh ginger. I can eat the stuff in syrup straight from the jar.

  28. October 21, 2013 11:08 pm

    Your blog has quite the reputation here in Dubai, but everytime I drop by, I can never find anything that piques my interest until this post, which I had discovered in BBC Goodfood ME. Anyone that doesn’t like ginger cake needs to have his / her head checked. And the addition of lemon grass – I haven’t seen that before in a recipe for this kind of cake. As for the Turkish Delight icing – what can one say other than it looks like it could be full of eastern promise…

    • October 22, 2013 8:23 am

      Glad this one rated on the interest-pique-o-meter. Do try the Turkish Delight icing, the rosewater and vanilla make great partners.

  29. October 23, 2013 7:38 pm

    OMG what a combination! And look at the state of those figs… Nick’s allotment neighbour, who’s from Turkey, gave him a couple off their tree and they were utterly sumptuous…

    • October 24, 2013 7:32 am

      My best ever fig was from a tree in Devon!

  30. MissMangue permalink
    October 24, 2013 2:24 pm

    Reblogged this on MissMangue.

  31. October 31, 2013 8:23 pm

    Love the look of the figs, yet the soft, pretty pink of the frosting! And the cake sounds delicious, from a ginger-loving fan!


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