Nana’s Delicious Ginger Cake Recipe

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“And I had but one penny in the world. Thou should’st have it to buy gingerbread.” ~ William Shakespeare, Love’s Labours Lost


This was my Pa’s favourite cake. It is a heavy, moist old-fashioned ginger cake and it has very good keeping qualities. Teamed with an afternoon cup of tea or an early morning breakfast coffee and you have happiness on a plate. It has that heavenly gingerbread taste. Need I say more?

Pa would often have this cake, un-iced (that’s without frosting, for my American friends) and generously buttered as a pre-breakfast fortification with strong tea before heading out into the yard for early morning chores, or downstairs into his man-cave to paint and tinker and so on, while Nana slept in.

The cake freezes well. I’ve used gluten-free flours very successfully with this recipe, and have also used it to make cupcakes, slab cakes and bar cakes.

Nana’s Ginger Cake is a picnic and mustering favourite because it doesn’t go to crumbs in your basket, saddlebag or rucksack. This is a big cake and it will easily feed a crowd.

Whenever I make it I am taken back to Nana’s kitchen, and my grandparents’ tiny neat war-service home on Marlene Street at Mount Gravatt. How I miss them!

This is my Nana , Pa and Dad just before Pa signed up for World War Two. Pa's mother gave Nana the ginger cake recipe so she would know how to make his favourite cake.
This is my Nana , Pa and Dad in 1940, just before Pa signed up for World War Two. Pa’s mother gave Nana the ginger cake recipe so she would know how to make his favourite cake.

Excuse the mess in my kitchen. I have crystals everywhere, getting ready for my next retreat in just over a week’s time!

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2 and 1/2 cups self raising flour (self rising), 1 and 1/2 cups plain flour, a generous pinch of salt, 1 generous tablespoon of ground ginger, a heaped teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, 1/2 cup glace ginger – finely chopped, 1 egg, 1 cup of treacle (you can substitute golden syrup but the flavour won’t be as strong), 2 lightly packed cups of brown sugar, 3/4 cup of butter (6oz or 185g), 1 cup of milk.

Note: This bakes well using gluten-free flours


Line a 23cm round, deep tin with baking paper. Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Place the butter, syrup and sugar over low heat and melt until thick and combined. Allow to cool to lukewarm. Then add the cup of milk, stirring well.

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While the sugar mixture is cooling sift the flours into a large bowl with the ginger, salt, bicarb and cinnamon. Then add the glace ginger and stir so that the pieces become covered in flour, This prevents them sinking to the bottom of the cake! Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture.

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Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients. Starting in the middle, stir well with a wooden spoon, slowly incorporating the dry mixture from the edges of the bowl.

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When all the ingredients are combined add the egg and stir thoroughly. Pour into the paper lined tin and bake for one hour.

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Cake should spring back when pressed lightly in the centre, or a skewer inserted in middle of cake will come out clean with no mixture sticking to it. If not quite done cook a little more.

Cool in tin. Remove paper and place on platter.

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Serving Ideas:

You can serve the cake on its own, or with butter or ice-cream. It is also tasty when iced with a lemon icing. Here are a couple of simple recipes for that. Beat butter and sugar together on low speed if using an electric mixer, and then increase speed to medium. Of course if you are doing by hand, then just beat like crazy. Gradually add enough lemon juice to make a thick but fluffy mixture. Spread on top of cooled cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting: 250 grams (1 cup) cream cheese, 2 cups of icing sugar (confectioners or powdered sugar), 1/4 to 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice

Butter Cream Icing: 1/2 cup softened butter, 2 cups of icing sugar, 1/4 to 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice

However, I think this cake goes best with friends!

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Hi! I'm Nicole Cody. I am a writer, psychic, metaphysical teacher and organic farmer. I love to read, cook, walk on the beach, dance in the rain and grow things. Sometimes, to entertain my cows, I dance in my gumboots. Gumboot dancing is very under-rated.
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14 thoughts on “Nana’s Delicious Ginger Cake Recipe

  1. What a lovely tribute to both your grandparents. That is a very sweet photo. This recipe sent me on a google search. I’m wondering if I can substitute honey for the molasses. I can’t smell molasses without getting nauseous. I had to check to make sure crystallized ginger was the same as what you used. Seems to be. I love ginger in any form. That’s how I found out about the molasses. 🙁

    1. Hi Shireen, I used commercial gluten-free flour mixes that I bought at the local supermarket. White Wings make one, and both Woolies and Coles have their own brands too. Stirring by hand it produced a cake very similar to the traditional wheat flour. Let me know how you go!

  2. For people who do not live in Australia, what is treacle???? Looking at those huge slices of cake made my mouth water! I wonder if the ginger cake is something like what we call in the USA spice cake?

  3. Hey Wonderwoman….your wonderful! This is the first cake I’m going to bake in my new home. Love the pic of your Grandparents and your Dad too…and I really love your Nan’s dress!

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