A soft, sticky and beautifully spiced sponge, with ginger, cinnamon and treacle, studded with chunks of apple, and accompanied by a brandy-spiked caramel sauce. The perfect autumnal treat for drizzly days and dark evenings.
I love a sticky ginger cake; squidgy, soft and spicy with a dark treacly sweetness. From this time of year on into winter, there are very few puddings I would rather eat. Due to a glut of apples this year we’ve essentially been putting them in everything, but this particular combination is truly divine – little pockets of fresh and fruity apple are a lovely counterpoint to the rich and flavoursome sponge.
The cake is delicious by itself as a teatime treat, but for true decadence, there’s an optional caramel sauce, spiked with brandy. I could eat this sauce by itself with a spoon (and have done), but this ginger cake is really the perfect vehicle. Serve with vegan custard, cream or vanilla ice-cream and you have the most comforting, warming dessert, reminiscent of toffee apples, ginger bread, cosy fireplaces, mulled cider and bobble hats.
How To Make Sticky Ginger And Apple Cake
For this cake I use apple in two guises: apple puree for the batter and chunks of apple that get mixed in right before baking. You can buy apple puree, or smooth apple sauce, in jars at most supermarkets, however it’s really easy to make your own. Given the seasonal apple glut, I make big batches to freeze in large ice cube trays, in 50g portions. Then whenever I need it for baking I have some ready made that just needs defrosting.
All you need to make apple puree is to peel and core 3–4 apples of any variety, chop them into small chunks and bung in a saucepan with a dash of water. If you’re using cooking apples, add a tablespoon or two of sugar to counteract the tartness. Cook on a medium heat for a couple of minutes until the apple chunks are hot, then cover the saucepan and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 20–25 minutes, then remove from the heat. Once cool, whizz in a blender until smooth. Set aside 100g for this recipe and freeze the rest.
The cake batter is made in the same way most vegan sponges are; measuring the wet and dry ingredients separately and then combining together at the end. For the wet ingredients, grab a small saucepan and add 100g apple puree (if using frozen puree there’s no need to defrost it first), vegan butter (I used Naturli Vegan Block which is an excellent butter alternative but vegan spread or baking block will do), treacle, golden syrup and light soft brown sugar. Put the saucepan over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until everything has melted and combined into a very dark sauce. Remove from the heat to cool. In a small jug add the non-dairy milk and vinegar, mix, and set aside to curdle.
With the wet ingredients prepared, it’s at this point that I turn the oven on and grease and base line a baking tin. Doing it this way round gives the treacle mixture a little more time to cool, and saves the oven being at temperature way before you need it.
For the dry ingredients I like to use a combination of flour and oats – oats have a little bit of binding property which helps the apple puree do its work as an egg replacer. You could replace the oats with the same weight of flour but you may have a less cohesive cake. For a gluten-free version, ensure your oats are gluten-free, and use you preferred gluten-free flour blend with the addition of ½ tsp xatham gum. Blend your oats in a blender or food processor until they resemble a fine flour, then tip into a large mixing bowl, along with the flour, baking power, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, mixed spice and salt. Whisk until everything is incorporated.
With the wet and dry ingredients prepared, the last thing to do, before combining and popping in the oven, is to prepare your apple chunks. It’s best to leave this until last otherwise the apples will brown. I used two good sized eating apples, weighing about 350g in total, but anything in that ball park will do. Peel and core them, then cut into 1.5–2cm chunks.
Mix the curdled milk into the treacle mixture, then pour into the dry ingredients – the raising agent will start reacting straight away so work quickly! Mix vigorously until you have a smooth, thick batter, then stir in the apple chunks until evenly distributed. Scrape the batter into your tin, and even out, then bake for 35–40 minutes until a knife or skewer comes out clean (try to avoid an apple chunk as this will still be gooey).
Leave to cool in the tin for 10–15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool, or eat immediately while still warm.
If you’re going for the eat immediately option (a good choice if you ask me), then you can start the caramel sauce once the cake is out of the oven and cooling in the tin. I would really recommend using Naturli Vegan Block for this if you can get hold of it (it’s sold in Sainsbury’s and some health food shops in the UK), or a vegan butter alternative rather than a spread. You could also use coconut oil with a splash of non-dairy milk (the milk acts as an emulsifier). With spread, you will still have a tasty caramelly sauce, but I find the margarine flavour comes through, and it doesn’t always combine as well with the sugar due to the high water content.
Put the vegan butter, light soft brown sugar, and golden syrup in a saucepan. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, then let bubble for 5 minutes while stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and add a generous pinch of flakey sea salt (or a smaller pinch of fine salt) and a couple of teaspoons of brandy – this is optional, especially if serving to children, but highly recommended if not! Pour into a jug and use immediately. It will start to set if left, in which case it will need heating up again to loosen, and will keep in the fridge for a week.
To take this from afternoon tea to after-dinner delight, the addition of vegan vanilla ice cream, cream or custard are all excellent options. The cake reheats well in the microwave, so if you’ve made it in advance, a quick blast for 30 seconds or so per slice should have it piping hot. However if you’d rather it be in more classic cake form, ready to scoff and any time of your choosing, you could always drizzle the caramel sauce over the top of the entire cooled cake and leave it to set. That way you needn’t bother reheating or remaking the sauce, and you still get that extra sugary hit.
Please let me know if you give this a try! It’s always very exciting for me to know that people are making my recipes, and any feedback is really appreciated. You can comment below, or tag me on Instagram or Twitter @greedybearbakes.
Vegan Sticky Ginger and Apple Cake with Brandy Caramel Sauce
A soft, sticky and beautifully spiced sponge, with ginger, cinnamon and treacle notes, studded with chunks of apple, and accompanied by a brandy-spiked caramel sauce.
Vegan, Gluten-free option, Soya-free, Nut-free
- 100g (⅓ cup+1 tbsp) apple puree*
- 75g (⅓ cup) vegan butter (I use Naturli Vegan Block)
- 100g (⅓ cup) black treacle
- 75g (¼ cup) golden syrup
- 75g (⅓ cup) soft light brown sugar (or light muscovado)
- 50ml (3 tbsp) non-dairy milk of choice
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 75g (¾ cups+1 tbsp) oats (gluten-free if necessary)
- 150g (1¼ cups) plain flour (or gluten-free flour + ½ tsp xantham gum)
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ½ tsp fine salt
- 2 good-sized eating apples (somewhere around 350g net weight)
For the sauce** (optional)
- 100g (½ cup) vegan butter*** (I recommend Naturli Vegan Block)
- 125g (½ cup+1 tbsp) light soft brown sugar (or light muscovado)
- 50g (2 tbsp) golden syrup
- ½ tsp flakey sea salt (or ¼ tsp fine salt)
- 20ml (1 tbsp +1 tsp) brandy (optional)
- To a small saucepan, add 100g apple puree, 75g vegan butter, 100g black treacle, 75g golden syrup, and 75g light soft brown sugar. Place over a medium–low heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter has melted and the mixture forms a smooth, glossy sauce. Leave to cool.
- In a small jug or bowl mix 50ml non-dairy milk and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar. Set aside to curdle.
- Pre-heat the oven to 170C fan. Grease a loose-bottomed baking tin roughly 23cm in diameter (I used a square tin but round is also fine) and line the bottom with baking paper.
- Whizz 75g oats in a blender until they resemble fine flour, then add to a large mixing bowl along with 150g flour, 1 tbsp ground ginger, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp mixed spice, 1 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda, and ½ tsp salt. Mix.
- Peel and core 2 eating apples, and chop into small chunks (around 1.5–2cm).
- Pour the curdled milk into the treacle mixture and stir, then (and you’ll want to work quickly from this point) pour into the dry ingredients and mix vigorously until the flour is fully incorporated. Stir in the apples until evenly distributed and scrape the batter into your prepared tin. Even out, tap the bottom of the tin on the work surface a couple of times, then bake for 35–40 minutes until a skewer or knife comes out clean (though the apple chunks will be gooey so try to avoid these!).
- Cool in the tin for 10–15 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
- To make the caramel sauce, put 100g vegan butter, 125g light soft brown sugar, and 50g golden syrup in a small saucepan (you can use the same one you used for the treacle and there’s no need to wash it), and bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring occasionally with a whisk. Once bubbling, stir constantly for another 5 minutes, then take off the heat. Stir in the salt, and brandy (if using), taste and add a little more of either if necessary, then decant into a jug for pouring.
*You can buy apple sauce in the supermarket but to make it yourself, peel, core and finely chop 3–4 apples and put in a saucepan with a dash of water, over a medium heat. After a few minutes, once the apples are hot, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20–25 minutes. Leave to cool then whizz in a blender. You can freeze left-over puree in ice cube trays. You can use any apples for this, although if you use cooking apples, add 1–2 tbsp sugar.
**This makes a good quantity of sauce, perfect if you plan to get through the entire cake in one sitting. If you intend to be a little more restrained (or are simply serving fewer people) you can make half quantities, and keep any left-overs in the fridge. Simply reheat in short bursts in the microwave, or over a low heat on the hob, to loosen.
***For the caramel sauce I really recommend using a vegan butter alternative such as Naturli Vegan Block (which is amazing and the closest thing to butter I’ve tried but does contain nuts). Coconut oil would also work, with a splash of non-dairy milk to help the sauce emulsify. You can use vegan spread and your sauce will still be delicious, but I find that a little of the margarine flavour comes through, and the higher water content can mean that it doesn’t incorporate as well.