Cider and five-spice bundt cake
Most of the time I refer to this as my Cider and five-spice gingerbread, but I changed the name out of concern for those who expect a little more gingeriness from their gingerbead. If you want to intensify the ginger element, use 250ml/9fl oz ginger beer in place of the cider.
This cake is wonderful enough plain as it is, though I have something of a faiblesse for the gleaming accompaniment of the smoky salted caramel sauce, as you can see from the picture. For this recipe you will need a 2½/4½ pints litre capacity bundt tin or a 20cm/8in square cake tin (approx. 5½cm/2¼in deep).
For the cake
- 250ml/9fl oz cider, preferably dry or at least not sweet
- 175ml/6fl oz sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
- 100g/3½oz soft dark brown sugar
- 300g/10½oz black treacle (use an oiled 1-cup measure for ease)
- 3 large free-range eggs
- 3cm/1¼in piece (15g/½oz) fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
- 300g/10½oz plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2½ tsp Chinese five-spice powder
- 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
For the smoky salted caramel sauce
Open the cider so that it loses its fizz. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C Fan/Gas 3. Grease your bundt tin with non-stick cooking spray, or simply oil it, and leave the tin upside down on a piece of newspaper or baking parchment while you get on with the batter.
Measure the oil, brown sugar and (whether you’re weighing it or going for volume and using a cup measure, always lightly oil the receptacle for the treacle first and it will slide out easily) black treacle into a bowl.
Pour in the cider and crack in the eggs, add the ginger and beat till smooth. While I use a freestanding mixer to make this cake, it’s simple enough by hand: in which case, beat the eggs together first before adding to the other ingredients.
In another bowl measure out the flour, baking powder, bicarb, nutmeg, five-spice and cinnamon, and fork through to combine.
Gently tip the dry ingredients into the wet treacly mixture, beating as you go to make a smooth batter. Scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl well to make sure there aren’t any pockets of flour.
Pour the dark and aromatic batter into the prepared tin: it will be very runny, but don’t be alarmed. Place in the oven to bake for 45–50 minutes, but start checking after 40. When the cake’s ready, it will start to come away from the sides of the tin and a cake tester should come out clean; that’s to say, not wet, but with some crumbs adhering to it. Transfer the bundt to a wire rack for about 30 minutes, then use your fingers to help prise the cake away from the edges of the tin, most particularly around the funnel, and turn out. Leave to cool completely before wrapping, first in parchment and then foil, as it tastes best if eaten the next day. I don’t always manage this.
For the sauce, melt the butter, sugars and syrup in a small, heavy-based pan and let it simmer for 3 minutes, swirling the pan every now and then.
Add the cream and the smoked salt and swirl again, then give it a stir with a wooden spoon, and taste. Go cautiously so that you don’t burn your tongue, and see if you want to add more salt, before letting it cook for another minute. Let it cool a little then drizzle over the cake and pour any remaining sauce into a jug to serve.
I have found that there are many variants of five-spice powder out there. While generally I presume on a mixture of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper and fennel seeds, I also love the versions that have liquorice and dried mandarin peel. But what I’ve found is that all types work, even the one or two brands that erroneously add garlic: a couple of people have made it with this version, and both vouch that the garlic is not detectable. Still, when you’re shopping, it’s best to check the ingredients label and go for one without garlic if you can.
If you don’t have a bundt tin, you can make this in a 20cm/8in square cake tin (approx. 5½cm/2¼in deep), in which case it will need 50–55 minutes’ baking, or until a cake tester comes out clean and the cake is firm to the touch. Let the cake cool in the tin, before unmoulding and wrapping.
The sauce can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in fridge for 1 week. Remove the sauce from fridge about 1 hour before serving, until it has come up to room temperature, or warm it very gently in a saucepan.
The sauce can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost the sauce overnight in fridge before serving. Defrosted sauce should be used within 1 week.