Lpm and I made a roast lunch for gathered noders today. It was a relaxed affair — why should Sunday lunch be anything but relaxed — we didn't bother with a starter but launched straight into the main course of chicken or stuffed acorn squash, roast potatoes, a small market garden of vegetables (I forgot the peas, though, sorry), gravy, lots of wine, and then we had dessert. Finding a no-nonsense dairy-free dessert to serve after a meat meal proved to be a bit of a challenge, though. Fussy or complicated wasn't anything that we wanted to contemplate, but we felt that just fresh fruit wouldn't be enough. We needed something to serve alongside some strawberries and blueberries, something a little bit naughty. So I baked a ginger cake. Not fussy, not complicated, not dairy. Not much left now, either.

I'm fairly convinced that most cookery is art, veiled discreetly by science. But baking is scientific, it's about chemical reactions, even if it might not be the stuff of Nobel Prize-winning chemists. This recipe demonstrates the science behind baking quite superbly, and reminds me that, occasionally, I do need to measure things.

If you wanted to do something similar at a slightly more formal dinner party, why not? Maybe it should be partnered with a good dessert wine, though, to give it a little more sparkle. And well, as for cake for cake's sake, enjoy with a cup of tea.



Pre-heat your oven to 180°Celsius and line the tin in which you will be baking your cake. I use an 8½ inch by 6½ inch by 2 inch (22 x 16.5 x 5 cm) enamel pan. Slightly unorthodox, but it works.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and spices.

Pour the oil into a measuring jug and then use this to weigh the golden syrup. The syrup will sink to the bottom, but you should be able to get it from the jug into the bowl without incurring too much of a revolting sticky mess. So yes, pour this over the dry ingredients, add the eggs and the lemon zest, and beat well.

So this is the science-y bit. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the orange juice (the orange juice is important for the acid, not necessarily the orange-y-ness), and as it fizzes and bubbles, pour it into the batter. That's the raising agent that will stop the cake from being an unpalatable slab of lead. Mix well, and then tip into your lined pan.

Place in the oven, and leave for roughly 30 minutes. When ready, the cake should be springy to the touch, or a skewer should come out clean.

I left the cake to cool in the tin, and then cut it into small squares to serve. If there had been any left, wrapping it in foil would've allowed it to be kept for about a week, over the course of which, the ginger flavour will intensify.


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