Friday, 15 February 2013

Cake for the Cold...

Just lately, looking out of the window is almost always greeted with a big, soggy slap in the face of flat, grey skies and shiver-inducing drizzle. Oh yes, we all feel it as we struggle to extract ourselves from the warm cocoon that is our bed; winter is still having a whale of a time, basking in the attention of amber weather warnings that continue to splatter the weather map, ignoring all of our pleas to get back to Siberia or from wherever whence they came. The chilly, not quite sub-zero, but definitely sub-pleasant temperatures mean that I have taken the controversial step of wearing my fleece lined slipper socks inside my boots to go to work, and would rather wear completely mismatched gloves than bare my chapped mitts to the bitter, and now slightly boring, elements- As has become worryingly evident, the snow is doing nothing for my fashion sense. Thankfully, street-cred is not something I worry about too much, living in a small village in Suffolk where Joules wellies are about as high fashion as most get; but I would like to reduce my jumper quota to one a day now please...

When the first flurries of the snow fell in January, it was on with the bobble hats and straight out in the garden to build a snowman, throwing perfectly aimed snowballs into my boyfriends face and drinking hot chocolate at a rate that was starting to get slightly ridiculous. Now, with a sprinkling of the white stuff still dusting the garden, I can’t help feeling that Mother Nature had better start brushing up on her parenting skills. Call Supernanny quick, this has gone on long enough; the snow has been causing havoc and runny noses long past its curfew- ground it, sit it on the naughty step; anything to make it bugger off.

Phew, sorry about the moan, but I am pining for spring. And not just because of all the foil wrapped chocolate eggs that we will be encouraged to eat in a few weeks time; give me daffodils, replace the freezing temperatures with snowdrops and I will be much happier, and might even take my precious slipper socks off. If they are not already welded to my feet.

 There are, however, a few good things about the face-numbing temperatures; for one, my permanent red-flush has dramatically reduced my blusher usage, which was getting to be a rather expensive hobby- well, if they will make YSL packaging so damn pretty...Most of all though, I seem to get rather more forgiving of the cold when I am tucking in to a big slice of homemade cake and steaming mug of tea, with the need to warm my almost reptilian blood to a reasonable temperature providing a sort-of reasonable excuse. Yup, baking is my knee-jerk reaction to the cold weather, and filling the house with the buttery smell of this ginger cake is almost good enough to make me forget the chipping of the all too familiar layer of ice from the car windscreen that is no doubt going to have to be done before work tomorrow.

So, as I take a break from whining (sorry about that, I am starting to think that I have SADS..) I will put my mind to better, scrummier things. Spicy, sticky ginger cake is not only totally delicious, but also my favourite way to use up the beautiful rhubarb (used in these pancakes) that is just starting to force its way into season. Double whammy. Lighter than your average gingerbread, with golden syrup in the place of treacle (thankfully; sticky things don’t really agree with me- I have spent most of this afternoon trying to get syrup out of my hair) with the sweetness balanced by the beautiful neon pink fruit; I like to top the sticky cake with some gingery cream cheese icing to make it just that bit more special. This will definitely warm you up as the cold snap continues; maybe even save a slice for your beloved as a post Valentine treat? I will try to restrain myself until mine gets here on Saturday; no guarantees though...

Ginger and Rhubarb Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Addapted from this Nigel Slater recipe, this beautifully moist afternoon tea winner is almost guaranteed not to fail, the perfect cake if the last time you unearthed the cake tin did not have the happy ending you were expecting. So easy, and so good.

Rhubarb and Ginger Cake.

250g self raising flour
2tsp ground ginger
½ tsp mixed spice
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
A pinch of salt
200g golden syrup
2tbsp syrup from a jar of stem ginger
3 pieces stem ginger, chopped
1 ½ sticks of rhubarb, chopped
Zest 1 orange
125g muscavado sugar
2 large eggs
240ml milk

Gingery Cream Cheese Frosting

100g cream cheese
70g butter                 
270g icing sugar       
2 pieces stem ginger, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180oc and line a 20x20cm square cake tin.

In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, spices, salt and bicarb.

In a saucepan, heat the syrups and butter until melted and starting to bubble. Add the sugar, rhubarb and chopped ginger and leave to bubble for a few minutes, stirring occasionally to stop the fruit from sticking, before removing from the heat.

Slowly add this mixture with the orange zest, to the dry ingredients, stirring until all ingredients are combined well.

Mix the milk and eggs in a jug and beat into the batter (Don’t worry; the mixture should be pretty sloppy.)

Pour into the cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until well risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

For the icing, beat all of the ingredients together using an electric mixer or whisk, adding more icing sugar if the frosting is a bit wet.

When the cake is cooled, spread with the icing and leave for about 30 minutes to set before cutting into squares and tucking in.

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