When it comes to gingerbread cookies I’ve never been that enthusiastic. I don’t think I’ve ever made them at home and successfully made them taste gingery or spicy enough (anyone got tips!?) but gingerbread cake is a whooole different ball game. I love when it has a syrupy, dense texture with a richness almost comparable to a brownie. Last year I created my all time favourite recipe for gingerbread cake in loaf form (it has pumpkin in it which I think is why it’s so ridiculously moist) which I knew I had to put in my book because it’s just so damn moreish.
Last week I was ‘commissioned’* by my boyfriend to bake something to bring to the hospital where he’s studying for a staff/patient Christmas party. I knew there would be a lot of people so a loaf cake would not be enough – I’d have to make some sort of towering, quadruple layer cake. Being in a festive mood I had gingerbread on the brain, but my recipe is more of a snacking cake. It’s better for an informal tea-time treat and is way too delicate to withstand all the weight if layered up. Then as I was flicking through April Carter’s new cake book, Decorated, I spotted this beauty. A huge, dark gingerbread layer cake sandwiched together with salted caramel buttercream and drizzled in a sticky layer of caramel sauce. It was meant to be!
*I say commissioned, I actually mean that he asked me to help him bake buuut I got carried away and just made it all….oops?
April’s book is not only beautiful (I could stare at fancy layer cakes all day) but also incredibly helpful. It’s chock full of cake baking tips with step-by-step photos for leveling, decorating and making cakes. I’m obsessed with it and I want you to be too so I’m giving away a copy of the book! Just follow the instructions in the rafflecopter box below to enter (you may have to click through to my website if you are reading this via a subscription).
(Cover photo by Danielle Wood)
– Slightly adapted from Decorated, by April Carter (Hardie Grant, £20)
– I didn’t add the whiskey to the caramel as the cake was going to be feeding a huge range of people, some of whom may not be able to or want to consume alcohol.
– Making a buttercream dam is easier to show than explain if you’ve never heard of it before – thank goodness for Martha Stewart! Check this link to see a photo of what I mean
- 225 g (8 oz / 1 cup) unsalted butter
- 110 g (3.5 oz) black treacle (unsulfered molasses)
- 110 g (3.5 oz) golden syrup - use corn/agave syrup if you can't get this
- 225 g (1 cup) soft dark brown sugar, not packed
- 2 medium eggs
- 300 ml (1¼ cups) whole milk
- 350 g (scant 3 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 4 tsp ground ginger
- 3 tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch of ground cloves (I used allspice)
- pinch of nutmeg
- pinch of salt
- 250 g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) caster sugar
- 300 ml (1¼ cups) double (heavy) cream
- 50 g (2 oz/ ¼ cup) unsalted butter
- 3 tsp whiskey
- 1 – 2 tsp flaky sea salt
- 200 g (7.5 oz / 1 cup minus 1 tbsp) unsalted butter
- 330 g (2⅓ cups) icing (powered) sugar
- 100 ml (scant ½ cup) salted whiskey caramel sauce (see above)
- Crystallised ginger, for decoration.
- Preheat the oven to 170°C (335°F). Prepare two 18 cm (7 inch) round, deep cake tins by greasing and lining the base with parchment paper.
- Heat the butter, treacle and golden syrup in a large saucepan over a low heat until the butter has melted.
- Beat in the sugar and set aside to cool slightly.
- In a separate bowl, combine the eggs and milk together. Slowly beat into the butter and sugar mixture.
- Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt into the saucepan and beat until just combined.
- Divide the batter evenly between the 2 prepared pans and bake for 30 – 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few crumbs attached.
- Let cool for about 10 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- While the cakes are cooling, prepare the icing and caramel sauce.
- Heat the sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the sugar starts to melt, swirl the sugar into the liquid areas of the pan without stirring.
- While the sugar is melting, gently warm the cream and butter in a separate pan until the butter has melted.
- After about 10 minutes, or once the sugar has completely melted and is a dark amber color, remove the saucepan from the heat.
- Immediately whisk in the warm cream and butter mixture (be careful, as the hot caramel can splash up). If the sugar solidifies, return the pan to medium heat until the mixture is liquid again.
- Stir in the salt and whiskey.
- Pour the mixture through a sieve into a heatproof bowl to remove any remaining lumps of sugar and leave to cool.
- Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the butter in a bowl for 3-4 minutes until pale and creamy. Add the icing sugar and whiskey caramel sauce then continue to beat for another 2-3 minutes until smooth.
- Level the cakes by cutting off the domed tops (I like using a serrated knife for this) and split each layer in half so that you have 4 layers in total.
- Spread the first layer with a bout ⅙ of the buttercream. Make a thicker layer of buttercream like a dam (see notes) around the edges and spoon in about 2 tbsp of the slightly cooled caramel (if it is too thick to pour, warm it gently for a few seconds on the stove). Place the second layer on top and repeat the buttercream + caramel filling and repeat again with the third layer. Top with the last layer and cover the entire cake with a thin layer of the buttercream (this is called crumb coating). Chill for 30 minutes then pour over the caramel (again, warm it if it is too thick to pour, or chill if it is too runny) and decorate with chopped crystallised ginger.