'Tis the season

I do love Christmas.  Not in an over the top way, and definitely not until December 1 hits.  I don't like it when the shops put out their Christmas goods in September, and am always vaguely distressed by the out of control advertising for things you don't want or need.  'This Christmas' should be banned from the airwaves, forever.  But there are many lovely things about this time of year. The parties, the lights, the scent of a newly cut Christmas tree (mine is bringing me out in hives, but at least is looking pretty while doing so).  Advent calendars, which I will apparently never be too old for.  And the food.  Most especially the baking.

This weekend I had some good friends around for an early celebration.  There were smoked salmon sandwiches and there was Prosecco, because tea just seemed too prosaic.  There were orange cupcakes with chocolate icing.  And there was gingerbread cake.  Which was too good not to share.

Gingerbread cake with lime
(adapted from Mary Berry)

250g/8oz softened butter
250g/8oz dark muscovado sugar
110g black treacle
375g/12oz plain flour
5 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1 fresh ginger root (or a few pieces of stem ginger)
2 limes, zested
300ml milk
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

You can cook this in any shape or size you want, but for reference, the mixture fills two 7" baking tins or one 10" tin.  I bet it would also make lovely muffins.

Start by preheating the oven to 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3, and greasing and lining whatever tin you decide to use.

In a saucepan, heat the butter, sugar and treacle over a low temperature, stirring until the mixture is smooth and all of the butter lumps have disappeared. Then take off the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and the spices. Be generous with the ginger, and add in any other spices you think might complement it.  Pour the treacle mix into the flour, and stir thoroughly until they are combined.  Stir the beaten eggs into the mix, and add half a grated ginger root.  Or more, if you desire.  It gives the cake a lovely low fire.  You could also chop up some crystallised stem ginger and throw that in.  I don't care for ginger pieces so they didn't make into my version of the cake.  Instead, I decided to add the zest of a lime.  I think that I could have done with twice that amount though, as the flavour didn't come through all that strongly.

Warm the milk gently in a saucepan, taking care that it doesn't get too hot and burn on the bottom of the pan. Add the bicarbonate of soda and let it foam a little. Add to the gingerbread mixture, and stir until well combined.

Pour the whole lot into your prepared tin and throw it in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until the top is starting to.  I found that my cake needed the full hour, since it was being cooked at a relatively lower heat.  Keep checking it to make sure that it doesn't burn though.  If a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, it's done.  Et voila!  I don't think this cake needs much else by way of adornment.  Just a sprinkle of icing sugar.

I was considering making a tarte tatin for Christmas Day this year, but think that this cake might just have moved into contention...


  1. We are hiding out in Paris from the Christmas-mania in Toronto. Here the Christmas decorations and music are less obtrusive and more enjoyable. Your recipe looks delicious, but we have to admit that we were stumped by "muscovado sugar." Can you translate?

    Wish you could come for a visit. You would love the lights on the Champs-Elysees!

    1. Hmm, didn't realise that was an Anglicism! Muscovado is very dark molasses sugar: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscovado

      I don't come across a lot of recipes that call for it - primarily things like ginger cake.

      Hope all is going well in Paris. Central London is looking rather pretty too and now that I am on holiday I am finally feeling the holiday spirit.