I ate the most unbelievable amount of junk food when I was at school. Not only was school food itself usually pretty spectacularly unhealthy, but also any money I had usually went on books, costume jewellery, and chocolate. I could quite happily go through a 100g bar of Dairy Milk without much thought; I still could, if not for the fact that it would pain my conscience. It’s truly both a blessing and a curse, but I can really eat pretty much anything. Quite apart from being lucky enough not to have any allergies, I also have tremendous capacity: when other people are groaning that they are painfully full or feeling sick from sugar, I would usually be happy to keep going.
Of course, when you’re young you don’t worry as much about trashing your body, and it’s the done thing – or at least it was when I was at school – to make regular trips to the corner shop to stock up on all things sweet. My best friend from those years, Ella, and I did this regularly, and to be honest I can’t remember any adults fussing particularly about stopping us, although it’s entirely possible I may have just blanked any admonitions out. Ella and I lived a five minute walk apart and we were practically inseparable for years, both at school and in our free time. I have a very specific memory of us sitting in an empty classroom across the corridor from the school library and eating an entire McVitie’s Jamaica Ginger cake between the two of us in what must have been about seven minutes.
Times change, but not very much, it seems, because here I am with another massive ginger cake which I am planning to eat a great deal of. True, I’ve fancied it up a bit, but basically this is still the essence of a delicious ginger cake – moist, flavoursome, and comforting. I don’t know what Ella is up to these days, but I hope that she’d like it.
Source: The base ginger cake recipe has been adapted from Ready for Dessert, by David Lebovitz, which is a fantastic book.
Notes: This cake will keep well for about four or five days. You don’t have to make the compote, or even the drizzle – it would be good plain, too. But if you want to make it a bit fancier for a dessert then these are nice accompaniments. I also think it goes very well with crème fraîche, which cuts through it nicely.
115g fresh ginger (peeled weight)
200ml golden syrup
50ml black treacle
200g caster sugar (or brown sugar would work well too if you have it in)
250ml corn oil (or other flavourless oil)
350g plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground pepper
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 large eggs
for the compote
4 sticks or so of rhubarb
1 vanilla pod, if you have one kicking about
50g sugar (or to taste)
1 punnet/ 150g raspberries
for the drizzle
juice of 1 lemon
150g icing sugar
- Preheat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4, and grease and line a 23cm cake tin – you will need a pretty big tin or the cake won’t bake through, and if it’s springform it will make your life easier. Chop your ginger very finely, or whack it in the food processor and blitz it down (if you are lazy, like me). In your largest bowl, mix together the golden syrup, sugar, and oil. In a little pan, bring your water just to the boil (but don’t let it boil away), and stir in the bicarb, which will make it fizz up excitingly. Then whisk your water into the sugar mixture and stir in the chopped ginger.
- Sift your flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and pepper over your wet mixture and slowly whisk it in. Finally, crack your two large eggs into the bowl and whisk them in too. The mixture will seem very wet and loose. Don’t worry, it will all come out okay. Pop it in your tin and bake for around 1 hour. It’s a long bake time, so if it starts looking a bit too dark a bit early then turn your oven down a touch. Make sure your cake passes the skewer test before you bring it out.
- Meanwhile, while your cake is baking, make your compote. Chop your rhubarb into 4cm pieces, or thereabouts, and pop it in a saucepan with your sugar, water, and a vanilla pod split in half if you have one. Leave on a gentle heat to cook down for about 20 minutes, or until your rhubarb is soft and your compote is syrupy. Stir in your raspberries and cook for 5 minutes more. Leave to stand and thicken.
- When your cake is out of the oven, make your lemon drizzle. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and gradually whisk in drops of lemon juice, until you have a drizzle-able icing – you may or may not use all the juice. Careful, because it’s very easy to add too much liquid and make it too liquid. Drizzle it artfully over the cake and serve with the compote.