An Adult Halloween, a New Camera, and Cake


As many of you know, Linnea and I currently live at my mom’s house. It’s a long story that involves my mom going back to graduate school, the family dogs, her eventually moving home, and me losing my job. It’s very temporary and while I never envisioned being thirty and living at home–really, it’s wonderful. I’ve gotten to spend so much time with my mom: sitting at the counter watching her cook; obeying her nonsensical driveway parking rules; talking about books, celebrities, Obama’s charm. But Linnea and I have set a date that January 1 we’ll be moving out. It’s time. I can’t wait to live right in the city, where you can get a piece of pizza after 9 p.m. (you can’t get anything after 9 p.m. in Marin) and walk out your door in the morning to grab a cup of coffee and hop on the bus. I miss the constant buzz of a city, the way the sun glints off the buildings, and the proximity of your neighbors. That being said, Linnea, my mom and I all had a lovely (albeit quiet) suburban Halloween. We baked, we drank, we ordered a pizza, we drank some more, we carved pumpkins, and we handed out mini candy bars to the –drumroll, please– one trick-or-treater who dropped by.

I had big plans for my pumpkin this year. I was going to carve a cupcake on the front, and it was going to be epic. Well suffice it to say, my vision fell flat (pumpkin below is mine, the two below that are my mom’s and Linnea’s).

Blame it on failing high school geometry or that second glass of wine, but it really ended up looking like a pumpkin with the entire front carved out. Oh well. At least one thing turned out just as planned: Rose Levy Beranbaum’s English Gingerbread Cake.

While I usually do a festive soup or a hearty pasta on Halloween, we were all pretty wiped. So we ordered pizza. And then my mom and I set out to make this lovely cake.

For those of you who may not know Rose’s blog, Real Baking with Rose Levy Beranbaum, she’s a cake goddess. She’s the real deal. Her first cake book, The Cake Bible, was quite the sensation although I must admit I do not own it…I merely ogle it at bookstores. But her second cake book just came out, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, and it’s downright lovely. While at first glance some of the recipes may seem tedious (and let’s be honest, some are), in reality Rose describes each step so clearly that the recipes are more narrative than many of us may be used to. She has a clear style of laying out exactly what needs doing, gives you conversions in each recipe for volume and weight, has organized the book logically into types of cake (butter and oil cakes, sponge cakes, cheese cakes etc.) and has beautiful photographs throughout to inspire and guide you. So while there are easily ten cakes I want to make right off the bat, the Gingerbread seemed perfect for a cool autumn evening. It’s a moist, spicy cake with a hint of citrus–according to Rose, a true English classic.

So while I miss having my own place to decorate and while this time of year makes me strangely wish I had my own little munchkins, we had a pretty great evening….I hope that you did, too. Oh, and I got a new camera! I had to refrain from posting 50 pictures of this cake–I’ve been taking photos of everything, and many of them. But hopefully in the coming weeks, the pictures around here will begin to improve. Happy Sunday.

English Gingerbread Cake

English Gingerbread Cake

  • Yield: 12-16
  • Prep time: 25 mins
  • Cook time: 50 mins
  • Total time: 1 hr 15 mins


For Cake Batter

8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups golden syrup or light corn syrup
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, preferably Muscovado
1 heaping Tbsp. orange marmalade
2 large eggs at room temp.
2/3 cup milk
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. cake flour (or bleached all-purpose), sifted
1 cup minus 1 Tbsp. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt

For Lemon Butter Syrup:

3 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (65 to 75 degrees F)


Twenty minutes or more before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325. In a small heavy saucepan, stir together the butter, golden syrup, sugar, and marmalade over medium-low heat until melted. Set aside uncovered until just barely warm, about 10 minutes. Whisk in eggs and milk.

To make the batter, in a large bowl, whisk the two flours, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter mixture, stirring with a large silicone spatula until smooth (consistency of thick soup). Using the spatula, scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake cake for 50-60 min., or until wire cake tester comes out clean from the center and cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. While cake cools, begin syrup.

For syrup: In a small pan, stir together the sugar, lemon juice, and butter. Heat over medium-low, stirring until the butter’s melted and the sugar dissolves. Brush half the syrup over the top of the cake. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the cake, pressing firmly against the pan, and invert the cake onto a wire rack that has been coated lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Brush the bottom with the remaining syrup. To prevent splitting, invert the cake onto a serving plate so the top is up. For extra moistness, cover the cake with plastic wrap while still hot and allow it to cool (I did this–don’t be scared, it works!). Wrap airtight for 24 hours before serving (I did not do this).


  1. El

    You're pumpkins turned out good. Ok the top one is missing, well, a face... but the cat is adorable and the little monster looks pretty artsy too. I only have one of Rose's books - it's a translation she did of the work of French pastry chefs and its excellent. Now after seeing your beautiful cake, I have to get her new book. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  2. Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite

    Sorry Megan, I am laughing so hard at your pumpkin!!! Neil diligently did ours and the damned squirrels ate the teeth out of them! I am hopeless and would probably rival yours for disastrous!

    Love the sound of this cake - can your mum send me some?

    Also - SOOOO exciting about the camera! (but thanks for refraining from posting 50 photos of the cake. Nothing more annoying than seeing someone's breakfast from every conceivable angle... know what I mean?). I am looking forward to seeing your skills develop with the camera though - very much. You have a great eye, which is something money can't buy.

    Am seriously thinking about getting my own DSLR....

  3. A Day That is Dessert

    Sorry about your pumpkin! So nice that you're getting such great time with your mom. And this recipe looks delicious!

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