There’s something about the delicious smell of a cake baking in the oven that’s so wonderfully warming and comforting. It’s no wonder we start dusting off the cake tins and that forgotten Nigella cookbook as soon as the clocks go back. We’re not alone. Most countries have a winter baking tradition, designed to keep hungry families fed with wholesome high-carb goodness for when the weather turned colder, or to provide stickily sweet feasting fare through the festive months.
Anita Meyer is originally from Norway where families would prepare between seven and fourteen cakes in the run up to Christmas. “I remember literally weeks of baking to prepare all the different cakes. My mother would never dream of buying a cake, so everything was homemade.” Brought up with a love of baking, she’s turned her cake know how into a business run from home, creating homemade cakes and bakes for cafes and sandwich shops. “I really enjoy spending time in my kitchen, working on recipes and taking time over the cakes. It fits in with my life as a mum as well, I can spend the morning mixing and baking, and then be finished in time to pick up the children from school.” She’s come up with a winter recipe that’ll fill the kitchen with a gorgeous gingerbread smell, and gives us her baking tips.
If you’re addicted to those tins of Ikea ginger biscuits, then you’ll love this recipe. You can use it to make gingerbread men, ginger biscuits or even create your own gingerbread house…
small knob of butter for greasing
175 gr (6 oz) plain flour, plus a little extra for rolling out
1 1/2 level tsp bicarb of soda
1 level tsp ground ginger
1/2 level tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 level tsp ground cloves
50 gr (1 3/4 oz) butter
1 large egg
85 gr (3 oz) light brown soft sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon golden syrup
1/2 tablespoon treacle
very finely grated rind of 1/2 orange
100 gr (3 1/2 oz) icing sugar
lemon juice or warm water
currants / Smarties etc
Turn oven to 190 degrees celsius, 160 fan oven. Rub 3 baking sheets lightly with butter.
Sieve the flour, bicarb and spices into a large bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the bowl. Rub into flour until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Crack the egg into a jug, add the sugar, syrup, treacle and orange rind. Mix well with a small whisk. Use a metal spoon to stir mixture into the flour. As it starts to come together, use your hands to knead it into a ball of dough.
Sprinkle flour onto your work surface then tip the dough out and knead through for a couple of minutes until smooth. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for 10 minutes.
Sprinkle more flour onto work surface and using a rolling pin, roll the dough out about 5mm (1/2 inch) thick. Dip your biscuit cutters into flour and then cut out as many shapes as you can. Use a palette knife or cheese slicer to pick up the biscuits and place onto the baking sheet. Gather up any spare dough and knead again into a ball. Roll out and cut out more shapes.
Cook the biscuits for 6-10 minutes, or until golden brown. When cooked, let them cool for a few minutes on the tray, then lift them onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Icing: Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl. Gradually add a little lemon juice or water and mix until you have a thick smooth paste. Add tiny drops of food colouring if you want different colours. Use currants for buttons and eyes, or Smarties etc. Leave the icing to set.
TIP: Make holes with a straw at the top of the shape/in the head of the gingerbread before they are cooked and then thread some ribbon through when cooked and hang on your Christmas tree after they are decorated.
You can taste Anita’s cakes at Plemont Café and Loaf in St Helier, as well as ordering cakes direct from Anita herself – 07797 781068.
And if you want to try some cake-making for yourself, here are Anita’s top baking tips…
Read the recipe. Baking is a science, so make sure you’ve measured out the proper quantities.
If your sponges tend to sink in the middle – try cooling them upside down.
Don’t rush your cooking, make it a relaxing experience and enjoy it. Put some nice music on, your apron, get all your utensils out ready and make sure you’ve got all your ingredients to hand. If you haven’t got time or you’re in a rush – save it for another time.