This recipe comes from The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook which is quite similar to other gingerbread recipes of the era.
What is particularly enjoyable about this book is that is prefaced by the historical background which I also like to provide.
“Ginger was one of the cheapest spices in the past, so gingerbreads were very popular among the working classes. Nearly every European country had its own version, and in England, there are many regional types. In Yorkshire, where Downton Abbey is set, a type called Parkin (my recipe here), was made with rolled oats, was popular. However the staff at such houses would have expected slightly better food than the locals were eating, so this version uses only flour. This recipe is adapted from a handwritten book kept by Avis Crocombe, a Victorian cook who, like Mrs. Patmore, worked in a large country house. The cake is very practical for busy cooks, as it keeps for months, which means it can be made well in advance and stored when needed.” Annie Gray
Downton's Traditional Gingerbread Cake
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 3 3/4 cups unbleached flour
- 1 tbsp. caster sugar for the pan
- 2 tbsp. gound ginger plus 2 tsp.
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 cup Dark brown sugar firmly packed
- 2 large eggs lightly whisked
- 1 can dark treacle or 1 1/4 cups black strap molasses
- 1/2 cup milk
- Preheat the oven to 325 F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 inch round springform pan or a rectangular pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and generously butter the paper. Dust the bottom and the sides with the caster sugar, mixed with 1tbsp. flour, then tap out the excess.
- In a medium bowl combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, and salt. Whisk gently to blend.
- Put the butter into a large bowl and beat until pale and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and continue to mix vigorously until incorporated.
- Add the treacle gradually and carefully (as it is rather messy) and beat until incorporated. To get all the treacle out of the can I just tip it upside down and let it drip out as much as it can.
- Add the flour mixture in three batches alternately with the milk in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and mixing well after each addition. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. If the edges of the cake begin to darken before the center of the cake is cooked, cover the pan loosely with parchment paper.
- Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
- Springform Pan: Loosen the edges of the cake from the pan sides with a blunt knife and unclasp the pan sides (if using the springform pan) Carefully slide the cake onto a serving plate, peel off the paper, slice into wedges and serve.
- Rectangular Pan: MY TIP: Remove from the pan and using a long knife, cut off the crusts on all sides.
- MY TIP: Cut into squares and decorate the top of each square. 1. You can make dessert sized slices of 2 or 3 inches square and top with whipped cream. 2. Alternatively, for your buffet or tea tray, slice into 1-inch squares and top with icing and a bit of candied ginger or cherries.