I have been known to admit fully to having an emotional relationship with food. I spend more time thinking about food and food politics and simply what I’m going to eat next – than I do thinking about many other things. For me food is perhaps the most powerful thing we can use to change the world, to change our future. Good food is the very foundation of a good community, food that is shared with people that you love, food is our history and when we get lost food can be our road back home.
I love simple food. Food you can cook in your own kitchen. Food that doesn’t need fancy gadgets or expensive ingredients. I like food that grows all around us that we often overlook, like rosemary flowers, a punchy rosemary flavour with a hint of sweetness and a soft delicate texture (and pretty to boot). I love food that comes from friends, like the mandarins in this recipe that were fresh from the orchard to my door, delivered by a favourite friend.
I love the way that we connect with food, with the sharing of food, with the stories of food – it’s a powerful commodity and it’s not something that should be treated lightly. We are lucky to have it. We are lucky to cook it. We are lucky to share it.
I like that when I cut Bo a piece of this cake I can tell her stories of eating my grandmothers cakes in a warm kitchen in Canada when I was a little girl. The smell of the spices invokes memories that awaken the mind and connect us with people who are already gone.
This recipe is very dear to my heart. It’s one of my favourite cakes and since my mum showed me this recipe collection of my grandmother, I’ve been cooking my way through her recipes and this is a spectacular one. So hats off to my grandma – this is her recipe and it’s fabulously moist, the perfect balance of sweet and bitter, soft and heady with spices – the perfect winter cake.
Does food lead you home?
HOT WATER GINGERBREAD
with rosemary and mandarin icing
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup raw sugar
1 2/3 cup spelt flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
2/3 cup molasses
2/3 cup hot water
note: the cake in the pictures was this recipe doubled.
a small bowl of rosemary flowers
1 cups powdered raw sugar
1/3 cup hot water
juice from 2 mandarins
crushed walnuts to serve
Preheat the oven to 180C
Cream butter and raw sugar until fluffy and creamy and then gently beat through the egg. In a separate bowl combine all dry ingredients and whisk with a dry whisk to aerate the flour and get rid of any little lumps. Pour hot water and molasses into a jug and stir to combine.
Alternate adding dry mixture and hot water/molasses mixture into the wet butter mixture slowly while beating on a low speed until fully combined.
Pour mixture into a lined loaf tin and bake in the oven for around 40 minutes or the top of the cake bounces back when pressed lightly (it’s a moist cake, a skewer is not the best test here, you want it a little sticky)
For the icing: Place 2/3 cup of powdered raw sugar into a bowl and whisk through enough hot water to dissolve sugar and achieve a thick pouring consistency. Continue whisking and combine the mandarin juice, adding more powdered sugar as necessary to achieve perfect runny consistency for pouring.
When the cake has cooled, pour icing over the top of the cake, allowing it to run down the sides and dress with rosemary flowers and crushed walnuts and you’re done! A perfect, timeless, moist and heady cake that is a winner with kids and adults alike.
On behalf of my late-grandmother, I hope you love this cake as much as we do… it’s a recipe that has obviously stood the test of time and with a few modern tweaks is the perfect treat to share with friends.