Cuisine Fiend

ginger cake

Wed, 28 November, 2018


ginger cake with jam filling

We had a discussion, The Weather Man and I, prior to baking of this cake. Is it a ginger cake or a gingerbread cake? What is one and the other and how do you know?

I'd always thought ‘gingerbread’ referred only to cookies until I saw the cranberry gingerbread cake in NY Times Cooking, promptly reproduced here (this is actually a further variation on that good template). So gingerbread cake, though sounding like a tautology, seems to be a legit culinary term.

ginger cake

I guess the English (language and cuisine) struggle with ginger productions. Piernik is piernik after all; likewise in other, culinary conscious tongues who bake with honey and ginger: Honigkuchen, pain d’epices, panforte and peperkoek are all decisively cakes not biscuits. The only decisive English term I can think of is parkin, but if I tried calling my cake parkin, everybody would go: ‘ee ba gum’ while suppin’ t’ brew.

pre-Christmas ginger cake

Our discussion ended with TWM claiming he’d be able to tell whether it’s gingerbread cake or ginger cake when he tastes it. Once it was ready, and I’d given him a very small piece as it felt wrong to slice a cake with an uncertain name, TWM decided it was far too small to be definitive about it. Another bit of cake followed, then another before I realised he was stringing me along for more cake. Ginger cake, incidentally, as we both agreed.

ginger cake

Servings: 16Time: 1 hour


  • 110g (1 stick) butter
  • 130g (2/3 cup) dark brown sugar
  • 120ml (½ cup) whole milk
  • 120ml (½ cup) maple syrup
  • 60ml (¼ cup) molasses
  • 185g (1 ½ cups) plain flour
  • 1 tbsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • a pinch of ground cloves
  • ½ tsp fine salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 ½ tbsp. grated fresh ginger (about 5cm piece, peeled)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100g preserved ginger, chopped (stem, crystallised or glace ginger)
  • ½ jar orange marmalade or apricot, plum or peach jam
  • For the glaze:
  • 100g (1 cup) icing sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2-3 tbsp. milk


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Line a square or round 23cm (9in) tin with parchment.

2. Place the butter with the brown sugar, milk, maple syrup and molasses in a small pan and stir over medium heat until the butter melts.

melting sugar and butter

3. Mix the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, salt, pepper, cloves, bicarb of soda and baking powder in a large bowl. Pour in the butter mix and stir energetically with a spatula until lumps disappear. Stir in the fresh ginger, then beat in the eggs and stir in the preserved ginger pieces.

ginger cake batter

4. Pour the batter into the tin – it will be very runny. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely in the tin.

baking ginger cake

5. When cold, remove the cake in the parchment from the tin onto a chopping board. Slice it in half horizontally using a serrated bread knife or a cake wire. Carefully lift the top half (the top remains sticky even when the cake is cold).

slicing ginger cake

6. Stir the jam with a spoon or warm it up slightly if very thick and spoon it over the bottom half of the cake; spread evenly with a palette knife and cover with the top half.

7. Beat the maple syrup into a bowl with the icing sugar and cinnamon; add enough milk so it’s spreading consistency. Pour it over the cake and spread evenly with a palette knife. Let it stand for at least half an hour so the glaze sets.

glazed ginger cake

8. To serve trim the edges and keep for yourself as chef's bonus – just kidding. Cut the rest of the cake into neat squares to serve.

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