There are only a handful of sponges, biscuits or other base recipes that involve more than a few ingredients – sugar, butter, eggs and flour, usually – that I respect. This recipe is one of them. Yup, it has quite a few bits and bobs in it, but they’re all store-cupboard ingredients. Keep them for next time.
This is one I used to make when I worked as a washer of dishes, way back before any notions of “baking off” had taken my fancy. It was a tricky and much-adapted recipe, covered in scribbles and slashes and splashes. I stole it, and wrote it up more neatly with rounded up numbers, and here it is. And it is phenomenal. It’s the perfect texture for a ginger cake or loaf – sticky and moist. It takes ages to dry out, so is a great loaf for having around the house or taking into work for your very lucky colleagues. I’ve been told it’s “like Jamaica cake, but good”. I’ll take that.
First, preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4. Line 2x 8 inch square tins with baking paper (non-stick greaseproof paper).
I find it’s best to group your ingredients together into stages. First, weigh your butter, syrup, treacle, sugar, fresh ginger and dried spices into a large saucepan. Into a medium bowl, measure your milk, your two eggs, baking powder and bicarb. Into one last bowl, sift your flour.
Place your saucepan onto a low-medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until your butter and sugar have melted and your ingredients have combined, then remove from the saucepan from the heat.
Whisk your milky eggy mixture together until just-combined, then add this into your syrupy saucepan. Mix very quickly as you do so, so as not to scramble the eggs. You might notice it foam up – this is good.
Finally, add your flour. You can whisk this if you like – you’ll notice it takes a little effort to make it smooth, but you do want it smooth. Yes, it’s supposed to be that runny.
Pour this mixture into your prepared tin and bake for 15-25 minutes, depending on thickness. If you want to make a loaf-style cake, make that 25-35 minutes. It’s done when it’s springy and a skewer comes out clean. When it’s at that stage, remove it from the oven and leave it to cool.
As your gingerbread cools, make your icing. Mix about half your icing sugar with enough water so that it has a loose, gloopy texture. Add more icing sugar to thicken it until it will flow, but only just. It should fall in ribbons into the bowl. At this stage it can be poured or spread over your (warm) gingerbread. Leave to cool completely, and enjoy.
You’ve got to watch out for this one – it rises a lot in the oven. Don’t fill any tins more than about 2/3 full, or you’ll end up with your mixture spilling out onto your oven floor.