Its the end of November and we are now building up to Christmas (after John Lewis and M&S ramming it down our throats over the last few weeks with their Christmas adverts), and today millions of Americans all over the world will be celebrating Thanksgiving. And so I thought I would post this seasonal recipe for gingerbread cake.
Oddly, even though I’m no fan of ginger, I actually love gingerbread cake and just as I was thinking of making one, Barefoot Contessa came on the Food Network with her gingerbread cupcakes! There were a few ingredients in her recipe that I wasn’t keen on (cloves, raisins and rum), but I did like the look of the orange cream cheese frosting. So I looked online for the best looking gingerbread cake recipe and I decided to top it with Ina’s frosting. I decided on this recipe for the sponge from BBC Food. I changed it slightly, just by adding some cinnamon and reducing the amount of stem ginger plus I changed the cooking time a bit.
* Make this cake 2 days before you want to serve it. It tastes so much better after a couple of days.
For the cake
225g/8oz/2 sticks butter, softened
225g/8oz/1 cup light muscovado sugar
225g/8oz/1 cup golden syrup
225g/8oz/1 cup black treacle/molasses
225g/8oz/1 cup self-raising flour, sifted
225g/8oz/1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour, sifted
4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp stem ginger (from a jar), chopped
2 free-range eggs, beaten
300ml/10½fl oz milk
For the frosting
225g/8oz/1 cup cream cheese, at room temperature (I used Philadelphia)
225g/8oz/1 cup icing sugar/confectioners sugar, sifted
115g/4oz/1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ tsp orange zest
½ tsp vanilla extract
Line a 23cm/9in square cake tin at least 4cm/1½in deep with baking parchment and preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3. (I only had a 21cm square tin so I used that but this changes the cooking time).
Place the butter, sugar, golden syrup and black treacle/molasses into a pan and heat gently until the mixture has melted evenly, then set aside to cool slightly.
Sift the flours, ground ginger, ground cinnamon and stem ginger into a large mixing bowl and mix gently. Then pour the cooled treacle mixture into the flour mix.
Add the beaten eggs and milk and beat with a wooden spoon until well combined.
I found there were still some small lumps, even after beating with the spoon so I got my electric mixer out and beat it for a minute until the mix was smooth.
Pour the cake batter into the tin and level the surface with a palette knife or the back of a spoon.
Bake for 50 minutes if using a 23cm tin, or 80 minutes is using a 21cm tin. The cake should have risen and be golden-brown in colour. A skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean. When I first looked at mine after 50 minutes, it was cooked around the edges but still raw in the middle. When I stuck the skewer in, it came out wet which is why I kept it in for longer.
Set aside to cool slightly in the tin, then transfer the cake to a wire rack and set aside to cool completely.
Meanwhile, start on your orange cream cheese frosting. I melted my butter as it wouldn’t soften (its November and my kitchen is freezing). If your butter is very soft, thats fine. But it really does need to be soft otherwise you will end up with lumpy frosting. I also whipped my cream cheese before adding it to the mix so it was airy and smooth. Again, this helps remove any lumps.
Simply mix the cream cheese, butter, orange zest and vanilla in a bowl with an electric mixer until just combined.
Add the icing sugar a little at a time (to avoid a plume of it in your face!) and mix until smooth.
I folded it in with a spoon, again to avoid my kitchen being covered in it. Then once it was combined I mixed it with the mixer for a few seconds until it was smooth and silky. I then transferred the frosting to the fridge for 30 minutes before icing the cake, but this is not essential, it just makes it less runny and more manageable.
This cream cheese frosting tastes amazing. I have never thought to add orange zest to cream cheese frosting before but it really does make it even better. The citrus lightens it and makes it less cloying. Its hard not to eat it all before adding it to the cake!
Once the frosting was ready and the cake was completely cooled, I liberally spread the frosting over the cake, right up to the edges. And then its ready to enjoy.
This cake is perfect for this time of year. Scented candles have nothing on the smell this cake fills your house with as it bakes in the oven. It smells spicy and warm and inviting, and it tastes even better. In fact, its a lot nicer a couple of days after you’ve made it.
The day I made it I really wasn’t that keen. Yes, it was nice, but it wasn’t great, and the treacle/molasses tasted really strong. I was almost a bit disappointed. (Not with the frosting of course). So I put the cake in a tin and forgot about it for a couple of days until my mum came to stay. I told her there was cake in the tin if she fancied some, she tried it and loved it. She made me try it again, and I loved it! It was SO much better. Even now, 5 days after I made it, its still delicious and moist.
I really hope you try out this recipe, its a great alternative to Christmas cake and worth it, even to make your house smell incredible.