There’s something ever so magical about ginger. Its warmth and zing gives gives a cosy sort of satisfaction to some otherwise mundane things, and perhaps also a dash of elegance. I think it works both ways for this cake.
At this point I should admit that I’m not really a cake person. Unless stressed or avoiding an assignment; I care little for the sweet, homogenous crumbs nor all the softening, beating, folding and anxious skewering involved with cakes. Actually, I haven’t much of a sweet tooth either. But I find myself more than capable of handling a square of something that is moist and has texture and kick. Especially because, once you have properly softened your butter, the actual cake mixture is a very simple affair.
Something sticky like honey or treacle is inevitably involved – so arm yourself with hot water here. Popping your jar of sticky stuff in a bowl of hot water may help if it’s proving difficult to get out without a fight (And ah, in wiping up any errant splatters).
Recipes for this sort of thing abound, although it might also be called ginger bread. Look for ingredients like the afforementioned sticky sweetener, butter, brown sugar, eggs and something thick and creamy like sour cream. If you’re a spice lover, you might like to add extra dried ginger as well as nutmeg and cinnamon or allspice at the end, to taste. The cake pictured here is from the revised edition of Stephanie Alexanders The Cook’s Companion (a book which I frequently turn to for ideas and advice), albeit with about three quarters of the sugar, greek yoghurt substituted for sour cream and a stack of walnuts pressed on top of the cake mixture before it was baked. Those of us at home who didn’t already have an aversion to walnuts loved the crunch that resulted, and found it the walnuts to be very subtle. It’s not uncommon for something like stout to be added too. I’m hoping to try Nigella Lawson’s take on this adult version in the next festive season.
This is obviously a treat. Butter, refined sugar, treacle and white flour pack a fair punch in terms of quickly broken down energy. A cake like this isn’t a very good source of of the nutrients and micronutrients that we need daily either. But it’s a very simple way of sharing something special.
Chai tea or coffee makes this a lovely afternoon tea. Ecco too actually – if you’re not above a coffee ‘imitation’! Roast apples (or pears I should imagine) popped on top met the family’s approval when we had friends round for dinner. Stephanie Alexander recommends home made banana ice cream in The Cook’s Companion. Go nuts really.
There’s no need to finish this cake up straight away – it’s one of those darlings that is at least as good two days later.