Ginger and honey cake

Baking is complex or simple, depending on how you’re feeling on the day. The food I cook is mostly very simple. Baking, on the other hand, is full of mysteries. If you’re up to the shock of it all, give this classic ginger and honey cake your best shot…

Ginger and honey cake
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To make a loaf of ginger and honey cake, you will need:

  • 150g butter
  • 125g honey
  • 50g golden syrup
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 50g rye flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 10cm whole ginger root
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice

First, some theory: baking demands precision in measurement. And in most cases, mass provides greater accuracy in the kitchen than volume does.

Very small quantities, such as baking powder and ground allspice, are workable in fractions of teaspoons, while eggs remain eggs and ginger root remains ginger root. Not exact measurements, but ones that retain a gentle link with tradition.

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We start with the ginger root. Peel this and then grate the remainder. Wrap the grated ginger in a square of clean muslin and squeeze out the ginger juice into a small jug or cup. Discard the pulp. Weigh the honey, sugar, syrup and butter, and place them in a small saucepan.

Warm this marginally on the hob, just sufficiently to soften the butter. Stir well to combine the ingredients and pour the warmed liquid into the bowl of an electric mixer. Rev it up for a minute or two.

Then, with the machine still running, add the contents of the shelled eggs plus the squeezed and collected ginger juice. Let the mixer mix for a minute.

Now for the dry ingredients. Rye flour may be found in health shops or from a friendly local baker. Its function in this recipe is to add colour to the final product. Sift together both types of flour plus the baking powder and allspice.

Pour the sifted ingredients into the mixing bowl, using a spoon or spatula to combine it with the wet mixture before giving it a pulse or two to complete the mixing. Choose a 1kg bread baking tin and line this carefully with baking paper.

For the new baker, his mind filled with memories of earlier family bakers greasing the baking tin with butter, the invention of baking paper is a welcome breakthrough.

Pour in the very wet mixture, then place the filled baking tin in the middle of the oven, preheated to 170°C. Let this bake for 60 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow it to cool before serving.

Serve a slice or two with the morning espresso. The sweetness of the cake, with its light accent of ginger, makes a most pleasing counterpoint to the welcome bitterness of strong black coffee.

David Basckin is a freelance journalist and videographer.