Sweet memories.

Gingerbread Cake


I’m writing this with a twinge of sadness.
My beloved grandmother (on my mother’s side) passed away last Sunday night. She was an inspiration to me. She was a talented woman who could sew, cook and create a good life from scraps and bits of nothing.
On my Father’s side of the family we are robustly German and folkish, while my Mother’s
is steeped in English, Irish and Scottish heritage. On the farm we would sit down to tea, and have English service with High tea in the afternoon served from ancient China teacups. I still have no idea where to start when presented with three sets of knives and forks and two spoons, and to my mother’s constant horror, ate like a barbarian with my fingers.

Farm life was simple but hard. There was always something to be done, something to be fixed, and someone to punish for causing nonsense. My gran would wake up at 5am most mornings to bake loaves of wholewheat brown bread, which in the holidays, we would enjoy with fresh farm butter and jam, or simply with sliced ripe bananas.

It was here that I learnt how to roast meats, make butter and all other traditional English favourites like Yorkshire puddings, stew with dumplings and rice pudding. My love for self sufficiency was nurtured here, and to this day I still find joy in making my own soap and growing my own vegetables. Living on the farm has allowed me to appreciate the small things in life. There is a peace in the country side that cannot be created and found in the concrete
jungle. Wide open spaces fill me with happiness and I never turn down the opportunity to explore and adventure out into the open.

Farm life as children was always exciting- there were the chickens to harass and worms to find, grasshoppers to squish and carrots to steal. There is so much more you can learn from nature that cannot be found in books or absorbed from TV, and so much more nonsense you can get up to. I laugh at how mischevious we were as kids, the only reason we got away with any of it, was that we ran faster!

I never got the chance to show off this recipe to my gran, but I’m sure she would have loved it.

Ginger reminds me so much of the farm, especially her fantastic ginger sauce which she would serve with pork, or the ginger cordial my brother and I would nick from my Grandfather's cupboard. We would always make it too strong and it would burn all the way down our throats.

Gingerbread cake, or just gingerbread is a rich moist cake with the slight heat from ginger. Mollasses in an interesting ingredient. It’s a tacky black syrup that tastes of liquorice, but does wonders for improving moistness in cakes. If you aren’t a fan, then get someone else to make the cake for you and give it a try. The ginger and the sweetness from syrup balance out the tart taste of the molasses so it shouldn’t be too hectic in flavour. If you still don’t like it, at least then you won’t have to try and find new creative ways to eat it or give it away (hmmm ginger cake sandwhiches for lunch- urgh.)

Gingerbread cake
175 g butter
175 g golden syrup
175 g molasses
175 g brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
300 ml milk
450 g cake flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp Bicarb of Soda
4 tsp (generous) ground ginger

Grease a 23cm square baking tin. Preheat oven to 160°C.

Place the butter, syrup, molasses and brown sugar in a pot. Place on the stove and heat until butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Leave the syrup liquid to cool.
Mix the egg and milk together, slowly add to the syrup mix.
Add to the dry ingredients and mix well until glossy.
Pour into the tin and cook for an hour and a half (mine cooked for just over an hour) or until a skewer comes out clean.

Like a Parkin, this cake improves in favour if left for a week in an airtight container.

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