Cider and 5-spice Bundt Cake

Most of the time I refer to this as my Cider and 5-Spice Gingerbread, but I changed the name out of concern for those who expect a little more gingeriness from their gingerbead (although anyone is free to boost the amount of ginger at will). But, actually, the tender crumb has the lightness of a cake rather than the damp heaviness (gorgeous though that is) of a gingerbread. Besides, I felt it only proper to accord the magnificently aromatic 5-spice seasoning its star role. I have since found that there are many variants of 5-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 (one here, and one in the States) 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 want to intensify the ginger element, without doing a lot more peeling and grating (or don’t want to use alcohol), then use 250ml ginger beer in place of the cider.

Either way, this is wonderful enough plain as it is, though I have something of a faiblesse for the gleaming accompaniment of the Smoky Salted Caramel Sauce on p.342, as you can see from the picture.

One last note: if you don’t have a bundt tin, you can make this in a 20cm square cake tin (approx. 5.5cm 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.

Cuts into 10-14 slices
Easy

Ingredients

250ml cider, preferably dry or at least not sweet
175ml sunflower oil
100g soft dark brown sugar
300g (250ml) black treacle (use an oiled 1-cup measure for ease)
3 large eggs
3cm piece (15g) fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
non-stick cooking spray or sunflower oil for greasing

Instructions

Open the cider so that it loses its fizz. Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3, and 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, 5-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.

Store note: The cake can be kept loosely wrapped in its parchment and foil, in an airtight container at cool room temperature for up to 1 week.

Freeze note: The fully cooled cake can be tightly wrapped in a double layer of clingfilm and a layer of foil and then frozen for up to 3 months. To defrost, unwrap and place on a wire rack and leave at room temperature for about 5 hours.

You will need: 1 x 10-cup (2.5 litre capacity) bundt tin or 1 x 20cm square cake tin approx. 5.5cm deep (see Intro)

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