This is a recipe that has been in my family for years. My mum used to make it, and her mum before her – just the smell of it baking is enough to fill me with wonderful memories from my childhood. It was a cake that was baked on special occasions and holidays, we would often take one camping with us wrapped up in layers of greaseproof paper. It is one of those cakes that seems to taste better a couple of days after it has been baked, the sponge just gets more moist and sticky the longer you leave it, so it was always great to take away with us on those family holiday occasions.
The original recipe has been tweaked slightly because we never felt that there was enough ginger, or marmalade flavour – these ingredients can of course be adjusted to taste, but these are the quantities that make the perfect gingerbread cake for me.
I have also found that the marmalade really does have to be excellent quality. I’m all for saving the pennies wherever possible, but a thin, cheap marmalade will not give a good flavour to the cake at all. Find the darkest, most bitter marmalade that you can, with the biggest, chunkiest bits of peel possible. This will ensure your cake has a wonderfully rich taste to it. My mum used to make her own marmalade and that was always the best one to use, however I’m afraid I have no talent at marmalade making, so I just buy the best I can find.
The last thing to mention before we get down to the details is that this cake is really fabulous to make with children. It is one of those “simply can’t go wrong” cakes, they can’t over mix it, they can’t beat in too much air or indeed not enough. There is no urgency to add ingredients at particular times or even in a particular order if I’m honest. I’ve been making this for years with my 2 children, and we’ve never had a bad one yet (other than when I used the cheap marmalade…see paragraph above!)
So, onto the cake itself…
90g butter or margarine
4 large tablespoons golden syrup
250g self raising flour
1 beaten egg
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
275g chunky marmalade
2 tablespoons warm water
Pinch of salt.
Grease and line a 10” round cake tin, and set the oven to 170°C/325°C/Gas mark 3.
Put the butter and golden syrup into a non-metallic bowl and heat in the microwave for 30-60 seconds, until both have melted. Alternatively you can melt them together in a saucepan over a low heat, but I find the microwave does the job just as well and in a fraction of the time.
Just a little note at this point: I find golden syrup an absolute nightmare to measure out accurately. It is so sticky, and hard to scrape off the spoon and I seem to end up with it everywhere! So I use a tablespoon and count 4 really heaped, enormous spoonfuls – seriously pack on as much as you possibly can. Don’t scrape the spoon after each one though, keep going until you have 4 in the bowl, and then scrape the spoon (confession: I usually use a clean finger, and then have a naughty lick afterwards!)
Meanwhile, sift the flour, ginger, cinnamon and salt into a bowl and use a wooden spoon to make a little well in the centre.
Into this, you need to slowly pour the melted butter and syrup, stirring in the dry ingredients from the side little by little. You’ll find that the mixture gets pretty stiff at this point, but don’t worry!
Add the beaten egg, along with the marmalade and if the cake mix is still thick and firm, add a little warm water. You may not need the full 2 tablespoons, so just add this gradually.
Don’t panic if things look a bit lumpy, you’ll find that most of the lumps are chunks of marmalade, and any others will gradually cook out whilst the cake is in the oven. You are looking for a mixture with a consistency that is soft and easily drops off the spoon as you lift it out of the bowl.
Once you have reached this stage, you need to pour the mix into the prepared cake tin, making sure it is evenly spread.
Pop the cake into the oven and cook for about 45 minutes. You will know when the cake is ready because the centre will spring back when gently pushed, and the top will be a gorgeous dark golden brown colour. You can also check by pushing a skewer into the middle of the cake and making sure it comes out clean. The only issue I sometimes find with this method is that if the skewer happens to go through a gooey lump of marmalade (which will be hot and melted inside the cake) it is unlikely to come out clean! So I tend to use all 3 methods to be absolutely sure.
Let the cake cool slightly, and then turn it out onto a wire cake rack to cool fully. I don’t bother topping the cake with anything, it is delicious just as it is, however I can thoroughly recommend serving a slice with some hot, thick custard poured over it…simply divine!