I made this cake for the cake club meeting in October. The theme was “autumn” and for me that always means ginger - and lots of it. My mum had a very small repertoire of cakes and her ginger cake was my favourite. The recipe probably came from her ancient, battered copy of the Be-Ro book and I remember the joy of coming home from school to the smell of a ginger cake in the oven.
For this cake club meeting I was hoping to do much better than the last two where my offerings were, sadly, disappointing to say the least. This is the risk you take when you use a recipe for the first time – you have no idea how it’s going to turn out until it’s done. This time I was keen to prove (if only to myself) that I can make a good cake and I chose a recipe that I had had my eye on for a long time, just waiting for the right occasion to make it. It comes from a book called “tea with Bea”.
We like pears poached in red wine, cooking them for hours so that they become ruby red all the way through. For this recipe you poach them just until they are tender which means the wine has coloured just the outer part of the pears, making them look very pretty when they’re sliced.
The cake was not difficult to make but had more steps than I can usually be bothered with. The recipe suggests baking one 23cm cake and cutting it into three layers. I’m not fond of cutting a cake into layers once it’s done – it’s far too nerve wracking for my liking. And all the three layer cakes I have made have ended up a bit wonky, unwieldly and hard to slice. So I decided to make two 23cm cakes and sandwich them together. Consequently I amended the original recipe to allow for the reduced amount of filling required, also for the ingredients I had available.
I have to say it looked fabulous and was well worth the effort. You can read about the rest of the bakes at the meeting here.
For the ginger cake
250g black treacle
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
280g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground cloves
100g caster sugar
100g soft dark brown sugar
3 balls of preserved ginger
200ml sunflower oil
For the poached pears
4 firm pears, peeled
½ bottle Merlot or other red wine
350ml water (approx)
350g caster sugar
zest of 1 orange
1 star anise
1 vanilla pod, split
1 cinnamon stick
2 crushed cardamom pods
For the cream cheese icing
70g unsalted butter
95g icing sugar
1 tblsp golden syrup
300g cream cheese (full fat)
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tblsp apricot or ginger preserve to glaze
chopped crystallised ginger to decorate.
The first task is to poach the pears and this can be done the day before if that helps.
Put all the ingredients except for the pears into a large saucepan, bring to the boil and when the sugar has dissolved add the pears. Put a circle of baking parchment on top, weighted down with a plate or saucer, and simmer for about 30 minutes until the pears are tender.
Remove the pears and allow to cool.
To make the cake, first put the Guinness and treacle into a tall saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and add the bicarb – which will make the liquid fizz and bubble up, hence the need for a tall pan. Set aside to cool completely – which takes quite some time.
Preheat the oven to 170° C / 150° fan / gas mk 5. Butter two 23cm round springform tins and line the bases with baking paper.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and spices.
In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, sugars and chopped ginger, beat in the oil, add the Guinness liquid and combine thoroughly.
Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Divide between the two prepared tins and bake for about 40 minutes or until done. After a few minutes remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the cream cheese icing, using an electric whisk beat the butter, icing sugar and golden syrup together until light and fluffy. Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat well.
To assemble the cake, cut the pears in half, remove the cores and cut each half into four wedges.
Put one cake on a plate or cake stand and spread thickly with the cream cheese icing. Arrange half of the pear wedges on top and add the second cake.
Brush the top of the cake with the warmed apricot or ginger preserve and arrange the remaining pear wedges over it. Decorate with the chunks of crystallised ginger.
Cuts into 8-10 slices. Keep in the fridge.