Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sticky Ginger Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

November is like a baking alarm clock.

It tells me to re-stock my pantry and refresh my spice cupboard. 

I know that between now and February, most things I bake will include cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom and even a bit of coriander and ground black pepper.

I'll need to have dried cranberries, dried apricots, dates, dried figs, raisins, coconut and plenty of chocolate on hand.

Ginger is all famous in seasonal baking owing to its irreplaceable role in gingerbread. It has this spicy warmth that makes winter baking feel like a giant hoodie.

I love dried, ground ginger for its really earthy flavour - different to fresh ginger which has a spicy astringency. 

Spices really make appearances in my baking all year long - a bit of cardamom in a lemon tart, a dash of cinnamon with strawberry pie, a pinch of nutmeg in crème brulee - but, these months they get a work out!

The combination of cinnamon and ginger is basically a calling for slipper-socks and knit blankets. If you think a person can't have a colour selection of slipper-socks, you'd be wrong. I might even have a pair with Christmas tree-shaped anti-slip rubber pads on the bottom. 

This cake is baked like a loaf. It's actually more of a quick bread. No creaming butter and sugar, and only a single egg. 

The recipe starts on the stove top melting butter with three kinds of sugar - brown sugar, molasses and golden syrup. that's how it gets its sticky

I use fancy molasses here which is the lightest one, down from cooking molasses and the darkest blackstrap molasses. Golden syrup is cane syrup and it tastes sooo soo good. It's one thing I'd definitely like to bring back to North America. It's very popular in the UK, Australian and New Zealand, but I believe the only one you can find in Canada is Lyle's golden syrup. A good substitute is maple syrup - the real stuff, 100% pure Canadian stuff.

Once the sugar dissolves, we let it cool down. Dissolving the sugar is the first step in ensuring this cake stays moist. The second step is not over-baking it. Duh.

The cooled mixture goes into the dry ingredients along with the egg and milk and it all gets whisked up to form a nice thick, dense, copper-coloured batter.

Depending on your oven it will take anywhere between 35 and 45 minutes to bake in a moderate oven but don't let it go past 45 for the love of stickiness. 

I almost didn't go for frosting on this one. Then I stopped being unrealistic (and stupid) and made something smart and delicious. Lemon + cream cheese + sticky ginger cake is a dang perfect combination. You'll probably want to make extra so you can smear it on each slice. That's my little tip from me to you.

I hope this puts you in the mood. 


Sticky Ginger Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes one 9x5-inch loaf

For the cake:
1 2/3 cups (235 g) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
7 tbsp (100 g) unsalted butter
½ cup (110 g) packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup (125 g) golden syrup (or golden corn syrup, or maple syrup)
¼ cup (100 g) fancy molasses (or treacle)
1 large egg
¾ cup (175 ml) milk

For the icing:
125g cream cheese
½ cup icing sugar
1 ½ - 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
5 or 6 pieces of crystallized ginger for topping

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line a 9x5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper.

Sift flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl and whisk to blend evenly.

Combine butter, brown sugar, golden syrup, molasses and ¼ cup of milk into a saucepan over low heat until the butter has melted and the sugar is dissolved (do not bring to the boil). Stir with a wooden spoon to combine, scraping any sugar from the bottom of the pan and stirring to help dissolve it. Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.

Pour the sugar/butter mixture from the pan into the mixing bowl with the flour. Stir gently with a wooden spoon to just barely combine. Then, add egg and remaining milk and whisk until smooth and evenly combined.

Pour the mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Check it at 35 minutes, but don’t go over 45 or you’ll sacrifice the stickiness (put a piece of foil loosely over the top if it starts to get too dark). Let cool completely in the pan.

To make the icing, beat the cream cheese in a bowl until smooth. I just use the back of a fork – gasp! Beat in icing sugar until creamy and glossy, and then mix in the lemon juice until smooth. Scatter some pieces of chopped crystallized ginger on top if you'd like.
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