As much as I love a stacked sponge showstopper, sandwiched with buttercream and impeccably preened, there’s something deeply comforting about a single layered wedge of cake, rustically finished with dollops of tangy icing and a bit of fruit. This cake undoubtedly falls into the comfort category, and it’s now one of my favourites; ginger cake itself feels nostalgic to me*, but the slightly tangy labneh icing and citrus syrup topping make this one feel a little more modern.
*I don’t know why, I have no emotive family story to share about a recipe passed down through a long line of bakers- my Granny used to feed me M&S sandwich cakes straight from the freezer. I’ll bank that as character building.
For the labneh icing
- 500ml Greek yoghurt
- 3tbsp icing sugar
- 1tsp vanilla extract
For the cake
- 250g self-raising flour
- 2tsp ground ginger
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- pinch salt
- 175g golden syrup
- 3tbsp ginger syrup (from a stem ginger jar)
- 125g butter
- 4 balls stem ginger, diced
- 125g light soft brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 250ml milk
For the blood orange compote
- 90ml blood-orange juice
- 50g caster sugar
- 2tbsp water
- 1 vanilla pod
- 2 additional blood oranges
- Line a sieve with a muslin cloth and sit over a large bowl. Scrape the yoghurt into the sieve and loosely tie the muslin around it. Leave this in the fridge overnight for the liquid in the yoghurt to drain (this will leave you with a thickened mixture- labneh).
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a high sided 9inch cake tin.
- Stir together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl. In a saucepan melt together the golden syrup, ginger syrup, butter, diced stem ginger and sugar. Bring to the boil for a minute then make a well in the dry ingredients and add the melted mixture. Stir together to eliminate any lumps then whisk the eggs and milk in a jug and add those in too and beat once more.
- Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
- Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.
- Meanwhile, make the blood orange syrup. To do this simply place the juice, sugar and water in a small saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved. At this stage split the vanilla pod and add in, then simmer for 3-4 minutes or until syrupy. Set aside to cool a little, then slice the 2 blood oranges into rounds, discarding the pith and skin. Add the slices into the syrup and stir. Leave to cool completely.
- Tip the strained yoghurt into a bowl and add the vanilla extract. Sift in the icing sugar and stir everything together until smooth.
- To assemble the cake, turn it out of the tin and roughly cover with the sweet labneh. Just before serving, arrange the blood orange slices on top and drizzle the syrup over.
This four layer ginger cake filled with lightly salted toffee sauce and tangy cream cheese frosting is a great alternative to the classic Christmas fruit cake, and is usually the preferred option in my house.
The Scandi-style flowers I’ve used for decoration were sent to me by Bloom & Wild, a brilliant flower delivery company who focus on carefully selecting the best seasonal blooms. The bouquet I received ( the Sadie) is part of their Christmas range and I would definitely recommend you check out their other options; I don’t know about you, but I find it tricky to find a wide range of good quality cut flowers outside of London (I know, first world problems), so it’s great to know I can choose more unusual varieties online and have them delivered straight to my door the next day by Bloom & Wild.
I hope you like how I’ve made use of the flowers and perhaps this could inspire some other botanical themed Christmas cakes!
- 380g butter
- 220g black treacle
- 80g golden syrup
- 340g dark brown soft sugar
- 6 eggs
- 380g self raising flour
- 3tbsp ground ginger
- 2tbsp ground cinnamon
- 60g soured cream
- 6 pieces stem ginger, grated (from a jar)
- For the toffee sauce: 50g butter, 50g dark brown soft sugar, 50g golden syrup, 75ml double cream, large pinch sea salt
- For the cream cheese frosting: 200g unsalted butter (soft), 250g cream cheese, 900g icing sugar, seeds of 2 vanilla pods
- Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
- Place the butter, treacle, syrup and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a standing mixer). Beat together until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs in one at a time along with a little of the flour to prevent curdling. Mix well between each addition. Once the eggs are fully incorporated, sift in the remaining flour, cinnamon and ginger. Fold gently then finally stir in the stem ginger and soured cream. Split between the 2 prepared tins and bake for 30-40 minutes.
- While the cakes are cooking, make the toffee sauce. Place the butter, syrup and sugar in a saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Once melted pour in the cream and add the salt. Mix to create a smooth sauce then set aside to cool and thicken.
- Now make your cream cheese frosting. Put the butter in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until fluffy and light in colour. Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat once again until well combined. Now, still beating, gradually add the icing sugar. Once all the icing sugar has been added increase the speed and mix until the consistency is light, thick and spreadable.
- When the cakes are ready, a skewer should come out clean when inserted. Rest in their tins for 10 minutes then remove and leave on a wire rack until they are completely cool.
- Now you are ready to assemble your layer cake. Level off the sponges as best you can then slice in two (you should be left with 4 layers). Place one layer down on your plate or cake board. Secure with some cream cheese frosting if it’s a little slippy. Now spread over a few tablespoons of the toffee sauce. Allow it to sink into the sponge then apply a thick even layer of cream cheese frosting. Top with the next sponge and repeat until the sponges are used up.
- With the remaining cream cheese frosting, cover the cake all over and smooth down with a cake scraper. Decorate with fresh flowers dusted in frosty edible glitter or get creative and come up with your own design to suit the occasion.
More decorating ideas:
- Leave the cream cheese frosting rough and decorate with mini gingerbread houses to create a snow drift scene.
- Top with traditional/vintage Christmas cake decorations.
- Make little white meringue kisses and cover the top of the cake with them, then dust with gold edible glitter.
- Top with frosted fruit and rustic greenery.