Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Stem Ginger Cake

My Grandpa turns 80 next week (happy birthday Grandpa!) and as a result we're having a big family shin-dig for him on Sunday. Naturally I'm on cake duty so I thought I'd better figure something tasty out. He loves ginger so I'm trialling this stem ginger cake to see how it goes - I'm not sure if it'll transfer into something worth making for a large crowd, but it sounds tasty!

I found the recipe on the New Zealand's Hottest Home Baker website, and while actually I didn't really enjoy the show all that much I did watch it and understand the next series starts on Thursday, so if you did like it keep an eye out. ;-) I just found all the red lipstick and frilly aprons a bit too much...

This cake looked good enough to overcome the shortcomings of the show, though, and I had a jar of stem ginger stashed away waiting for an opportunity like this.

If you have a food processor you can bung all the dry ingredients and the butter in and let it do its magic; if, like me, you have a mini processor thing (stick blender attachment) you can put two thirds of the dry ingredients and the butter in and it'll work out fine - otherwise just rub it in with your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs

Grating the stem ginger (which comes in little knobs) is a bit fiddly, though if you have a grating attachment for your food processor it'll be simple - we did it the hard way, though I had to call in Mr Cake for support, as I maimed my index finger the other day, trying to slice a stubborn loaf of bread with a butter knife, and I had great difficulty trying to hold the ginger in place.

Stem ginger is quite expensive, and I think crystallised ginger (still expensive but less so and more readily available) would work just as well - or perhaps even grated fresh ginger. These substitutes won't affect the success of the cake - the only difference might be in the zinginess - so feel free to tweak it if it suits you better.

The other half of the recipe calls for the sugar, treacle, golden syrup and milk to be combined in a saucepan, gently heating until the sugar is melted, then bringing to just below the boil. I ran into difficulties with this - my sugar didn't get anywhere near boiling before the milk curdled well beyond redemption (I also hate instructions that say things like "just below the boil" - how can you know when it will boil unless you've already tried it and taken it to fully boiling?

Ewwww - I don't think this would have done anything for my cake
I decided, based on the revoltingness of batch 1, that a second attempt at the sugar mixture would be wise. This time I omitted the milk so the sugar could dissolve fully, adding it when I mixed the sugar with the dry ingredients.

I do love watching sugar boil (I let it come just to the boil, since I figured the only thing this could do is perhaps make the cake a teeny bit more caramelly, and it's much easier to look at a pot and say "that's boiling now!" than "that's about to boil!") - and the mixture of treacle, golden syrup and muscovado made this even more alluring. I always want to stick my finger in, but not wanting another injured digit is enough to deter me (I know I will be able to scrape a bit off the saucepan later, when it's cooled).

Then everything gets mixed together (dry ingredients, sugar, milk and egg) and poured into a cake tin, and into the oven.

The smell wafting out was lovely, and I took it out after about 45 minutes - a knife came out clean but it was still lovely and moist and dense in the centre. I hadn't been planning to ice it - I just wanted to taste the cake, after all - but the suggested lemon drizzle was so simple that I threw it together, and was glad I did.

We enjoyed warm slices of cake at about 10pm - too late for cake, really, but it was magnificent warm so it was a good move. The cake is very moist, not crazy zingy but with a full, warming ginger flavour - and the treacle and brown sugar make it very dark and decadent. Grandpa is definitely having this as his birthday cake! Now I need to figure out a suitable icing to complement the ginger, so that I can do the proper layer cake with fondant thing. Anyone got any recommendations? I'm thinking either a lemony buttercream or cream cheese icing would do the trick...

Stem Ginger Cake with Lemon Drizzle (adapted from NZ's Hottest Home Baker)
220g flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
115g butter
115g muscovado sugar
115g treacle
115g golden syrup
250ml milk
85g stem ginger in syrup, drained and grated
1 egg
50g icing sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease a 20cm cake tin.

Sift flour, baking soda and spices into food processor, then add butter and pulse to breadcrumbs. Transfer to a large bowl.

Combine sugar, treacle, and golden syrup into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring until sugar dissolves, then turn up the heat and bring mixture just to the boil.

Add stem ginger to flour mixture and rub in, then add milk, treacle mix and egg and stir to combine. Pour into cake tin and bake for 40-50 minutes, until a knife comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before carefully turning out.

Mix icing ingredients together, adding juice gradually until you have a runny icing, then drizzle over the cake.


  1. I haven't made a ginger cake since nearly a year ago when I posted one of Delia's...You've reminded me, what an oversight - I adore ginger, especially in this weather we're having in Europe...

  2. I have made this cake a few times now and it is really delicious. I found that using brown sugar rather than the muscavado sugar gave a better less 'treacley' flavour. I would think a cream cheese frosting would be too heavy for this cake and would instead go with a nice lemony buttercream maybe. It will be interesting to see which one you pick and how it works with the cake.

  3. Ginger and lemon is the bomb, so I'd go with a lemony buttecream.

    Lucky Grandpa!

  4. Mrs Cake's MotherFebruary 1, 2011 at 9:25 PM

    Here in Christchurch we enjoyed our piece of this cake with our after dinner coffee. Thank you baby sister cake for transporting it across the sea...
    And, yes, pretty sure Grandpa will like it.

  5. Sasa, I can imagine this would be a magnificent winter cake - straight from the oven for maximum anti-winter effect. ;-)

    Megan, that's good to know! I was thinking that to make cake for the hordes I might use normal brown sugar to help minimise costs. I'll keep you posted on the icing!

    Kaz, lemon buttercream is sounding pretty good right about now.

    Mum, pleased to hear Baby Sister Cake managed to resist eating it on her way. ;-)

  6. I love the sound of that cake, not have an overly sweet tooth it has the perfect balance with all the gingery zing. Hope your Grandpa has an very happy 80th Birthday.

  7. Ooh - this looks lovely. I love ginger things and agree with everyone that a lemony icing would be just right.

    When a recipe calls for stem ginger in syrup, I use something called gingernuts in heavy syrup from an asian grocery store. I'm not sure if they are exactly the same thing but they taste good and are much cheaper (from memory about $3-4 a jar).

  8. Thanks Mairi - and I'm sure you'd love it, it's not one of those ton-of-bricks sugary cakes. :-)

    Kate, thanks! I will see if I can hunt those down, I'm sure they'll do the trick. :-D


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