Sticky Gingerbread Cake

Happy National Gingerbread Day Eve! Bet you didn't realize that there is a National Gingerbread Day...I didn't, till I checked my planner and realized that some former version of Rachel had enough forethought (sometime in January, probs) to mark November 21st as National Gingerbread Day. Who am I to argue with her good ideas? To me, gingerbread comes with a lot of expectation and ample room for being disappointed as a result of said expectations. As a kid I knew about gingerbread but I had never eaten it, nor had most of my friends. Gingersnaps and gingerbread men, yes. But those weren't the same as actual gingerbread. Am I the only kid who puzzled over this conundrum? Actually, probably "yes." But how could gingerbread and gingerbread men be such vastly different things?

I knew that gingerbread must be dark. And spicy. And sticky. And deep. Like a secret, or the first embers of a fall fire. Gingerbread must be all these things because it was a cake with a hint of the fairy-tale about it. It seemed right that it would taste of mystery. But for most of my life I was, of course, left without the ultimate in gingerbread ideals. I knew what I thought the cake should taste like but the recipes I tried didn't really conjure images of candy cottages and old witches in a balsam forest. That is where my friend, Katy, comes in. Katy is British. Hi, Katy. Katy recently traveled to Chicago and, because she's awesome and knows how much I value a good piece of cozy tin, she determined to elbow in a tin or two of golden syrup and treacle for me amongst her luggage. Sadly - because the pretty tin was the goal, you know - Katy couldn't find tinned treacle and golden syrup on her way to the airport and so she arrived in Chicago, treacle-less. We thought this would be the end, you know, with international shipping costing so much. But no, because the British are not easily cowed, you know. There are reasons they kept an Empire for so long. No sooner had she returned to London time then Katy was off to the shops to get treacle and golden syrup - in TINS, please - packed them up in a lot of bubble wrap and good wishes, and send them off to me. They came in one piece, not even dented, and Katy tucked this recipe in with them. I made the loaf once, I made it twice. I had found my fairy-tale cake. By that I don't mean this sort of unicorn frippery, or something that might be found on the table as a snack for the Princess Aurora should she ever care to wake up. I mean the kind of thing you can take on a hike through the woods (like an introvert, it improves the longer it is left alone), down into the gem-mines, or out for an encounter with black ravens and white stags. It's a gentleman's cake. A flavor-packed slice of pragmatism that makes anything less classic feel overdone and a bit stupid somehow. I'm still fond of fancier desserts - love a good macaron as much as the next Instagrammer - but I'm pleased to have found a happy ending to the bedtime story which is The Fable Of An Ideal Gingerbread.

Sticky Gingerbread Loaf**
makes one large loaf
2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon allspice
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 level teaspoon baking powder
1/2 baking soda
1/2 level teaspoon salt
285 ml whole milk (a scant 1 1/4 cups)
1 egg
5 Tablespoons salted butter
3 ounces black treacle
3 ounces golden syrup
1/2 cup fine sugar
-for glaze-
1 cup powdered sugar
juice of one lemon

  1. Heat oven to 360 (yes *360*) degrees F. Grease a clear glass loaf pan with butter, then line with a sheet of parchment paper and grease parchment paper.
  2. In a small saucepan on top of the stove melt the butter, black treacle, golden syrup, and fine sugar until emulsified, then remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Make a well in the center.
  4. Combine egg and milk. Mix a spoonful of the treacle mixture into the egg/milk mixture to warm if so that it won't curdle, then thoroughly combine the egg/milk with the remainder of the butter/treacle mixture.
  5. Beat quickly into the flour mixture until lumps are gone - batter will be thin. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. In a small bowl mix powdered sugar and lemon juice into a thick paste. When loaf is cool, glaze with icing. Can be served immediately, though improves after reposing a few days alone.

** this recipe first appeared in Jane Brocket's Cherry Cake & Ginger Beer and was sent to me by my friend, Katy. I've adjusted the recipe only to reflect American measurements and ingredient equivalents, plus added the lemon glaze. Enjoy! 


  1. I love how all off your food comes with a story and beautiful pictures. It makes your posts such a joy to read.

  2. I LOVE your heart that you put into your food. Not literally. To clarify.
    The Adored Life