Gingerly does it
Jeremy Lee cosies up with a proper winter cake
My mother made a ginger cake that was so dark and sticky it looked like a black hole
Whenever I hear the word “rhizome” I always think of Mapp and Lucia, the hilarious account of social rivalry between two extraordinary women, which reaches giddy heights over Miss Mapp’s infamous theft of Lucia’s recipe for Lobster a la Riseholme. I hasten to add you will not be killing lobster in this week’s pudding recipe.
No, this week we look to ginger – that fiery rhizome (ie mass of roots), with its fine flavour and heat – to enliven a cake that is delicious on its own, but very good warmed for pudding and served with ice-cream – and maybe some cream, too, naturally.
There are as many recipes for gingerbreads and cakes as there are stars in the sky, and a great many folk have a set of trusted and most beloved recipes from which they will not stray. My mother made a ginger cake that was so dark and sticky that it sank magnificently in the middle and looked like a black hole. No holiday to the Hebrides was complete without one and, when cold from the sea, a slice slathered with cold butter made for the best shivery bite.
I confess to having many recipes, and two favourites stand out: one by Rose Prince and the other by Claire Ptak who sells her ginger cake (made with molasses) by the slice or whole at her lovely bakery near London Fields. But this week I found myself looking to the other side of the Atlantic and the notable American chef and food writer Nancy Silverton , whose book Desserts contains recipes I have read endlessly (though I am bedevilled by the spoon, stick and cup measurements ... as impenetrable to this Scot as hieroglyphs). Happily, though, we have a pastry chef who is fluent in American, whose priceless translations open up a wonderful world of much deliciousness.
I have reduced the amount of ground ginger and upped the fresh root. This may require a little extra effort on the cook’s part, but the resulting cake is ample reward. I suggest leaving the cake to sit for a couple of days before carving the first slice.
180g unsalted butter, softened
170g dark muscovado sugar
4 egg yolks, plus 8 egg whites
270g plain white flour
3 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground mace
½ tsp ground cloves
5 pieces of fresh ginger the size of your thumb, peeled and grated
5 pieces of crystallised ginger, grated, and 5 tsp of the adhering syrup A shot of espresso coffee 1½ tsp baking powder 1 tbsp caster sugar 250g sour cream
1 Line a 30cm springform tin with greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/gas 2.
2 Beat the softened butter in a bowl. Add the muscovado sugar and beat for 4 minutes. On a gentle speed, add one egg yolk at a time until all are included.
3 Pour in the treacle. Tip in the flour, the spices, the fresh and crystallised gingers, and the ginger syrup. Mix deftly, but swiftly.
4 Now, add the coffee, then the baking powder and mix.
5 In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, then add the caster sugar, beating all the while until peaked. Fold ⅓ of the egg white mix into the batter, then ⅓ of the sour cream, and continue thus until all is mixed swiftly and deftly.
6 Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. Smooth the surface. Put the cake in the oven and bake for 1 hour. Check with a skewer inserted within for doneness. If longer is required then check every 5 minutes or so.
7 Cool the cake and store in an airtight container somewhere cool – for a fair few days, if possible, before deciding on whether to serve with custard, cream or ice-cream – or all three, perhaps.