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Christmas Recipe: Gingerbread Cake

Christmas is not a time for being healthy; it’s the one time of year when you’re expected to eat too much sugar and way too many potatoes. Having eaten an impressive amount, you then sit watching excellent TV whilst you tell yourself confidently that you’ll start playing tennis and doing yoga in January. With that in mind, I have created this rather obscene but delicious gingerbread cake. I adapted it from this recipe because I don’t like treacle or peel (does anyone?). There’s lots of room to adapt this to your own taste and the basic cake is really simple. So go put on a Christmas jumper, stick on a festive film and soon you can join me in a happy sugar coma.

Ingredients: 

For the gingerbread cake, you’ll need:

  • 350g plain flour
  • 330g dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 200g  cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 200ml 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F), grease and line baking tins – I used 2 deep 8″ tins but you could use 3 smaller ones if you want more layers.

2. Sieve the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix.

3. Add the cubed butter and mix. If you have an electric mixer, I’d advise using that. If not, then brave the cramp and rub the butter in by hand until it looks sort of like sand. 

4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing between each one.

5. Add the milk, golden syrup and vanilla. Mix well for a few minutes until you have a smooth batter. 

6. Add some more ginger if you want to. You could use stem ginger or grated fresh ginger – I used some ginger preserve with the pieces cut even smaller than they come because I just wanted the taste, not the texture.

7. Pour the batter into the tins and bake. I’d love to give you a time but my oven is odd – I put both tins in at once and one took 30 minutes but the other took 45. I’d say start checking with a skewer after about 25 minutes, but try to not to open the oven too many times. Once the cakes are down, leave them to cool, preferably on a cooling rack. Don’t worry if the tops have caught like mine did, you’ll cut that bit off to level the cakes anyway (just don’t do it when they’re warm, it’ll crumble).

Decorating:

This is where you can start getting creative – I’ll show you what I did but feel free to adapt and improvise. You could even just ice the cake if you’re not a fan of all the extra stuff, but here are some ideas if simple’s not your style:

1. First, I made some gingerbread trees using Jamie Oliver’s gingerbread recipe but with all the quantities halved (and still had lots left over). Tip from experience: take gingerbread out of the oven before it looks fully done because boy does it harden as it cools. Once the trees were cool, I dusted them with icing sugar. You could ice them or decorate them in a different way if you wanted to, but I went for simple because I couldn’t help noticing how huge my pile of washing up already was.

2. Next, I made some meringues. I will tell you now that these didn’t quite go to plan. I was aiming for delicate meringue kisses (very trendy at the moment) but couldn’t get my mixture stiff enough. Meringue is literally 2 parts sugar to 1 part egg white, I’m not sure how I managed to mess it up, but after about 15 minutes in the oven at 180 I had some rustic looking meringue blobs. 

3. I made up 3 types of icing. One was a butter-cream cream-cheese frosting hybrid with cinnamon, which I used to roughly cover the whole cake. The second type was made using maply syrup and icing sugar and put this one around the edge of the top layer so it dripped down the sides. It wasn’t as dark as I’d have liked so it doesn’t show up too well, but I still think it’s cute and hey, it tastes of maple syrup. The last icing was cream-cheese frosting, stiffer than the first icing so it could be piped.

4. I put it all together! Starting with the trees and meringues, I placed them on the cake and wedged the gingerbread in until it stopped falling over. Next I added swirls of the thickest icing, Cadbury Snow Bites, little stars I cut out of fondant icing, and sprinkles (just buy Christmas sprinkles, don’t do what I did and pick all the yellow ones out of a normal pot so it looks more festive – so much effort). This is the stage where you can be as classy or as outrageous as you like – add whatever you fancy and as much of it as you want!

So there you go: one decorated gingerbread cake. It really does taste like gingerbread, and the cinnamon icing is delicious. I have a feeling it’ll be a bit tricky to eat neatly, but it will be worth it. This would be great as an impressive pudding when people are round for dinner, or you could make it with your family as a team effort (provided you’re not a cake perfectionist). Either way, I had fun making it and I hope it inspires some other festive bakes! Happy baking and have a very Merry Christmas!

 

 

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Victoria Williams

Exeter Cornwall

Hi! I'm Vicky, I'm 21 and I'm a third year Evolutionary Biology student at the University of Exeter's Penryn campus. When I'm not learning about the weird ways animals reproduce you'll probably find me wrapped in a blanket with a book and a whole packet of custard creams.
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