Back in 2015, we spent the leadup to Christmas in the UK. It changed our idea of Christmas forever. Sure, Christmas in Australia is great. It’s the beginning of our summer holidays and there’s a real carefree feeling in the air. It feels right to be drinking beer and eating (some of the best) seafood (in the world) outside by the pool on Christmas Day – although we also do switch on the air-conditioning and enjoy a traditional turkey roast as well.
That year in England, though, showed us the possibility of a different Christmas: one that was full of markets you rugged up for, of mulled wine, of the smell of spices hanging in the cold air.
The first time I made this cake our daughter walked in, smelling the air and said, ‘it smells like England at Christmas.’ It did – smell like England at Christmas, that is. It also tastes like it.
Nigella says in her lead-in to this recipe that she used to call it a gingerbread cake, but it’s much lighter than that – and less gingery. I do, however, amp up the ginger. Last year I made it with a brewed ginger beer rather than cider and this year I grated additional ginger – maybe an extra teaspoon or so – and squeezed the juice straight into the cake.
Buderim Ginger do a ginger and pear beer – which is, incidentally, pretty good with vodka – so I got to thinking that next year I might try using pear cider instead of apple…for a change.
Anyways, here’s the recipe. It’s seriously easy: you combine the wet ingredients and the ginger together, you sift the dry ingredients together, you combine the two and pour it into the bundt tin. Job done.
What you need…
- 250 ml cider (I used a fairly dry apple cider)
- 175 ml sunflower oil
- 100 g soft dark brown sugar
- 300 g black treacle (or 1 x 250ml cup – oil it first so the treacle slides out)
- 3 large eggs
- 3cm piece fresh root ginger (peeled and finely grated to give 2 teaspoons)
- 300 g plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2½ tsp Chinese 5 spice powder – check that there’s no garlic in the mix
- 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 x 10-cup (2.5 litre capacity) bundt tin/pan or 1 x 20cm/8-inch square cake tin approx. 5.5cm/2 ¼-inches deep
What you do with it…
- First up, oil your bundt tin well – I use one of those oil sprays – and leave it to stand upside down for any excess to drip away
- Preheat the oven to 170C (150C if you’re using the fan option)
- Open the cider so it loses its fizz.
- Beat together the oil, treacle, ginger, cider, sugar and eggs in a bowl. I use the mixer, but you can do it by hand.
- In another bowl, combine all the dry ingredients ie flour, spices, baking powder, bicarb soda. I sift it, but that’s probably not necessary.
- Add the dry ingredients to the treacly mix, beating as you go. I do this spoon by spoon to make sure there are no pockets of flour anywhere.
- Pour the runny batter into your tin and cook for 45-50 minutes (50-55 minutes if you’re using a square tin), testing after 40. It will be cooked when it’s starting to come away from the sides and a cake tester comes out clean.
- Leave it to cook in the tin for about 30 mins before attempting to tip it out – it might need some persuasion to part from the bundt tin.
- Once it’s completely cooled, wrap in foil – Nigella says it’s best eaten the next day & up to a week after, but it tastes pretty good on day 1 too…just saying.
- We dust with icing sugar to serve, but hubby loves it with pouring cream as well.
Christmas in a cake.