A cake for January

One of my favourite authors, Zadie Smith, wrote in her book On Beauty, that “there is a breed of Tuesday in January in which time creeps and no light comes and the air is full of water and nobody really loves anybody”. I love that; it really sums up this often-bleak time of year when Christmas cheer has long since left us and spring seems years away. It appears that Nigel Slater shares this pain, too. Turn to page 15 of his Kitchen Diaries and you will find him at January 9th, encountering “grey, endless drizzle…the sort of day on which to light the fire, turn on the radio and bake a cake.” Yet again, baking comes to the rescue.

So if you’re having one of those endless drizzle days, why not have a go at Nigel’s delicious double ginger cake. I baked this cake last week, when the snow was knee-deep outside. And it was perfect! The power of not one, but two, types of ginger, gives this cake a beautiful depth of flavour. Golden syrup keeps it moist, and the raisins add bite. I didn’t have any stem ginger in the house, so used grated ginger root instead, and it worked very well. I baked it in a round cake tin, and it turned out as a huge, domed hulk of a cake. It is delicious on its own with a cup of tea (for breakfast, perhaps?), but works equally well as a pudding with some crème fraîche. YUM!

So if you’re having one of those days where the weather seems to be against you, come home, put the heating on and get to work with this cake. If you need a bit more convincing, I’ll leave you with a quote from Nigel Slater himself: “Once the smell of baking fills the house, I find the rain suddenly matters a great deal less, if at all.” Such is the power of baking.

Double ginger cake
from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries

250g (8oz) self-raising flour
2 level teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200g (7oz) golden syrup
55g (approx. 3 lumps) stem ginger in syrup / grated ginger root
2 tablespoons syrup from the ginger jar (optional)
125g (4½oz) butter
2 heaped tablespoons raisins
125g (4½oz) dark muscovado sugar
2 eggs
240ml (8 fl oz) milk

– Grease a 20-22cm square or round cake tin, then line with baking parchment.

– Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4. Sift the flour with the ground ginger, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda. Put the butter and golden syrup (and ginger syrup, if using) in a small saucepan and warm over a low heat. Grate the ginger finely, then add it to the pan with the raisins and sugar. Let the mixture bubble gently for a minute, giving it the occasional stir to stop the fruit sticking to the bottom.

– Break the eggs into a bowl, pour in the milk and beat gently to break up the egg and mix it into the milk. Remove the butter and sugar mixture from the heat and pour it into the flour, stirring smoothly and firmly with a large metal spoon. Mix in the milk and eggs (it may seem like there is way to much liquid, but keep stirring and it will mix into the flour). The mixture should be sloppy, with no trace of flour.

– Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Unless you are serving it warm, leave the cake in its tin to cool, then tip it out onto a sheet of greaseproof paper. Wrap it in foil and, if you can, leave it to mature for a day or two before eating. The cake will keep for a week or so wrapped in paper and foil.





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