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RECIPE: An indulgent gingerbread cake by Nik Sharma

Staff reporter/PA

A proper indulgent ginger cake.

“I’m of the opinion that all gingerbread cakes must have ginger in both the ground spice form and a bit of crystallised ginger,” says food writer Nik Sharma.

“The date syrup bourbon sauce gives it that extra edge of smooth richness and is inspired by one of the top 10 desserts I’ve eaten: the date cake with whiskey sauce at Gjelina in Los Angeles. Use a microplane zester for the lime zest to get a fine grate.”

Gingerbread cake with date syrup bourbon sauce from The Flavor Equation by Nik Sharma


(Serves 12. Makes one 23cm square cake and 480ml sauce)

For the cake:

165g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing

1tbsp ground ginger

1tsp ground black pepper

1tsp ground green cardamom

1tsp lime zest

350g all-purpose flour

1½tsp baking soda

½tsp fine sea salt

55g crystallised ginger, chopped

50g sugar

85g honey

320g unsulfured molasses or sorghum

120g crème fraîche

2 large eggs, at room temperature

240ml water warmed to 70°C

For the date syrup bourbon sauce:

2tbsp unsalted butter

240ml date syrup

240ml heavy cream

2tbsp honey bourbon or whiskey

¼tsp fine sea salt

For serving:

Lightly sweetened crème fraîche

Fresh lime zest

THE FLAVOR APPROACH: Ginger and black pepper gives this cake its warmth. The aromatic molecules in the spices and lime zest are extracted into the butter, the fat phase, in which they are highly soluble before they are incorporated into the cake batter. My personal preference is to make the date syrup with honey bourbon, but plain bourbon (whiskey) will also work. There are a few ways to tell if a cake is done: You can insert a skewer through the centre, and it should come out completely clean without any goopy uncooked cake batter. But you can also tell if a cake is done by gently pressing the surface; it should spring back to its original form in a few seconds. If the cake isn’t done, it will remain depressed after the pressure is removed, as the flour has not yet formed the necessary structure.

1. Grease a 23 cm square baking pan with a little butter and line with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper.

2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the ginger, black pepper, cardamom, and lime zest. Let steep for 10 minutes.

3. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Reserve two tablespoons of the flour mixture in a small bowl, add the crystallised ginger to it, and toss to coat well.

4. Preheat the oven to 325°F [163°C].

5. Place the sugar, honey, and molasses in the bowl of a stand mixer. Scrape out the melted butter from the saucepan with a silicone spatula and add it to the mixer bowl. Using the paddle attachment, mix on medium speed until it turns a toffee-brown colour, four to five minutes.

6. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl, add the crème fraîche, and mix on low speed until combined, one minute. Stop and scrape down the bowl. Mix in one egg at a time on medium speed until combined. Add the sifted dry ingredients in one addition and mix on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the speed set to low, add the water in a slow, steady stream and mix until combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl. Fold in the crystallised ginger and transfer the cake batter to the prepared baking pan. Bake until the cake is golden brown on the surface and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the pan. Run a knife along the edges of the pan to release the cake and transfer to a serving plate.

7. To prepare the date bourbon sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Swirl the butter in the saucepan until the milk solids start to turn red. Whisk in the date syrup and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream, followed by the bourbon and the salt. Transfer to an airtight jar and refrigerate until ready to use. You can make this sauce two days ahead of time.

8. To serve, cut the cake into slices and serve with sweetened crème fraîche, a little lime zest, and a generous drizzle of the date bourbon sauce.

The Flavor Equation: The Science Of Great Cooking Explained + More Than 100 Essential Recipes by Nik Sharma, is published by Chronicle Books, priced £26. Photography by Nik Sharma. Available now.

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