Ice & Spice
It’s been a chilly weekend here in Wales as the icy disposition of Winter dominates our mornings once again, transforming the landscape into a peaceful, glistening wonderland. Unfortunately this also signals the return of my most loathsome chore, de-icing the cars (ugh). Despite being someone who is affected by the cold more than any person ought to, I do enjoy a clear, crisp morning.. usually spent enjoying a steaming cup of english breakfast whilst contentedly observing the neighbours cat pursue his fellow felines around the garden.
Fortunately for me the cold weather signifies layers, snuggling up with hot beverages & comfort food. I spend the majority of the season donning dressing gowns, slippers resembling woodland creatures & scarves large enough to be considered blankets in their own right. Another way to stay warm & cosy of course is with food that comforts you from the inside out. Steaming bowls of soup, hearty casseroles, thick sweetened bowls of porridge, spiced teas & desserts are all worthy contenders (& regular offenders in our house).
As far as baking is concerned there is one fiery ingredient in particular that exceeds all others in defeating the Winter chill, ginger. A pungent spice whose scent instantly concocts feelings of warmth & contentment.
There’s no denying that ginger can certainly give a kick to any dish with its unmistakable peppery, almost citrus flavour. Fantastic as this robust flavour is in substantial foods like curry, casseroles & of course Asian dishes, this storecupboard staple can mostly be found in chutneys & baked goods in my kitchen.
Ginger cake is an absolute classic, not just here in the UK but so many countries & regions have their own variation of a ginger cake. Other than the traditional festive gingerbread, my all time favourite ginger cake is without a doubt Delia’s Dark Jamaican Gingerbread. This is a recipe that I came across in what is still one of my most cherished books, Delia’s Cakes. For those outside of the UK, Delia Smith is a cook & television presenter & our best-selling cookery author, her recipes will never fail (needless to say, I admire her & may or may not watch repeats of Delia through the decades on Food Network more than I ought).
My own recipes for ginger cake tend to be of the moist, dense variety. There’s something undeniably satisfying about a cake with a decent squidge. This particular round little confection has all of the classic storecupboard ingredients that a great Winter cake should.. treacle, syrup & spices, all mingled together to create a well-rounded comforting flavour that only improves with time (if it lasts that long).
STICKY GINGER CAKE
(makes one 18cm cake)
- 225g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 115g butter, cubed
- 115g dark muscovado sugar
- 115g black treacle
- 115g golden syrup
- 250 ml whole milk
- 1 egg
For the icing:
- 50g icing sugar
- zest x1 lemon
- juice 1/2 lemon
- Using a large saucepan, melt together the sugar, treacle, syrup & milk, allow the mixture to just reach boiling point before removing from the heat & allowing to cool slightly
- In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients
- Add the cubed butter to the bowl & rub into the flour & spices until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
- Pour the syrup mixture over the dry ingredients, add in the egg & stir to combine
- Pour the mixture into an 18cm round cake tin, greased & lined with baking parchment
- Bake at 180C for 50 minutes to an hour, until a skewer test comes out clean
- Allow the cake to cool in its tin for 10 minutes before removing & allowing to cool fully on a cooling rack
- Once cool make the icing by combining enough of the lemon juice to the icing sugar to make a smooth, loose consistency before adding in the lemon zest
- Use the icing to drizzle over the top of the cake