I loathe the impending doom that comes with Sunday night. The first few bars of Antiques Roadshow and thoughts reluctantly return to work-related matters (usually, do I have any clean clothes to wear for the office tomorrow?). Recently I have been trying to end my weekend on a positive note of achievement and comfort - a spot of baking fits the bill perfectly and is now becoming something of a Sunday night ritual. The fruits of my labours are taken proudly to work the next morning and usually devoured by 11am by hungry colleagues.
I am always amazed how many competent cooks come unstuck when it comes to baking. Many profess that they 'can't do it' despite being accomplished in other culinary matters. Whilst it is entirely acceptable to buy a cake, a homemade one is always so much better and really takes so little effort. Follow a recipe and you simply can't go wrong. Perhaps this is the problem? Many good cooks are not recipe followers and instead are of the 'throw it all together' school. I am in admiration, certainly, but baking is scientific. Ignore the quantities and measurements at your peril. Once you have a basic recipe, by all means fiddle as much as you like, but to start with you need to have the right ratios of ingredients to guarantee success every time.
This very grown-up loaf cake is a great place to start. It is super speedy - the preparations took me just 10 minutes. Honestly. And the kitchen smelt wonderful - all heady and spicy. I urge you to try it!
The origins of the recipe are unknown. I was given it on a cookery course at The Edinburgh School of Food and Wine (see favoured foodie links).
4oz soft margarine
4oz soft dark brown sugar
4oz black treacle
1 egg - lightly beaten
1/4 pint milk
6oz plain flour
2 level tsp ground ginger
2 level tsp ground cinnamon
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
For optional icing -
1. Pre-heat oven to 150C.
2. Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin.
3. Melt sugar, margarine and treacle in a small pan, very gently.
4. Sift flour, spices and bicarb into a large bowl.
5. Add melted contents of pan into dry ingredients - mix well to combine.
6. Add milk to pan, warm gently and then add to mix.
7. Add the beaten egg. Stir to combine until completely smooth.
8. Pour into prepared tin.
9. Bake for 45 minutes on lowest shelf of oven (DO NOT OPEN OVEN).
10. When cool, top with lemon icing, if wished.
It is almost impossible to weigh the treacle! The best method is to weigh sugar, marg and treacle in the saucepan as per this picture...
The gingerbread improves well with keeping and freezes very well.
I had run out of cinnamon and so substituted mixed spice which worked fine, but next time I'd probably revert to the cinnamon.
The icing is suggested by Nigella Lawson - the cake is delicious without, but I agree with her that it provides a nice contrast to the musky spices of the cake.