Starbucks used to do this amazing stem ginger muffin, it was literally THE BEST THING and I still feel a pang of sadness that it no longer sits in their cake cabinet as I wait for my coffee (and make do with a lemon and poppy seed instead…a hard life, I know). I appreciate these emotions are a little extreme, it was just a muffin, but it was a really great muffin. It wasn’t a ginger cake in the traditional sense, dark and heavy, but light, airy and slightly sticky with chucks of actual stem ginger lurking within, all topped with a runny ginger icing (YUM). This recipe that I am going to share with you is about the closest I have ever found – it doesn’t make muffins but a big square cake that can be cut into extra large slices when nobody is looking.
The best recipes are always those which live most of their lives scrunched up, sticky and stained in an old recipe book. I think my mum brought this one home from work one day, but we’ve been making it for such a long time now it has sort of become ‘ours’.
Line your tin, the instructions specify a 7 inch cake tin, I’ve always used this handy oblong shaped one which is about 11″ by 7″ and makes good cake squares of a nice thickness but just see what you have in the cupboard! Then dollop into your bowl the butter and sugar and beat them together until nice a fluffy.
Now add your four eggs, extra points if they are as well traveled as mine…these good little eggs were given to me by my mum last week when I was home. Fresh from her chickens and extra dirty, they sat on the back seat of the car as we drove first across the country from Shropshire to near Nottingham, down to Leicester for the day and back again, then all the way up to Aberdeen!
Beat in your eggs one at a time before sieving the flour into the mixture.
I always use this preserved stem ginger that you can buy sitting in syrup, it is super gingery and the syrup is just perfect for the icing we will make later, so hold that thought. Chop up about 3oz – I always add a little more because I love it so much, and chop rather carelessly so that I find extra big chunks in my cake – and then fold into the mixture along with a little slosh of milk.
Finally dollop into your cake tin, spread flat, and prepare to wait patiently as delicious smells fill the room. The cake cooks for 75 minutes – that’s an hour and 15 for the less mathematically minded of us (which is me, every time)!
When a your cake is a golden brown colour and a knife comes out clean it is cooked and, as tempting as it is, let it cool before icing. I promise it will be worth it!
Make up some icing with as much ginger syrup as you can spare, then making the consistency right with a little boiling water. Allow it to drip deliciously into pools down the side of the cake, but make up a bit more thicker icing if it runs straight off the middle of your cake leaving it bare! Then decorate with more preserved or some crystallised chunks of ginger. Finally cut into bite sized (or not-so-bite-sized) pieces.
Iced Ginger Cake
For the cake:
8oz soft brown sugar
4 eggs (well traveled or not!)
10oz self raising flour
3oz preserved ginger (chopped in accordance with your preferences)
2 tablespoons milk
For the icing:
6/8oz icing sugar
What to do:
Grease and line your chosen tin.
Beat the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Sift the flour and salt into the mixture, then add the chopped ginger and milk. Fold all of this in until it is all well incorporated. Turn mixture out into the prepared tin.
Bake for 75 minutes, above the centre of the oven at 180 degrees C/350 degrees F/gas mark 4.
Once your cake has cooled sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and then add the ginger syrup and a little water until you have a thick but spreadable runny icing. Spread over the top of your cake and allow to run down the sides a little, then decorate with more preserved or crystallised ginger pieces.
At some point in September every year we all have a little ‘fresh-start’ moment. I think it stays with us from when we were little and you came home with new shoes and new books for a new year at school. This September I start my fourth and final year at university, maybe my last back to school, but I don’t think the September fresh start will ever go away.
September means a turn from Summer into Autumn.
September means back to school.
September means the boots come back out to play.
September means a new woolly jumper (especially when you live in Aberdeen…).
September means the leaves turning crisp.
September means warming food, big bowls of soup or chilli.
September means the first fire of the winter roars up the chimney.
September means going stationary shopping.
September means thinking about hats and scarfs again.
September means longer nights with films and books.
Yesterday Dom went to help drive minibus loads of freshers to their new halls, and I made autumnal coloured soup. How very September of us.
Carrot and Coriander Soup (extra warm!)
Soup is the easiest thing to make, it’s super cheap, super yummy and will fill you up on a cold Aberdonian afternoon. One of the best things is that you can put almost anything in it, you’ll soon find your favourite combinations. Here’s my carrot and coriander with a nice red chilli from my new chilli plant!
Take a large pan and fry an onion in a bit of oil. While it is browning, peel and chop a good bundle of carrots and a few potatoes to give the soup some thickness. Pop these in the pan as well and cook through for a few minutes.
Just about cover the veggies with stock, a pinch of salt and pepper and set to bubble for half an hour or so.
Once your carrots and potatoes are soft, take them off the heat and add in a large tablespoon of coriander, about a level tablespoon of cumin and a little ginger. Then, if you’re feeling brave, a red chilli (this soup is just as lovely without, it was just a particularly chilly day!)…These measurements are all estimations, really it is down to how you like your soup to taste, once whizzed, taste, and add a little more of whatever you think it needs. Add another pinch of salt and pepper and keep blending your soup until it is reeeeeaally smooth, you might have to add a little more water – that’s okay!
It’s as easy as that. Ladle some into a bowl to munch with some toast straight away and pop the rest in the fridge or freezer for a speedy lunch later in the week.
I’ve always thought September was a funny kind of inbetweeny month, but actually lots of my favourite things happen in September. For me this year, September marks having spent two years with Dom, it is the start of a new house, it is back to my part time job, and the beginning of writing my dissertation. Hello fourth year – eeek – lets hope it’s a good one!
We took a four day weekend this weekend. It involved a tour the length of the country which began in Aberdeen where we moved into a lovely new flat with two of our bestest friends, followed by a snooze all the way back down to London to spend the actual weekend with Dom’s parents. It was crazy and busy and wonderful and my birthday all at the same time, and we were truly spoilt seeing Othello at the National Theatre, Prom 28 at the Royal Albert hall, and eating lots of delicious food.
I was sad to leave the new flat and not get to live in in right away as we worked so hard all day Friday to make it look beautiful. The one room I really cannot wait to get stuck into is the kitchen. It is big, has tiles on the floor and beams on the ceiling. I do love beams! I miss my kitchen when I am in Bristol, and my recipe books, and my kitchen aid (known by most of my friends as my baby). In fact I think a fully equipped, clean and anytime kitchen is what I miss the most while we are living away for the summer. I have also discovered that my ‘kitchen essentials’ – things to tide us over for just ten weeks – are an ever-growing collection of things which are now spilling out of the tiny cupboard supplied. Woops! I was a bit fed up, so this evening I decided to prove that kitchen essentials can make more than just pasta and pesto (not that I have anything against pasta and pesto). Cue the goats cheese and pesto roast veg puff pastry with rosemary chips…
Before you do anything else, get the potatoes in the oven. Chop them up into friendly size chunks, we call them chips but really are wedges, cubes or whatever you feel like on the day. They are also one of Dom’s favourite things I make, and excellent for cheering up a meal of anything at all. Put them on a baking tray and cover with a good dose of olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary, then stick them in the oven on about 200 degrees.
Tesco very kindly helped me make my puff pastry this evening. It comes on baking paper so all you have to do it lay it out over your tray and trim to make it the right size for however many are eating. Then spread it with some pesto to give the veg a really yummy summery taste as it cooks, but remember to leave a margin for the puff! I used a mixture of red pepper pesto and normal basil pesto, but I don’t think it matters too much – use whatever is in the fridge.
Layer on a selection of veg. I used aubergine, courgette, red peppers, and tomatoes and then sprinkle on some goats cheese.
The only thing left to do is brush a little egg (one of my mum’s eggs from her lovely chickens if you’re lucky) around the edge to give the pastry a lovely golden colour as it cooks. Sadly my kitchen essentials didn’t include a pastry brush, so, fingers it was!
Then pop it in the oven and wait for the magic to happen!
We ate ours with a nice crunchy salad to complement the sunshine.