This is one of those cakes with a real history behind it.
I’ve talked a bit about Band of Bakers, the baking club I co-run with my friend Naomi, here before, but will refresh your memory: Band of Bakers a baking club that meets in our little corner of south east London about six or seven times a year. Each time we set a theme and invite everybody to bring something they’ve baked in line with that theme. Once we’re together, these bakes become a sort-of-buffet to feed us whilst we chat, catch up and hang out.
Our very first Band of Bakers meeting was held in 2012. Naomi and I sent the details to our mailing list and were very happy to see that many local people wanted to attend. Despite our fear that nobody would actually come and we would be left with an empty room, around 25 bakers attended and, by the end of the night, we had 25 new friends. Four and a half years on, Band of Bakers is going from strength to strength. Last week we held an event called Desert Island Bakes and asked everybody to bring along the one bake they would take with them if they were stranded on a desert island. More on that later.
For that very first event, our friend Charlie brought along a cake that would later become the most talked-about cake in south east London; the now famous rhubarb, ginger and spelt cake. A shallow spelt and brown sugar cake, studded with chopped stem ginger, topped with slender pink stems of rhubarb and finished with a ginger syrup glaze. It wasn’t only because he brought it warm from the oven that people went crazy for it, it is honestly one of the most delicious cakes I have ever eaten.
I asked him where the recipe came from, to which he shrugged “in a newspaper a while ago”, but I have never been able to find the original online anywhere. He kindly gave us the recipe to share on our website and, lo, rhubarb and ginger cakes were popping up all over the place. It was like the chain letter of cakes, with the recipe being passed from one person to another. I went to a party once to find that somebody had made it after getting the recipe from a friend, who got it from a friend, who got it from my blog.
For those of us who know, a cheer always goes up when somebody posts a picture online. Not only do we understand the sheer beauty of this cake, but it reminds us of those early days of Band of Bakers when things were just starting to get exciting. It’s not just for the nostalgia that I make this cake a lot; it takes no time at all and is a genuine crowd-pleaser. I even won an office bake-off with it once. I was determined not to let the fact that rhubarb is out of season at the moment exclude it from my repertoire until spring, so sought to find an alternative. Figs also work brilliantly in this cake as they pair well with ginger and break down nicely into little pockets of figgy jam. An autumnal alternative to the original. Try it warm from the oven with vanilla ice cream.
Fig, Stem Ginger and Spelt Cake
140g unsalted butter
200g soft light brown sugar
5 pieces stem ginger, finely chopped
2 large eggs
200g spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
4-6 large figs, halved
Syrup from the stem ginger jar
Caster sugar, for dredging
Preheat the oven to 175°c. Grease a 20cm x 20cm square cake tin and line with greaseproof paper.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar until fully combined and then set aside to cool a little.
Stir in the stem ginger, eggs, spelt flour and baking powder until you have a smooth batter. Scrape into the prepared tin and level off. Arrange the fig halves on top of the batter, cut side up. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 40 minutes until risen and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Whilst the cake is still warm, brush with the syrup from the stem ginger jar. Dredge with caster sugar and allow to cool in the tin.
Recipe adapted from a cake by Charlie Fox. Neither of us know where the original came from.
One year ago: Turkish Eggs