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When I was a child, and being sent off to school with my little packed lunch, it normally consisted of sandwiches, fruit , maybe a Club (or a Trio if I was really lucky …), and a carton of Um Bongo. But what really made it a packed lunch worthy of ‘swapsies’ was the slice of homemade cake that went along with it. My mum’s cake became the stuff of playground legend. So much so that she’d often parcel up an extra slice or two for me to give out to some lucky recipient whilst not depriving me of any cakey goodness. She was good like that.

Occasionally it’d be fruit cake (something that I’ve generally lost the taste for as I’ve got older), or maybe sponge (either plain or chocolate). Most often, however, it’d be gingercake. I refrain from calling it gingerbread as English recipe books often do, in order to not make people think its a recipe for gingerbread men (or women, or baubles, or Liberty bells or … anything you want to make). My mum would generally top it with scribbles of plain (or maybe lemon) water icing (mixture of icing sugar and water/lemon juice – possibly the most simple icing ever!), but I’ve not included this here.

I was planning to take photos of it, all gleaming and cooked and in an assembled pile of rough squares of sticky, syrupy goodness …. That was not to be …

Ingredients: (I rarely actually make this full amount mixture as half quantities works very well for the two of us to eat for several days!!)

225g (8oz) butter

225g (8oz) light muscovado sugar

225g (8oz) golden syrup

225g (8oz) black treacle

225g (8oz) wholemeal self-raising flour

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

4 teaspoons ground ginger

2 large eggs

300ml (half pint) milk


Preheat oven to 160 Celsius/Gas 3/325 Fahrenheit (adjust accordingly for fan ovens!), and grease and line a 30 x 23cm tin with parchment/greaseproof paper. I actually use two smaller tins. Works just as well and just uses a bit less cooking time!

Melt the butter, sugar, syrup and treacle together in a saucepan and allow to cool.

Beat eggs into milk.

Sift and mix flours and ginger, and mix thoroughly.

Add the cooled butter & syrup mixture to the flour along with the egg and milk mixture and beat until smooth.

Pour into prepared tin and bake for c.50 minutes until risen, golden and springy to the touch. If you’ve been a bit heavy-handed with the syrups (which I have been before now “by accident”) then its not a problem – the cake will just be a bit more sticky!

Leave to cool in the tin and turn out. Peel off parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack. If you wish to ice then do so, and then cut into squares.

Keeps in a sealed airtight container for about a week or so, and it’ll get stickier with age!