The act of baking often stems from a place of deep impatience and impulsivity - or, at least, an urgent longing for a slab of cake. This recipe commands an inner strength and god-like patience, because once the loaf is made, as with parkin, it requires a couple of days rest. Shrouded in clingfilm, nestled deep inside the most ornate of Christmas cake tins, a short repose transforms this cake from a heavily spiced and fairly dry brick, to a sticky and chewy monument. 


Ingredients - makes 1 x 2lb loaf 

For the Cake

  • 150g unsalted butter 
  • 150g dark brown muscovado sugar 
  • 100g black treacle
  • 50g golden syrup  
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • Zest of 2 oranges 
  • 225g plain flour  
  • 1 tsp bicarb 
  • 3 tbsp ground ginger 
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • Pinch fine black pepper 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 170ml buttermilk 

For the Icing 

  • 225g icing sugar, sifted 
  • 70ml syrup from a jar of stem ginger
  • 2 balls stem ginger, roughly chopped 


2lb loaf tin, greased and lined 


Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4. 

Put the butter, sugar, treacle and syrup into a saucepan and set over a medium-high heat. Stirring the pan, allow the butter to melt and for everything to mix together to a dark, sweetened slick. Once the sugar has more or less dissolved, stir in the zests, then remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool.

Sift together the dry ingredients, and add them to the pan, along with the eggs and buttermilk. Use a whisk and stir vigorously, just until you have a smooth but runny batter. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until very well risen, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the tin. Once the cake has cooled, wrap it tightly in cling film, and store it in an airtight container for 2 days. 

Put the icing sugar into a small bowl and add the syrup, stir, adding water a drop at a time if necessary, until you have an icing the consistency of a thick golden syrup forgotten and abandoned in the coldest part of the house. Pour the icing over the cooled cake, and allow it to drip over the edges. Scatter over the chopped stem ginger, and serve.