Retro Recipe Challenge #10 Storybook Food. Lazy Jack's Unfortunate Cake.....

My mother didn't keep that much from our childhood - not being a sentimental sort. No coiled first lock of hair or tiny shoes to coo over, not even many photographs. What she did keep and pass on to us were books. Fantastic books! Illustrated by the great and good of the 1970's children's book world. So for this challenge, I re-read these precious books from my childhood and finally settled on Lazy Jack by Tony Ross.

Now this is a great book, so I'm going to tell you a little bit about it and help you understand the significance of Jack's cake in my life.

Enter Lazy Jack the layabout. A happy-go-lucky, not too bright, chubby slouch who expected his mum to wait on him hand and foot. Well, eventually she grew tired of looking after her son entirely and sent him out to work for a farmer. But being somewhat challenged in the common sense department, he managed to lose the pound he was paid on the way home. 'You should have put it in your pocket you twit!' cried his mum, exasperated.

So next day he goes to work with some cows and the farmer gives him a pint of milk for payment, which he promptly pours into his pocket - with obvious consequences. And so on through a selection of jobs each with a different reward which Jack manages to stuff up by inappropriately following the advice his mum gave him for the last item, from carrying a cheese on his head, to carrying a donkey on his back and finally the cake you see above, being dragged home on a string (meant for bringing a cat home on).

Well you know how I love cake! Cake was something quite rare in my childhood (I don't want to come off sounding deprived here - at least I have all my teeth as a result) so the thought of someone dragging one behind them on a string was really painful to me. Like fingernails on a blackboard painful. I knew I had to bake Jack's cake in order to repair the horror I experienced as a small child imagining that lovely cake being wasted by Lazy Jack; and so as a kind of Gestalt gesture, I offer you my cake and hope to soothe my inner child in the process.

Before you read on I would like to insert a disclaimer here. Anyone who doesn't like treacle or molasses, stop reading now. Look away. You will only be distressed by what follows. For as Nick will tell you, this cake is seriously dark. Or in his own words, on eating a piece last night; 'ack....euckk....blek!.....eeuwww!'. Nope, that boy don't like treacle and that's a fact. For those of you with more than a few hairs on your chest, read on, my treacle loving darlings......

Jack's cake is a pure piece of fiction. Look at it, go on. It's a fruit cake, full of cherries and angelica, with a flat iced top and filled with cream and jam! It may look good in the picture, but when you deconstruct the cake it comes off a bit of a dogs dinner. So I looked instead towards ginger cake and thought I would add the cherries and angelica afterwards as none of us would eat them (these are GROSS! said Fin when he tried a cherry).

So I went to my retro books and found this gem of retro desert horror on which to base Jack's cake. It's called 'Jolly Ginger' and hails from Marguerite Patten's, sensibly titled, 'Book of Puddings and Deserts', published in 1963. Long after the war had finished, Margerite still felt it was prudent to use as many substitutions as possible, so the book is replete with margarine, egg substitutes and mock cream (ack...blek....etc). Check out the jaunty way she has with angelica and cherries - hey, gingerbread never looked so jolly!

I'm not going to give you the original recipe here as it is full of wheat and as you know, here in this little corner of the blogosphere it's my way - or the wheat, barley and rye way.... (groan). I'm just going to give you my version of the ginger cake recipe which was really very good, rich, dense but with a good crumb and so dark it could be mistaken for chocolate. It would be further improved by adding half a jar of chopped preserved ginger and wrapping for a few days to get really sticky. If you have to, ice it with cream cheese or lemon vanilla butter-cream (as I did in the picture). But on reflection, I think it is best left alone to do it's thing and enjoyed meditatively when one fancies a little something in the afternoon. You can vary the flour mix according to what you have to hand.

Jolly Ginger

5oz butter
6oz molasses or treacle (or half golden syrup for wussies)
4oz brown sugar (dark as you dare)
2 tsp ground ginger
2 large eggs
grated rind of a lemon
2 tablespoons water
1/2 tsp xanthan gum (or 3 tsp crushed flax seeds)
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cream of tartar (or 2 tsp vinegar)

7oz gluten free flour made up as follows : 
1oz each, brown rice flour, chestnut flour, sorghum flour
2oz each: teff flour and tapioca starch

Turn the oven to 160C and line a deep sided 8 inch cake tin with greaseproof paper.

Put a saucepan on the weighing scales and measure in the treacle or molasses. Add to the pan the butter, sugar and water and set over a very low heat to melt the butter.

Sift all the remaining dry ingredients except bicarb into a bowl and beat into the molasses mixture once it is melted.

Beat together the eggs, lemon rind and bicarb and bet into the mix until smooth. Pour straight away into the lined tin and bake for about an hour, turning the oven down to 140C for the last 15 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin and wrap in greaseproof and foil for a couple of days to mature (or eat straight away - who keeps cake that long anyway?)