As someone who’s constantly obsessed with my next meal, I’m still surprised how much I’ve focused in on food during this whole pandemic thing. Which is partly why I’m enjoying Instagram so much. (If you aren’t yet following me, I’m @auntie_bulgaria. I share lots of pics of life in Bulgaria. Not just food.)
On Instagram I get to see what other people are eating. All the time. People I don’t even know. I ogle Ukrainian dumplings on an almost daily basis. I lurk over other people’s breakfast goods. And I get to enjoy immaculately decorated cakes of the sort that I would never in a million years bake myself.
Because, when it comes to home baking, I tend to prefer easy, rustic cakes. The kind of cakes that taste delicious, but won’t be gracing any magazine covers. I’m talking about the cakes of my childhood. Cakes that you’d see at a 1980s church fete. There’s no mirror glaze or ombre icing in this house. (But only because I’m too inept and impatient.)
This sticky ginger cake is the perfect example of a rustic yet tasty beauty. You can take it to the church fete and hold your head up high.
I’ve been baking this ginger cake for years after I found the recipe on Esther Walker’s then blog Recipe Rifle. (She’s since started The Spike.) I’ve adapted it over the years to suit our pantry staples. And then, when we gave up dairy and eggs, I simply switched out the milk to plant milk – by all means use whatever milk you like, dairy or otherwise – and added a little more raising agent to replace the one egg. I genuinely can’t tell the difference between this and the previous version. It’s just as good as it always was.
This ginger cake is beautifully fluffy, light and moist – and I think it’s even better the day after baking, which makes it a good option if you need to knock something up in advance of a gathering. (Remember those?) Plus, it’s one the easiest cakes you can make.
Vegan sticky ginger cake recipe
- Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients in this ginger cake. It’s mostly spices and sugars.
- Speaking of which, there are three different types of sugar in this recipe (I never said it was healthy). If you can’t get hold of, say, golden syrup, you can use more of the other two sugars or sub in something else. I would still make sure the total amount of sugars is the same.
225 grams plain flour
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
85 grams stem ginger, finely chopped (optional)
100 grams sunflower oil (I measure this in grams, because I tend to weigh it out in the same pan as the sugars, but if you prefer millilitres, it’ll basically be 110 ml)
115 grams dark soft sugar
115 grams black treacle or molasses (I use date molasses, as it’s easy to find here in the Middle Eastern shops)
115 grams golden syrup
250 ml unsweetened plant milk
To glaze: some of the stem ginger syrup from the jar (optional)
- Grease and line a 20 cm square cake tin (I use one with a removeable base). Preheat the oven to 180°C/350F.
- Assemble the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Sift into a large bowl. If using, add the chopped stem ginger to the bowl.
- Measure out the oil and sugars into a saucepan, then add the milk. Heat gently, stirring frequently until it’s all incorporated (just a few minutes).
- Pour the warm sugar mixture over the spiced flour mixture and stir to combine.
- Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for around 40-45 minutes. (The original recipe said to bake for 50 minutes, and it might need that long in your oven, but I find it’s always done in 40 minutes. In fact, I’d be tempted to start checking it at 35 minutes. You do not want a dry cake.) The cake is done when a skewer comes out mostly clean (a few sticky crumbs is no problem).
- While the cake is still warm, brush over some of the ginger syrup from the stem ginger jar. Alternatively you can make a lemon glaze (see adaptations below). Leave to cool in the tin before removing and slicing.
- When we were knee-deep in courgettes last summer, I decided to try bunging one in this cake and it worked really well. I reduced the milk down to 200ml to take account for the extra, er, wetness that courgette brings. Then I coarsely grated a medium courgette, squeezed out as much of the moisture as I could, and stirred it into the batter before baking. It might be possible to do the same thing with grated carrots or apple. If anyone tries, let me know.
- Instead of brushing on the stem ginger syrup, this ginger cake also works well with a simple lemon glaze. Mix 50 grams icing sugar with the zest and juice of one lemon and spread over the warm cake. Alternatively, a thick layer of cream cheese (vegan or no) frosting would probably be delicious.