Mrs Nisbett’s ginger cake


  • 340g (2 cups, densely packed) plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 85g butter, softened to room temperature
  • 170g (1 cup, lightly packed) brown sugar
  • 1 large egg (about 65 g)
  • 225g treacle, warmed
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest (or orange zest) (optional)
  • 250ml (1 cup) milk
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda


Adapted from a manuscript recipe at Meroogal, this cake has a rich flavour and dense texture, akin to true gingerbread. For a more Victorian-style gingerbread, add a teaspoon of ground allspice.

Serves 8–10


Preheat the oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan-forced). Position the oven rack one rung lower than the centre rung. Grease a 20-cm square cake tin and line with baking paper.
Sift the flour into a bowl, add the ginger and nutmeg and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Beat the butter and the sugar until creamy and pale, then beat in the egg. Stir in the warm treacle and lemon zest, if using, with a wooden spoon. Add the flour mixture and fold it through.

Bring the milk to the boil in a saucepan over low heat, then add the bicarbonate of soda. Add the milk to the cake batter while hot and foaming and stir to make a smooth batter.
Transfer the batter to the prepared cake tin and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Make sure the top of the cake doesn't burn. If it is browning too quickly, cover it with two sheets of baking paper.
Rest the cake in the tin for 15 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool.

This recipe appeared in the post Signature dishes on February 23, 2017.

Have you tried this recipe?

Use the comments box below to upload comments and photos.