Ginger x 4

It appears to be mid-January. Colour me surprised. Consider me beaned over the bonce by tempus fugiting, in fact.

I promised you some recipes… umm. Last year. Queen of Broken Promises, me. You did, in fact, nearly have one, but it didn’t survive the ‘Save Draft’ button-pressing. I do, as it happens, have items other than cake that I would like to blather about here, but, before I can say anything about anything else, the ginger cake recipe staked first claim.

Oftentimes with baking, I gaily hurl other ingredients in also, depending on what is going spare/free/off, and pleasantly surprise myself, so, do have the confidence to go off-piste and piddle about with stuff. You never know what won’t work until you poison yourself. John, who can cook rather a decent roast dinner, a very mediocre Dolmio spag bol and put pizza in the oven, has watched entirely too many episodes of Masterchef, and his subsequent culinary forays into hitherto unmapped zones of ingredient-pairings have been crammed with interest, braggart flavours, and, in my case, digestive anxiety.

My own reputation as a shit-hot baker has been fraudulently acquired, I sincerely believe, unless the only true way to improve your baking is by failing big and failing often. Every fourth thing out of my oven generally evokes a pained cry of ‘what the buggery FUCK did I do wrong NOW?’ as I scan the textural ruin/burnt bits/sunken middle in horror. We make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, the stars, and my malevolent bloody fan oven.

However: this recipe is remarkably well-behaved, to the point where I have never actually failed to deliver it, edible, to the plate once embarked upon it, even when ad-libbing freely. Your own mileage will, of course, vary; plus I am so vague in my specified cooking times that you will be able to blame me with impunity if it all goes thoroughly Pete Tong.

Ann’s Quadruple Ginger Cake

I originally took the recipe from here, and tinkered a wee bit with the quantities and method. 

  • 250g/8oz/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 250g/8oz brown sugar. Dark. Light. Soft. Demerara. Muscavado. Golden. Mixture. Whatever. It all works, it’ll just give you varying shades. I tend to chuck all the rock-hard lumps that have failed to yield to the sieve in my chocolate fudge cake recipe (another day!)into a pot and use them in a melting recipe like this, checking that they fully dissolve.
  • 150g/5oz black treacle/molasses    <——–
  • 150g/5oz golden syrup/pure cane syrup <—–  roughly 300g of treacly syrup is essentially what you are looking to get to here. You can use all treacle if you like; the end result will be very dark, particularly if you’ve used a dark brown sugar, and may well end up being effectively a Treacle Cake, unless you up the ginger-ante accordingly. I usually divide the sweetening honours, unless I have run out of either, in which case I mutter bollocks to it, and use whatever I can scrap out of whatever tin I find. 
  • 300ml/10 fl.oz milk
  • 2 eggs. Size, schmize, doesn’t matter. Whang ’em in.
  • 150g/ 5oz glacé stem ginger. At least. I hurl bushels of the stuff in. Chop it as fine as you can stand without dying of boredom. Save the syrup.


  • 375g/13oz plain/all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda/baking soda (Not heaped. Not quuiiiite scraped level. Sorta… a gentle hummock.) 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (As above. Bicarb has a bit more raising Ummph, theoretically, in the presence of acid ingredients (which it…doesn’t have here, now I actually think about it) but it also has a distinct taste, so I pair ’em together in the hope of finding the perfect compromise. Use 2 tspns of either one in a storecupboard pinch, and it’ll probably be fine.)
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger. At least. I put in 5, usually.  


  • A handful of crystallised/candied stem ginger chunks, chopped about a bit.
  • Left-over ginger syrup from the glace jar, mixed with an appropriate amount of
  • Icing sugar/confectioner’s sugar.

Measure the butter, sugar, treacle and syrup into a saucepan and heat gently. Swish it about with a spoon from time to time. Don’t let it overheat.

Amuse yourself while everything dissolves by sifting the flour, ground ginger, bicarb & baking powder into a bowl, and smoothing it up the sides into an inverted cone.

Crack the eggs into the milk & whisk them about until they’re no longer lurking in lumps. When the saucepan ingredients have dissolved, remove from the heat, add the eggy milk into the melt & chivvy it about until it presents a smooth united front. You should be able to stick a finger in it without shrieking at this point.

Pour a smallish amount into the flour bowl, and start stirring in the centre, gradually drawing in the flour, a la Yorkshire Pud.

When it reaches a sticky paste, splosh a tad more syrup in from the saucepan, and stir again. Don’t be tempted to lob all the syrup in too quickly; the flour’ll be hell to work in properly.

When you’re done, add the chopped ginger. Don’t forget the ginger. Do not, for completely-hypothetical-instance, carefully pour your mixture (which will be fairly sloppy) into the tin and place it lovingly on the bottom shelf of the oven, only to wrench the door back open with an anguished moan of despair 5 minutes later, and try to lob handfuls of chopped ginger (lovingly sticky stuff, ginger) into the cake, through the fecking hot bars of the oven shelf above it. *ahem*

Oven Temperatures / Timing / Tin.

A dark art. If you are an anaesthetist, or a rower who spends their entire day manoeuvring to keep a rowing-boat in one particular spot mid-stream of a strong current, you will probably be good at baking cakes. The temperature/timing/tin triad is a hard thing to get right, as altering any one variable affects the other two. I, personally, cook this cake in a 7-inch round or an 8-inch square, greased foil or baking paper-lined tin (it’s a fairly liquid cake, so don’t bung it in a loose-bottomed tin without a lining or it’ll drip out) in a bastard contraption fan oven at 140c, for about an hour, probably a bit longer. (That’s Gas Mark 3/Convention oven 160C/325F.) I tend to just hang about nearby when it’s Time, clucking over it. Or I check it, forget to set the timer, wander off again, succumb to the internet, and burn the bugger; either or. I start having a look at 50-55 minutes, or when it starts to smell cooked, or whenever my spidey-sense screams ALL IS LOST!, whichever comes first. If you divide the cake into 2 smaller loaf tins, they still take best part of an hour, I seem to remember.

A waffle on baking in general: with rising cakes, I try not to open the oven until I know the cake must be set in shape (easier said than done, admittedly, and it does help if it isn’t your first rodeo with the recipe in question) so that the inrush of cold air doesn’t cause any significant sinkage. Dropping it on the oven shelf/floor or plonking it down too hard on the counter are also harbingers of doom, even if you HAVE (for completely-hypothetical-example) just burnt yourself inside a raggedy oven glove. Rise above the pain, good woman/chap! Or your cake… won’t.

Novice baker: there are approximately 1000 books that will explain this, but anyway: to see if a cake is cooked, insert a clean, cold metal skewer into the centre of the cake, hold it there a second or two, and then have a bloody good keek at the end. If you see smearage, the centre’s still wet. Pop it back inside again for about, say, 15% of the total recommended cooking time, and then have another g0 with your wiped clean skewer. Also, have a look around the edge, and see if the cake has shrunk away from the sides slightly yet. You can also assess springiness with a cautious finger-press: compare bounciness between the outer edge and the middle. If there is a soggy discrepancy in the middle: back inside. Cover with a double layer of baking paper if the top is already as brown as you’d like.

(Don’t leave the half-cooked cake cooling/sinking on the worksurface whilst you mess about cutting the right-size shapes to cover the top, mind: you must suffer for your art by replacing the cake, frantically folding your paper shapes, reaching inside the hot oven and negotiating the oven shelves in order to place them neatly on the cake top, and then realising you have cut them far too big to fit in the tin, at which point, if you have a fan oven, it will probably snatch the paper from you and plaster it to the back wall of the oven)

ANYhoo. You will proudly remove from the oven a bee-OOtiful ginger cake, cooked to a turn. No cracks, or other minor blemishes. Umm. 

Cool in the tin, and empty onto a plate.

Now for the topping: chop crystallised/candied ginger thinly and scatter it nicely across the cake top. Empty the glace ginger syrup into a bowl and incorporate sifted icing sugar until it turns into a delicious bowl of slow-moving icing loveliness, and drizzle it over the cake with a fork; the icing’ll anchor the crystallised ginger to the cake and stop it tumbling off if you heap enough on.

And this is where you expect to find a photo of the finished article.

But I’ve never got around to taking one, because I’ve always got my jaws sunk into it before the icing has set. 

<picture of empty plate>


29 Responses

  1. ANN! You are BACK, and you brought CAKE!

    (also, can you write a cookbook? I want things to be measured as gentle hummocks and to swear at my baked goods).

  2. How nice to hear from you. I will day dream about the cake, and maybe I’ll get myself together enough to try it. I am sure it would be a hit with my son-in-law, who loves all things flavored with ginger.

  3. My family’s recipes all read “mix; bake until done in a moderate oven” because my great-grandmother, may she rest in peace, had a wood oven.

    I adore ginger. Do you think it could be efficiently chopped in a food processor? Mine’ll do onions and nuts and the like, but I’ve not tried anything sticky lately. I love ginger and will eat the candied stuff right out of the jar. In fact, I even make my own sometimes. MMMMM ginger.

  4. I’m not that big a fan of ginger, but my husband loves it. I may have to try this…

    Strangely, I was expecting a post about redheads. I don’t know why.

  5. Actually (actually) molasses is sufficiently acid to warrrant baking soda in recipes where you use it.

    • Ahhh! The voice of science! I always wish I understood more about the chemistry of cooking so that I could understand my mistakes better. Although not quite to Heston’s level of obsession…

  6. Yum Yum Yum Yum Yum!
    Thank you!
    And to all novice bakers out there – a tip from me: don’t forget to clean your skewer, or at least, don’t do what I’ve done, forget to clean it and then on its second introduction to the cake, spend ages trying to work out whether the smeary cake mixture clinging to it came from its first prod or second…

  7. Welcom back, long time no read. I’ll be honest – I’ve just fallen in love with marmelade muffins from a local coffee shop so I won’t be making the cake, but I did enjoy reading about it.

  8. Cake! CAKE!

    My husband bought me some wheat-free ginger cake to enjoy over the holidays, what with the wheat-free THING I am forcing myself through.

    It was… unpleasant.

    Oh, it tasted good enough, but the TEXTURE. It was like eating ginger silt.

    I am so depressed.

    *Re-reads cake recipe, wistfully*

    Anyway. Very nice to see you back again. I wish more recipes were written like this. Delia, after all, is NOT FUNNY. And funny is good. Carry on.

  9. i am embarrassed to admit that this is the very first time i’ve realized that treacle = molasses. it just sounds so different. paler, for one thing, and less sour.

    • umm, I thought that treacle/molasses were syrup. Sort of man made honey. Sweet.
      Sour you say?

      • Not really sour, but sort of.. strong-tasting. Mmmm. Nice.

        • There may be an Atlantic Terminology Divide here. Let us Wikipedia…

          “Treacle is any syrup made during the refining of sugar and is defined as “uncrystallized syrup produced in refining sugar”. The most common forms of treacle are the pale syrup that is also known as golden syrup and the darker syrup that is usually referred to as dark treacle or black treacle. Dark treacle has a distinctively strong flavour, slightly bitter, and a richer colour than golden syrup, yet not as dark as molasses. Golden syrup is the main sweetener in treacle tart.”

          I could really, really eat a treacle tart after reading that.

  10. I’m another one who thought this was going to be about redheads. I adore ginger hair, however I ginger cake tastes much better then hair and I always neeeeed cake, so thank you for the recipe.

  11. At last! Will have to go and purchase candied ginger very soon and hope that the children don’t like it….

  12. Oh Ann! YOU MUST WRITE THE BOOK. I know what you are thinking, like Magnum PI, I am: (You may be too young for that reference.) that there are already millions of millions of cake books?

    But no, not like your one, I tell you. A cake book written by someone like you, resolutely human and hilarious! Unafraid of disaster! Embracing of the chaos! And philosophical, and kind! With hen stories, and Real Farm Life!

    I could do the illustrations. Oh say you will!

  13. I am certain that this will turn out better than the Utterly Rubbish marshmallow brownies I made today…
    Still, I am sure to find someone who will eat them…

  14. My first thought, before I read a single comment, was “why, oh why, are recipe books not written in this manner? This is exactly how baking cake goes for me, down to the swearing and tin foil plastered to the back of the fan forced. Honesty in recipe books…I want!” And you my dear, deliver in spades.

    I love ginger. And cake. So ginger cake might be my next contribution to the highly competitive morning teas at my place of employment. Which seem to happen every second week. And I am certain molasses and treacle are not identical…at least in this country.

    Molasses is stronger and much more bitter tasting than treacle although I think in the US they call treacle molasses and what we call molasses is called blackstrap. I personally favour the even sweeter and lighter one known as golden syrup and that’s what I use in my ginger fluff cake.

    I await lime and coconut cake recipe in the Hairy Farmer inimitable style. I totally understand that this requires lots of time.

    • Yes, I feel you are right; I have misunderstood the nature of Molasses. Since childhood, I have thought it was our equivalent of Black Treacle -I will have to re-read all my childhood US pioneer literature!

      I am so glad it’s not just me that has to fight things off the rear fan like a parachutist trying deperately to furl his ‘chute! BLOODY fan ovens. Hate ’em!

      Of course, wheen J & I eventually move over the road to the farm proper (a much-dreaded date) I will inherit a wood-fired Rayburn oven with a backboiler (the only source of central heating, no less), a chimney that blows both ways, and a serious attitude problem. There is a knack to placating it, and we haven’t found the right altar to sacrifice to yet. Everytime they go on holiday: we either smoke the place out, set fire to the chimney, or let it go shamefully out.

      • I have totally unexplained fear of wood burning ovens believing them all to be totally unpredictable thermostatically and a bloody lot of work providing their grasping maw with fuel. Have no suggestions to make as to correct sacrificial items or liturgy.

  15. I loathe stem ginger and even I am salivating at this recipe! Just think you can be the UK Pioneer Woman but of cakes.

  16. Now all I need is somebody to cook it for me, because I would arse it up.


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