Loafing around

The other morning, having grumbled my way through breakfast – for the fifth day in a row – about the coffee (lavazza might be Italy’s favourite but it isn’t mine) some teaching I dread and my recent blogblock, Vincenzo, who is not a fan of too much breakfast communication which makes me a constant challenge, spoke. He suggested – rather wearily it must be said, but then it was the fifth day in a row – that we stop being martyrs, abandon the lavazza mid packet and buy some Illy. He continued by proposing I do the same with the nightmare student before pointing out – the bombshell – that if I actually got back into the habit of going to the market and cooking it might reignite my blogging passion.

The hour, the coffee and my slightly oversensitive disposition these days meant my initial response to his advice was neither good nor grown up. I deposited my disappointing coffee on the table so it made a noise, the hot drink equivalent of teenage bedroom door slamming. ‘How dare he give me so much sensible advice at 8 30 in the morning’ I thought. ‘Couldn’t he see my problems were irresolvable.’ I then proceeded to remind my boyfriend that I’d been to all five illy vendors in Testaccio and their wasn’t a single tin to be found, that my work situation was ‘very very complicated‘ and that I felt bad enough about my neglect of the market literally under our house, our kitchen, our home cooked nourishment and this space without him reminding me about it. I then got up and banged around the neglected kitchen.

I banged, growled and muttered until about 11 30. But although prone to overreacting and noisy washing up in such situations, I’m not generally one to stew for more than half a day, so by about midday I’d admitted, first begrudgingly and then with great relief, that he was right. I made myself a cup of tea, sat at the table, decided both the lazazza and student had to go and that, more importantly, I needed to get cooking.

There are various reasons for my recent cooking hiatus. Some are happy ones: the wedding, the rash of September birthdays, lots of lovely meals out, but the rest are quite tedious: illness, back backs (two), laziness, going back to school, Vinx away drumming. I won’t bore you with details because that would be, well, boring. It’s probably suffice to let you know I haven’t been writing because apart from the pasta e fagioli, two lots pasta e pomodoro and an overdose of omelettes  we – actually I, as Vincenzo is excused in concert season – haven’t been cooking. Until yesterday that is. I went to the market early, I pulled on my granny apron, had a slug of cooking sherry and made pasta e ceci, aubergine parmesan and roasted a chicken. I then, quite uncharacteristically it must be said, made a cake.

I think I’ve already mentioned that apart from the occasional flight of fancy, on the rare occasions I do actually make a cake, it will be one of the five: the nice plain one, the clementine one, the chocolate one, the other chocolate one, and this one, the double ginger one.

This is a great cake, or more precisiely, ginger loaf. It’s one for the ginger lovers amongst us, a delicious dark, sticky, dense, ginger treat studded with fat sultana’s and chunks of stem ginger. It’s from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries, a book which rather like my stick blender, I have mixed feelings about, but use all the time. Talking of Nigel, have I told you I used to live near him in London and would often spy him at Marylebone Farmers Market or sniffing cheese at The Fromagerie. On more than one occasion I followed him as he did his shopping, buying similar things and predicting what his next recipe in the Guardian would be. Yes, all a little odd and come to think of it, probably bordering on stalking! Fortunately I don’t think Nigel ever cottoned on.

Anyway back to the loaf. It’s a simple but dark and broody loaf, a Fillipo Timi of a loaf in a world of sickly, boring Tom Cruise cup cakes with frosting. It’s satisfying and extremely tasty, it’s warm and spicy on the back of your throat with a proper ginger kick and a touch of caramel from the gloriously unctuous llye’s golden syrup. I’ve been known to add an extra pinch of ginger and double the stem ginger – in which case it is kick-ass double ginger loaf and only for ginger devotees.

I think this is what is called a wet cake technique – although don’t quote me because I may have just made that up –  in that you melt the golden syrup and butter, add the sugar, sultanas and chopped stem ginger and then warm this dark amber coloured, syrupy panful until it bubbles. Then you add wet ingredients to the dry ones; flour, ginger (obviously) cinnamon, baking soda and salt before stirring in the eggs and milk. The resulting mixture is glorious, sloppy batter that if it were a paint colour it would be labeled dark russet or sepia, rather like my hair in fact and exactly the same colour as my favourite winter coat, the one I left on the number 30 bus when I was drunk, the one I still mourn.

You should really wrap the cake in greaseproof and tin foil and leave it for a few days to mature:  the textures closes, it becomes more compact – a good thing – the flavour deepens and the top gets stickier which means bits might adhere themselves to the greaseproof paper and then you have to scape them off with your teeth. I find it hard to wait an hour never mind two days, so I generally make two loaves, one for immediate consumption and the other for wrapping. I love a doorstop of double ginger loaf with cup of tea late morning or at about 4 o clock. It is also very good with thick slice of English cheddar and an apple.

Double Ginger Cake

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 2 level tsp ground ginger
  • 1 level tsp cinnamon
  • 1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 200g golden syrup
  • 4 lumps of stem ginger in syrup diced very finely
  • 2 tbsp syrup from the stemmed ginger
  • 125g butter
  • 50g sultanas
  • 100g dark muscovado sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 200ml whole milk.

Line a deep loaf tin with baking parchment and set the oven to 180°

Sift the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon into a large bowl.

Over a low flame gently melt the golden syrup and butter in a small pan then add the stem ginger, sugar and ginger syrup and keeping stirring while you allow the mixture to bubble gently for a minute or two.

In another bowl beat the eggs and then add the milk, beat again.

Add the butter and syrup mixture to the flour and mix thoroughly with a large metal spoon, now add the milk and eggs and mix again. The mixture will look like a thick, sloppy batter.

Pour the mixture into the lined tin and bake for 40 to 45mins or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin and then carefully remove it and gently pull away the parchment.

Ideally you should wrap the loaf in a new layer parchment and then another of foil and leave it to mature for a few days. Or you could make yourself a cup of tea and eat a nice big slice straight away.

 

89 Comments

Filed under cakes and baking, food, Rachel's Diary, recipes

89 responses to “Loafing around

  1. We all need to slam coffee cups, rant and growl occasionally. I have been doing quite a bit of it myself lately. I do it especially when a man is right – how very annoying of them, I say. That ginger cake looks gorgeous and speaking of gorgeous where has that Filipo chap been all my life? Love this post and hope very much that you find yourself back into the blogging frame of mind. We miss you when have blog block.

    • rachel

      I particulary like growling.
      The cake is good, rather like the lyons jamaica ginger cake in the green and silver foil – do you know the one. Oh yes Fillipo he could be discussed for hours over tea and ginger cake.

  2. I cannot tell you how many blocks of Lavazza I suffered before Illy came into my life and then Illy became “not my cup of tea”. The coffee addiction steadily grew and grows…

    “Do you have “Tell Tale Dark?” I asked.

    “We’re all out.” Said the coffee vendor.

    “Can you show me something similar?” I asked.

    The coffee vendor beckoned his colleague and for five minutes they tried to sell me on something else.

    “Is it like Tell Tale Dark?” I asked.

    “No.”

    “I want something similar.” I persisted.

    It was with great hesitation that I parted with my $13.

    “You get a free cup of coffee when you buy a bag of beans.” Said the chipper twenty-something.

    “Uh. NO.” I said and walked away.

    Finally…Vincenzo is a good man.

  3. Glad you’re back! This is one of my favorite blogs. Keep going!

  4. Great pictures, great atmosphere, great recipe! Thanks for that. Will try your “Double Ginger Cake” as soon as possible, sounds very good. What about replacing your “golden sirup” by, say, honey?

    • rachel

      I think honey could work. It would change the cake as the golden syrup gives it a caramel, toffee edge but then the honey would add a new dimention I imagine, and be better for you I suppose, less refined. Please let me know if you try.

  5. never a wimpy tom cruise cupcake! kick-ass double ginger suits me.

    re: caffe an american friend living in rome just brought us a couple of packages of a most rich and deeply flavorful coffee: La Casa del Caffe Tazza D’Oro Do you know it? I think he got it near the Pantheon ” La Regina dei Caffee” “Aroma di Roma”
    http://www.tazzadorocoffeeshop.com

    nice to see you in blogworld again

    • rachel

      Nancy, you and me alike.
      Yes yes Tazza D’Oro – fab coffee, I sometimes buy a packet when I go for a coffee when I have lessons over that way.
      Nice to be back and making beany pasta alla Nancy later.

  6. Every time I come here, I wonder why I’ve been away so long. I love the way you write and your recipes, especially this one with ginger. You know I’ve had the Kitchen Diaries for ages but haven’t made it yet so thanks for reminding me! As for hot drinks, I can’t break away from black tea with milk but am never satisfied with coffee when I make it. In the UK, I often drank Twinings’ New York blend but with Lavazza here, I’ve never been really happy.

    • rachel

      Thanks Vanessa.
      As I said I have a funny relationship with the kitchen diaries and the writing (bit self indulgent but maybe that is the pot calling the kettle black). I often use it as a reference, I like the way it is laid out in months and I often look what he is up to on say the 7th of October. I have made lots of the recipes too and they pretty much always work.

      I love coffee but tea with milk is fundamental.

  7. wow it looks great- thanks for sharing the recipe will have to try it soon.

  8. Yum. Oh maybe I should bake something…I need something to perk my mood here too.

  9. I’ll bet both you and Vincenzo are happy to see you back in the kitchen. I love ginger, and this cake looks delicious as does Filipo Timi!

    • rachel

      MIchele yes I, we and he (drummers need lots of pasta) are happy to be back in neglected kitchen. and yes cake and Fillipo are kiss-ass good.

  10. Well, it seems you’ve got your mojo back. Excellent! Oh yes, Filipo Timi certainly trumps Tom Cruise. I am a ginger devotee. I need to bake this cake (kick-ass double ginger Rachel-style). I cannot promise “a few days to mature”.

    • rachel

      Denise – the two day maturing thing is a problem, but you can always eat half and mature half if you get my meaning. Yes Fillipo, he trumps most people, great actor too, especially in a fim called ‘Vincere’ about Mussolini – Fab.

  11. ha ha, oh my dear, glad to see you are back to your cooking and writing funny good self. you are allowed breaks though! this cake looks so so good, I want a doorstop too with very hot tea. i myself have been in a blogging slump too: infuriatingly reknitting the button band of a nearly done cardigan, adam (rightly) monopolizing the computer for his thesis work, and worst worst of all: my doctor has me on a trial diet of no gluten (sob!) and no dairy (gasp!) for a few months. The only reason I am complying is to try and rid myself of migraines. actually its not too bad, as I’ve starting eating meat again and reveling in roast chicken and tiny meatballs. ok then, stopping now, see how we all have missed you!

    • rachel

      Blogging slump – such a good way to put it. I think the next post will be both gluten and dairy free. Meatballs, now that’s an idea…

  12. SRM

    have been checking every day, sometimes twice a day for a new post! was getting worried! i have been meaning to try this very recipe and even brought some stem ginger in syrup from waitrose, back to NY with me on my last visit home to London! will see if i can find the time to make this, this coming weekend!

    • rachel

      Stem ginger From waitrose – yes, just like me, I brought 3 jars back in my suitcase and worried i would arrive in Rome with ginger syrup soaked clothes.

  13. Lavazza reminds me of the rest stops on I-87 from New Jersey to upstate New York. The over sized blue signs advertising fast food delicacies list Lavazza, even here, as “Italy’s favorite coffee.” I have my doubts.

    • rachel

      Lavazza does dominate here, I suppose that is why is claims to be the favourite, the coca cola of the coffee world. We doubt together.

  14. Rachel, of course I will be making this great sounding cake (so autumn-y), but for now I have to comment on “crossing the bridge”: you have a poster of one of my favorite music films on your wall! The film (can’t call it a movie) that makes me cry every time I see it – I am finally, finally visiting Istanbul, my hometown, in about a month and there will be a lot of music (and food, of course). Actually, I think your Vincenzo and my brother Emre, a serious music guy, band manager, event organizer and journalist, should hook up in Istanbul at one point!
    Baci!

  15. A slug of cooking sherry is always a good start to any cooking fest!! I’ve made this loaf too and it’s fab – all sticky lovliness. I am also a massive fan of Nigel – he creates less washing up than any other chef I know and whatever I make from any of his books, the compliments always come in! The Kitchen Diaries is almost more like a novel with recipes that a true cookbook and I must admit (saddo that I am) that I’ve read it from cover to cover!

    • rachel

      Glad we agree on the cooking sherry, in the absence of sherry marsala will do! And you are not alone in having read the kitchen diaries cover to cover style…

  16. I’m a ginger devotee as well. Unfortunately I stand alone in this household of two in this matter so no ginger cake for me.
    Tom Cruise who? Hi Filipo!
    Magda

    • rachel

      Yes, lets talk about Filipo (actually I have just realised it is Fillipo (sp) my fault.) Any way he was brilliant in a film called Vincere about Mussolini and has a small part in the very average George Clooney vehicle The American. He only has two scenes but is kick-ass ginger cake hot.

  17. Tamsin

    Welcome back! I always thought it was just me who was underwhelmed with Lavazza. I much prefer Illy or Segafredo.

    The cake looks splendid, Nigel Slater can do no wrong in my book!

  18. Ha ha – can totally identify with hating being given sound, sensible advice when you’re determined to be in a grump! But at least we can see it’s sensible in the end. :D
    This cake looks lovely. The description of scraping the bits off the greaseproof paper reminds me off what I used to do with the wrapper of a McVities Jamaica Ginger Cake, so I’m imagining it as a much better version of that. Which is a very good thing!

    • rachel

      Yes, the McVities Jamaica Ginger cake, I was talking about Kath about that (it used to be made by lyon’s I think) I think one of the reasons I love this so much is that it reminds me of that.

  19. I used to love Illy (and I’ve had Lavazza) but then I discovered freshly roasted beans and I won’t go back. I think in my town alone every independent cafe roasts their own beans.

    It surprises me (and I could be wrong since I haven’t been to Italy in awhile) that more cafes in Italy aren’t roasting their own?

    • rachel

      No there isn’t the roasting culture here in bars – they are mostly attached to one of the big brands. That is changing though with new independant bars In Rome. I love freashly roasted beans too, we buy them from castroni from time to time but day by day I really like Illy red (it is different here from the illy red sold in the uk) made in the mokka.

  20. Glad to see you’re back! I was wondering if my Google reader had stop working as I hadn’t read for you in a while…

    • rachel

      No your google reader was quite right – I’ve had two very long breaks. A bit too long actually and hope I can get back into a weekly post mode now.

  21. maeklein

    This looks delicious! I am compelled to make it soon by your post. I kind of skimmed the recipe, am I missing the butter quantity? Also, stemmed ginger in syrup is a new ingredient (to me) any chance it can be substituted with molasses?

    • rachel

      Thank you Maeklein for noticing I had forgotten the butter – quite key and now ammended. Thank you you are a star..
      As for the stem ginger, well it is pretty important as it is the second kind of ginger, the double if you like and the lumps give the cake a distinctive edge. You could use crystalized ginger. I suppose you could try with molasses, it would be a rather different cake but pretty nice I’d imagine.
      this is the kind of ginger I use http://www.ocado.com/webshop/product/Stem-Ginger-in-Syrup-Waitrose/31795011

  22. So sorry to hear about your blogging block–I have been suffering from the same affliction all summer, and while I have missed your posts terribly, I think sometimes it is good to listen to the voice that says to step away from the internets a bit and fall back in love with it slowly. This ginger cake looks dense and earthy in the best of ways–I will read as much as you care to post!

    • rachel

      Thanks Hannah and yes, you are right even though I love being here, ‘Step away from the internet‘ is a mantra I should chant more.

  23. this reminds me of christmas! warm flavors and spices… yum

  24. laura

    You are amazing! Responses to every single one of us, even my two-word post! Thank you.

  25. jennifer

    Just want to encourage you that your writing, and your recipes are both reliable and wonderful. I think I must have had an Italian great-great something, somewhere back there, because as I’ve been learning about, and trying out the simple, traditional food that you describe, I’m really loving it. Thanks for putting the time and energy into this blog. I hope you find joy in the kitchen again soon.

    • rachel

      Thank you very much Jenifer and the time and effort is repaid tenfold by you all and comments like this. I think Joy (well most of the time I can be terribly grumpy) has been found again in the kitchen.

  26. i am a huge fan of ginger in all forms, so i love your loaf, obvs. ah, memories of the 30 bus (mine too, before my walk up into San Saba). love reading your write-ups as i am transported back to my days in Rome. x shayma

    • rachel

      Thanks Shayma. Yes, the 30, the bus I always forget is an express and so thus goes shooting past my stop – which is why I forgot the coat.

  27. Oh, Rachel. My grin grew wider with each paragraph, my head-nodding so thorough it HURT by the fourth. (Loud washing up, yes! Very very complicated, INDEED. I do NOT want my problems solved, just commiserated with, thank you VERY much. Ahem.)

    By the time I hit the Kitchen Diaries, I had to laugh out loud.

    And ginger cake, well. Double the ginger, double the cake, yes, absolutely, of course, amen.

    I don’t really mean it when I say, please take a break if it results in loveliness such as this.

    May you find good coffee, soon. Essential to a good life, if you ask me.

    • rachel

      Thanks Molly – you clearly understand the situation and ha, yes no issue solving at 8 30 in the morning, just commiserating and nodding please.

      Try the cake it is a good one – double quantities advised.
      Good coffee is fundamental and yes, it has been found.

  28. Excuse me if I’m speaking with my mouth full – not to mention typing with sticky fingers – but your ginger cake is just sooooo very scrumpdillyumptious that I can’t stop scoffing it!

    I had to make my own stem ginger as it’s unknown in Egypt but it wasn’t that difficult to do.

    Love your blog and will certainly join what must be an army of adoring fans! :-)

  29. Sorry about your blog slump but the ginger cake is worth the wait. My sister-in-law gave me some of her store bought ginger cake when I was last in the UK and we don’t have anything similar here (west coast Canada) unless it is hiding somewhere I haven’t discovered. I must make this – ginger is definitely a theme here lately. Although I too must come up with an alternative for the stem ginger. Thanks for the recipe for the doorstop loaf – love the description!

    • rachel

      I’ve now come to the conclusion the occasional slump is nessesary for blogging survival, my slump lasted longer than expected but I think I am just about back. I think Crystalized ginger would work well too.

  30. Hi Rachel, I’ve just started reading and have been inspired by you to make pasta e cecci and this ginger cake will be my next baking effort. Thank you!

  31. My husband is quite good at giving terribly reasonable advice when it’s the very last thing in the world I want to hear. Drives me batty.

    Excuse me, must go rummage in the pantry for ginger loaf ingredients…

    • rachel

      Ha, you clearly understand Geekknitter and reasonable advice so early in the morning too – terrible. Hope your rummage provides the nessesary ingredients….

  32. I am so happy to have been alerted to your excellent blog by Luisa, The Wednesday Chef.

    My mother was an English woman who married an American. Even though I was raised in New York City, I spent a lot of my childhood visiting my grandparents who lived in the Wirral in Cheshire. I have often tried to reproduce a plain cake my grandmother served and have never been able to successfully do so. You plain cake looks the closest to it that I have seen, and I will make it this coming weekend. I am happy that you specify easily available in the US plain, not self-rising flour, which I have to get at Myers of Keswick on Hudson Street.

    Since you like plain cakes, you might enjoy the Piege Cake on the Chocolate & Zucchini blog. It is simple, orange scented, and delicious.

    I plan to be a regular visitor here. Thanks.

    • rachel

      Hello Vic, I too have family in Cheshire and a passion for nice plain cakes. Nice and plain is generally good in my book. The Chocolate and zucchini cake sounds good too – I will check it out.
      Thank you for your message…

  33. Illy is better. Tostatura media. Back in the day it was all I fed my Pavoni, and I still use a battered old can to store any leftover fresh-ground beans (I get fancy-ass fair trade locally roasted beans now, because that is the manner in which I roll.)

  34. Rachel,

    Are you familiar with :pastry studio, http://pastrystudio.blogspot.com/?

    It’s a beautiful blog written by a former pastry chef from Chez Panisse, and lots of her cakes are the “plain” variety. I think you would enjoy checking this out if you haven’t seen it before.

  35. Ben

    I had a similar encounter with Nigel Slater, when he ate lunch at Le Cafe Anglais where I worked for a bit. I remember excitedly tracking what he ate. Eavesdropping on his debate about which dessert to get, I recommended the trifle! (When he got the parmesan custard to start, Rowley Leigh strolled over and shaved a ton of white truffle over it.) Used to love the Slater cookbooks but somehow they don’t jump out at me from our cookbook shelf any more. There was an interesting Food Programme on Radio 4 about food photography that he featured in — the photos in his books are almost pornographic and brilliant!

    If you’re looking for a new cake recipe and have (or can get hold of) a bundt pan, I can’t recommend highly enough the 1970s Moms’ Double Chocolate Bundt Cake from the Sunday Suppers at Lucques cookbook.

    • rachel

      See, i need that book (you are the not the first). Rowley didn’t load on the truffle when we cane to CA but then I suppose I am not sir N.

  36. hey – I know I’m posting on the wrong post, but I had to tell you that I finally made it to Italy and finally made the pasta e ceci. Eating it now! Freaking delicious! Last week I made a version from Cucchiaio D’Argento, but I prefer yours. Yum. Must go eat more now.

  37. Marleen

    Hi Rachel :-)
    Nice recipe, I’ll definitively make it this Friday (holiday here in Istanbul), and eat it all by myself as ginger isn’t really appreciated by many turks (good for me!). By the way, I noticed the poster ‘crossing the bridge’, ever listened to its music? it is truely magical and you might even forgive the turks for not loving ginger that much :-)

    • rachel

      Marleen – I love the music (I have both film and soundtrack) from crossing the bridge – magical indeed, I am still waiting to visit Istanbul. If you made the cake I hope it was a ginger success…

  38. I left a comment on this post a while back, full of wistfulness about how golden syrup is one of the few things that I still miss like crazy about UK. However, since the baby was born I’ve been so sleep deprived that I can’t remember how that was tangentially related to your ginger cake. Still, it looks fabulous and I’ll take a slice right now with a good strong cup of sainsbury’s red label tea, please

  39. Alex

    Hi
    Just want to say I love your blog (just found it). I am an American living in Cairo with her German boyfriend and I totally relate to EVERYTHING in your post.

    There is frequently tension surrounding the first moka pot of coffee in our house, mostly because the Egyptian coffee we sometimes buy can be pretty nasty, but also because some people can overly critical about why it is so nasty. This makes Lavazza seem great. Recently, however, I was at a stop over for work in Nairobi and I bought some local Kenya coffee and OMG it is the most delicious thing I have ever tasted, ever. Now the morning are more peaceful.

    • rachel

      Hello Alex,

      Thank you for such a nice comment and I’m sorry it has taken me so long to reply (I blame autumn). I always bought a kenyan blend when I lived in London and even though I am very happy with Illy here in Italy but I should probably investigate kenyan coffee here too.
      We agree wholeheartedly, mornings are more peaceful with good coffee.

  40. I’ve looked at that recipe in Slater’s book a few times now! Love your photos. Anyone know where to find stem Ginger in the US?

  41. Pingback: dense and gooey quadruple ginger spice load « i ♥

  42. Elisabeth

    I think this type of cake might be called a ‘melt and mix’…but I could be wrong. Made the pumpkin rice and it was great, thank you – like a risotto without the hassle! Lovely blog.

  43. Pingback: homemade peppermint marshmallows : Simmer Seasonal Recipes

  44. Lena

    hi rachel! haven’t left a comment before but your loaf looked delish and i recently made a banana loaf to some success so thought i’d give yours a go. what is stem ginger? i live in new zealand, is it a little like the crystalised stuff? or more like fresh ginger? or not really like either? and would brown sugar be ok instead of muscovado? we can get muscovado here but i’m one of those people who will bake and then not bake, so i don’t want to buy it and let it collect a sea of ants.
    thanks
    lena

  45. Pingback: Ginger Cake, a Canelé and vintage tins… « GRACE AND SHOSHANA

  46. This cake is delicious. I’ve made it many times, to everyone in my house’s delight. I’ve made a few substitutions to fit with what’s available, but it’s always delicious! Thanks for sharing.

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