You might have noticed from some of my older posts that one of my hobbies is to collect antique cookbooks. I love to try to re-create "heritage" recipes. It's fun to taste foods that were enjoyed years ago, and sometimes you discover something wonderful!
I have a friend from England that celebrated a birthday recently, and I wanted to present her with some kind of English goodie. Then I remembered a cookbook of English desserts that I purchased from an antique store. It was published over 50 years ago, and the recipes are very traditional. I'd never made anything from it, but here was my chance! At one time my friend had mentioned the "gingercakes" that she had enjoyed in England on something called "Guy Fawkes Day". Anyway, so I checked, and Constance Chambers, the author of my "Book of English Desserts", had included no less than three recipes for a gingercake of some sort. There was the "Gingercake", the "Ginger Round", and, sounding somewhat less appetizing, the "Ginger Slab". After studying them all, I chose to make the gingercake, since that sounded most like the one my friend had remembered so fondly.
English recipes use different types of baking "tins", ounces and pounds for measuring, "gas marks" for oven temperatures, and in this case, a very English product, "Lyle's Golden Syrup". Are you familiar with this interesting stuff? It is a common ingredient in a lot of English cooking and is kind of a thicker, richer version of corn syrup, or a lighter version of molasses. It's "fun" to work with because it comes in just a plain, widemouth jar and trying to dispense it, measure it, and pour it into your mixing bowl is one sticky challenge!
After some necessary American adjustments to the recipe, the gingercake turned out to be easy to make and delicious! It had a moist, dense texture-- kind of like pound cake, but lighter, and the topping was a crunchy, spicy, chewy combination of sugar and glace' (candied) ginger. Served with a cup of tea, this might be just the thing to get you in the mood for the London Olympics!
English Gingercake (you'll need a kitchen scale or balance to do the measuring)
1/2 lb. flour
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick butter
1/4 lb. sugar
1/4 lb. Lyle's Golden Syrup
2 eggs, beaten
1 heaping tsp. ground ginger
1 oz. candied ginger, cut into thin slivers
Extra sugar for dusting the top of the cake
1. Grease or use PAM on an 8-inch square baking pan. Or do the same to two 6-inch round pans. Heat the oven to 325F.
2. Melt the syrup, butter, and sugar in a saucepan that will be big enough to hold all the ingredients. Heat just until the butter melts and incorporates with the syrup and sugar-- don't boil.
3. Add the beaten eggs to the melted mixture and beat well. Add the flour and ground ginger and beat all together, but don't overmix.
4. Pour into the prepared pan, dust the top with sugar generously, and place the thinly cut ginger over it.
5. Bake for about 1 hour (about 40 minutes for the individual pans), or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out cleanly.
Allow to cool before slicing, or serve warm. Whipped cream is a nice addition!