A few years back, we made a deal in this house that if we gave away all of the books that we were carrying with us from place to place, then we could invest in new e-readers. Ok, iPads. So, we picked a handful of the books that we found to be life-changing and freed ourselves of the rest.
There was a clause in this agreement, of course, for my cookbooks, which I literally cannot imagine replacing with digital versions entirely.
The internet, recipe logs, food blogs and sites like this are great for getting ideas, lots of them and fast. But there is nothing, really nothing, like the recipes that are in your favorite books that you remember from a photograph, or a description, or an ingredient. Cookbooks are tomes of sensations and sentiments, pulled from your being with the catalyst of tastes, smells and essences. Most of us don’t use cookbooks everyday, but if you have a few, you’ve thumbed through them and made notes about what you would like to make and for what time, or fallen in love with an idea, or the picture that a recipe painted — this Tipsy Ginger Tart is just such a recipe.
The Green & Black’s Unwrapped Cookbook was a guilty pleasure that I yanked from the shelves of a gourmet grocer on a trip home to the U.S. from Japan. I hauled it all the way from Colorado to Okinawa on the plane and I still have all of the original tabs on the recipes that I bookmarked somewhere, in the middle of the night over the Pacific. The book is filled with sweet, savory and surprising recipes, many with English influence, that are as haunting as they are classic — venison agridolce? Sunday Chocolate Cake? Chipotle Drinking Chocolate? Have mercy. For every one of them contains chocolate.
Desi and Jenny celebrated a birthday this week, and of course, this was cause for celebration….and a cake of sorts. This recipe, (adapted from the original with a decrease in the butter and eggs, and an increase in the piece-of-mind-for-holiday-waist factor with fruits, healthier grains and sweeteners here and there) was exactly what I was thumbing for as I stood, wrapped in a sweater before my oven on a foggy Tuesday evening – images of spicy, yuletide-y flavors filling the air….but not so much that we couldn’t pop candles in it and call it a birthday cake. I had everything I needed to prepare it in our pantry and so I set to work playing.
Even though the recipe is straightforward and easy, you can’t let this one make itself – as soon as the cake comes from the oven you must poke holes in it and pour the vanilla rum syrup you’ve prepared over it immediately. It is this soaking up of the syrup that makes the cake so amazingly moist without oodles of butter or eggs.
I suggest serving slices of the cake with english cream, so as to stick to its South African roots, but, if this isn’t on hand, everyone will love vanilla ice cream.
Oh! P.S. Don’t be disappointed to see that this cake has deflated in the middle when it cools — of course it did, silly! You poked holes in it straight out of the oven! Cakes require a few minutes to cool and form a hard shell out of the oven to maintain their cakely shape so slice and enjoy!