So that week Mother made lots of pots of pumpkin-and-ginger jam, Milly-Molly-Mandy helping. And on Saturday mother let her ask little-friend-Susan and Billy Blunt to tea, and they all had pumpkin-and-ginger jam on their bread-and-butter (as well as chocolate cake and currant buns).
Milly-Molly-Mandy's Autumn, Joyce Lankester Brisley, Milly-Molly-Mandy and the Surprise Plant
As I grew up in Australia, there are many books I happen across here in the UK that I wasn't introduced to as a child. Luckily (for this blog, and my own reading pleasure) I know plenty of people who are willing to oblige me, and share their old favourites. My friend Sonia, for instance, recently drew my attention to Milly-Molly-Mandy, her childhood favourite. This wonderfully warm story, about an idyllic English childhood, was a joy to read.
Map of the village
So, for Sonia's birthday, what could be better than a cake inspired by her favourite book? Finding a dessert was easy - Milly-Molly-Mandy is not short of sweet treats - and I decided to explore the tea-time scene in Milly-Molly-Mandy's Autumn. After making a pumpkin-and-ginger jam, Milly-Molly-Mandy's mother prepares the lovely tea described above. As I had to transport this mid-afternoon treat to work, I combined the elements to create a dark, sticky chocolate and ginger cake*. The flavours are a perfect marriage; the heat of the ginger cuts through the sweetness of the buttercream and balances the dark bitterness of the chocolate and the dense fudgy cake. It has quickly became one of my favourites - a far more grown-up version of Milly-Molly-Mandy's tea, and definitely one to try yourself.
*I took the liberty of leaving out the pumpkin for the time being - but there will be some pumpkin scones coming soon.
Chocolate and Ginger Cake
Serves 10 (though we stretched it to 14 at work)
125g unsalted butter + extra for greasing
200g dark brown sugar
180mL warm water
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
150g icing sugar
100g chopped preserved stem ginger
50g dark chocolate
20cm loose-bottomed cake tin
Electric hand whisk
1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line your cake tin with greaseproof paper. This cake will come out moist and dense, so it's worth lining the sides of your cake tin too, to ensure it's as easy as possible to remove.
2. Melt the butter, sugar and treacle in the saucepan. Allow to cool slightly before stirring in the eggs, water and vanilla extract. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
3. Sift the flour, cocoa, salt, spices and bicarbonate of soda together into a large bowl. Pour in half the cooled liquid mixture and whisk until you have a thick batter. Add the rest of the mixture slowly, whisking continuously, until it is combined. Quickly pour the mixture into the cake tin and move into the oven - don't leave this batter sitting around, as the effect of the bicarbonate of soda will be lessened. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
4. While the cake is baking, you can make the icing. Beat the butter in the bowl with the electric hand whisk until smooth and light. Add the icing sugar, a little at a time, until it is all incorporated. Once the icing sugar has been added, pour in the milk and beat on a high speed for five minutes - the longer you beat it, the lighter it will be. Set the icing aside and chop the stem ginger into small pieces. Finally, grate the chocolate using the vegetable peeler.
5. Once removed from the oven, allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, and then completely on a wire rack, before spreading the icing thickly over the top and finishing with the ginger and chocolate. For a nice finish, drizzle some of the preserving liquid from the jar of preserved ginger over the cake.
Adapted from Ruby Tandoh's recipe in the Guardian Eat magazine