People kept asking me why this was an English gingerbread cake: "What makes it English?" they kept wanting to know. I just answered, "It's a traditional English recipe," which actually gave no further information, but seemed to satisfy people. Other than Rose's description of how she was told that her new cookbook should contain a recipe for English gingerbread cake, I had no idea why it was English. But I found a blog, Wildschein, that cited to a description in Larousse Gastronomique:
“British gingerbread is a cake flavoured with ginger and treacle. The French equivalent (pain d’epice), whose name means literally ’spice bread’, is a cake with a basis of flour, honey and spices (it need not contain ginger) … Gingerbread was formerly regarded primarily as a fairground delicacy … Although it is mainly eaten at teatime or at festivals (particularly in Belgium and Germany), gingerbread also has some uses in cookery, for thickening sauces, ragouts, and carbonades, especially when beer is used in the recipe. Gingerbread (French or English varieties) can easily be made at home. The best results for pain d’epice are achieved with a strong-flavoured honey, such as buck-wheat or heather honey. Wheat flour is generally used (sometimes mixed with rye flour); flavourings can include orangeflower water, ginger, orange or lemon zest, star anise or cinnamon, or a mixture of spices. For both kinds, orange or apricot marmalade may also be added to the mixture. After baking, the top of the cake may be decorated with pieces of angelica, green walnuts, or candied orange peel.”
If you say to an American that it's a cake typically flavo(u)red with ginger and treacle, said American will probably not nod knowingly. If you say it's made with a mixture of spices and Lyle's Golden Syrup, that won't help much either, so you might as well just say that it's a traditional English recipe, and hope that keeps your inquisitor quiet. You need not add that it's frosted with whipped cream in the event that you mess up the top of the cake, although that's what happened to me.
Another Official Quick-and-Easy cake, there are really only 3 steps to this cake.
1. Melt the butter with the golden syrup (or light corn syrup, if you couldn't find Lyle's), brown sugar, and marmalade.
2. Mix the dry ingredients, which, oddly, I think, contain both cake flour and whole wheat flour. I guess this must be to give the cake the earthy taste of whole wheat flour without making it heavy.
3. Mix in the butter mixture, to which you've added milk and eggs, with the flour mixture. The flour mixture has only one teaspoon of ginger, so if you want a more pronounced ginger flavor, you'd have to add more ginger. I never mess with Rose's recipes, at least on the first go-round, because she works so hard to come up with perfectly balanced flavors.
I loved the way it looked when it came out of the oven. So golden and inviting-looking.
While it's cooling in the pan, you can make the simple lemon butter syrup: not surprisingly, this is made up of lemon, butter, and sugar, which cooks briefly on top of the stove.
While the cake is still in the pan, brush about half the syrup on top of the cake. Then, invert the cake on a wire rack that has been coated with non-stick spray. If you don't do this, you will leave the top layer of the cake on the wire rack.
Sad, because things had been going so smoothly up until now. I was planning to serve the cake in slices, with a dollop of whipped cream alongside; perhaps I'd sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on the dollop. This cake was for my political group, which has been very lazy since we don't have Bush and Cheney to kick around any more, and I knew they'd appreciate this cake because they all appreciate food. But the slices were not going to be gorgeous since the layer had been shorn of most of its shining glory.
So I decided to skip the dollop and frost the cake with whipped cream instead.
When I was getting the cream from the refrigerator, I noticed that I still had a few glaceed cherries left, and thought they'd look rather pretty on the cake. The whipped cream and cherry addition probably made the recipe no longer authentic, but, really, who was going to call me out if I made a claim for authenticity?
I loved this cake, which was very moist and robust. It had a hint of spice, but tasted more strongly of citrus, with the lemon glaze and orange marmalade in the batter. The whole wheat flour is a nice addition; although the cake tastes wheatier than most cakes, it doesn't have the leaden heaviness that usually makes me run away from any dessert made with whole wheat. I think a little British tot would find this cake very comforting, but an American child would probably be suspicious of everything except the whipped cream. (I didn't try serving it to children of either country; that's just a guess). I made it in a round cake pan because I think that wedges look prettier than squares, but that's just me. There's a variation called Halloween Gingerbread Squares, that calls for a homemade pumpkin template. You could probably use a fir tree template or a turkey template, as well, if you're into template making. I'm not, but I'd make this cake again, and will definitely keep it in my repertoire in case Charles and Camilla ever drop by for tea.
Pat: "It's moist and smooth, with subtle flavors."
Linda: "There's depth to it. I really like the whipped cream too."
Karen: "I love the texture."
Sandra: "It's very good. I like the way the citrus runs into the other flavors."
Betty: "I like it the way it is, but I'd like it with a little more ginger, too."
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P.S. You may have noticed that I've made a change in the cake rotation. I had a request for the chocolate apricot roll sometime in January, so I put it in as the cake following the pinecone cake. But then I realized that both of those cakes were jellyroll-type cakes that require rolling in a dish towel and unrolling and filling. I didn't think I could handle that two weeks in a row, so I substituted whipped cream cake. The chocolate-apricot cake will be in February. If you want to make it now, or if you've already made it, feel free to substitute it for the whipped cream cake. But I've heard great things about this very simple whipped cream cake.