I was feeling exceptionally festive last weekend. Not only was it time to open the first door of the advent calendar, but I also had a friend visiting which meant a trip to the Christmas market. The market in Manchester is absolutely massive, filling the main square and spilling out onto the surrounding streets and snaking its way through the city centre. It is, unsurprisingly, absolutely jam-packed, so shuffling around to your target stall (the Lancashire cheesy potatoes stall, nine time out of ten) is a long, painful procedure during which elbows must be out at all times. But when you get to those gooey, warm potatoes or to the bar in the Windmill House for a warm mug of cherry amaretto punch, it’s all worthwhile. And of course, Father Christmas presides over everything, looking round and jovial.
So to mark my excitement and the festivity, I baked a cake. This is a good alternative for people who don’t like traditional Christmas cake. It’s beautifully gingery, and the chunks of chocolate are sublime. The cake is sandwiched and decorated with whipped cream rather than buttercream, so it’s best eaten on the day of baking – otherwise it needs to be stored overnight in the fridge, the cream goes a bit soggy and the sponge gets heavier (actually if I make it again I will use buttercream/cream cheese icing instead). But eating a cake in one day is very much my kind of challenge, and is perfectly acceptable now that we’re in the month where any overindulgence can be brushed off with a cheery, “Well, it is Christmas”. Have at it!
Ginger Cream Christmas Cake
250ml double cream
8 fine slices peeled fresh ginger
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
250g self-raising flour
2 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
165g butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing tins
175g soft light brown sugar
125ml golden syrup
185g dark chocolate (70% cocoa, or more)
1. The night before, prepare the cream filling: place the double cream and ginger slices in a pan over a medium heat and bring almost to boiling point. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl, then cover and place in the fridge overnight.
2. To make the cake the next day, preheat the oven to 180C. Grease 2 20cm cake tins and line the bases with baking paper.
3. Put the fresh ginger and caster sugar in a bowl, stir and set aside for a few minutes.
4. Sift the flour and spices together into a separate bowl and mix.
5. Melt 60g of chocolate, and leave to cool slightly. Finely chop the rest of the chocolate.
6. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar together.
7. Beat in the eggs.
8. Beat in the golden syrup until smooth.
9. Beat in the melted chocolate and sugared ginger.
10. Gradually add alternate spoonfuls of the spiced flour and buttermilk until everything is just combined.
11. Finally, fold in the chopped chocolate.
12. Divide the batter evenly between the two tins.
13. Bake for about 30 minutes. Cool in their tins for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.
14. Remove the ginger cream from the fridge, strain into a bowl and whip.
15. When completely cooled, cover one cake with a layer of ginger cream, then place the other cake on top and add another layer of cream. Best eaten on the day, but can also be stored overnight in the fridge.