If there’s anything that really terrifies me in the field of bakery, it’s the iced birthday cake. I have friends who create marvels for their little darlings: cakes shaped as castles, as rockets, as dinosaurs. It must make for terrific childhood memories, and I’d love to do it for my own children, when they arrive, but oh, dear. I’ve never even mastered a basic Victoria sponge cake, let alone different coloured icing, 3D shapes and the like. All things considered, I was exceedingly glad when the Other Half requested a ginger cake for his birthday this weekend, though mystified, of course, that he hadn’t chosen something chocolatey.

I found the recipe on the trusty BBC Good Food website: a stem ginger cake with lemon drizzle icing. It was another spice-heavy concoction, but luckily I only had to buy mixed spice (not the same as allspice, though it sounds like it should be) and the rest we had in the cupboard already. The good people at Tesco must be getting quite tired of me haunting the spice aisle; perhaps they suspect I’m creating a cinnamony bomb. I’m not, should anyone from Tesco be reading this.

This is a sticky, sugary, dark-as-pitch cake: dark muscovado sugar, golden syrup and black treacle – which is fascinatingly oozy and tar-like, but tastes horrible – all are heated in a pan, and are then added to flour, butter, stem ginger, and a fistful o’ spice. Crack an egg into the mix and pour into the cake tin, and you’re done for an hour. I had more problems with the lemon icing, despite there only being two ingredients (lemon and icing sugar, in case you couldn’t guess). I’m beginning to suspect I have a mental block against icing (cf last week), as I followed the recipe with exactness, and still ended up with a mixture so lemony that it made the Other Half’s face collapse in on itself when he tried it. It worked quite well on the cake nonetheless, as it balanced the ginger nicely.

The end result was excellent, considering the easiness of the recipe: very moist and flavoursome. Quite strong – very gingery, I mean – which went down well with the Other Half, though I found I needed smaller slices. Perfect with a hot drink, and it stood up well to the candles, too, even if they leaked wax all over the top during ‘Happy Birthday’.


Quick, blow them out! BLOW THEM OUT!


Deliciousness: Really very good indeed, especially as an afternoon-tea kind of cake. It keeps well in an airtight tin, too.

Complexity: The method was simplicity itself; some of the ingredients were a little out-of-the-way. We used up the rest of our ancient ginger conserve, but without it I’d have had no idea where to get stem ginger (the vegetable aisle?).

Washing-up pile: Four large items and some utensils. Not half bad.

Casualties: It took a while and a fair bit of water to uncollapse the Other Half’s face after the Icing Incident. Whoops. Happy Birthday, and all that.