Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Orkney Ginger Broonie

In my previous post, I mentioned discussions between E and myself about what Scottish food to cook for Tartan Day. I decided on a soup quickly. Choosing a dessert was harder. When I asked E what his mum used to make all he could suggest was sponge pudding with custard. Unfortunately I had made steamed pudding only the previous weekend and don’t intend to make it again for a while.

We threw around more ideas. Clootie dumpling (more steamed pudding). Cranachan (‘they only make that at posh hotels’, E told me). Deep fried Mars Bar (banned on grounds of health and safety). Scones (tempting). I asked my mum over the phone and she started to skim through her Claire MacDonald Scottish Cookery book. Atholl Brose (maybe one day). Edinburgh fog (too creamy). Trifle (E would only ask for a serving without fruit). Gingerbread with oatmeal. Finally I was inspired. I scribbled down her instructions.

E is always hankering after a good gingerbread. My last attempt did not live up to his expectations. I loved the idea of oats in this recipe, which seemed quite Scottish. Apparently this one is called Broonie and is a traditional cake in the Orkneys. Claire knows these things as she is the grand dame of Scottish cookery.

At the end of dictating the recipe, mum told me it should be wrapped and kept for 3 days before eating. I gulped as it was the day before Tartan Day. The best I could do was bake it that evening and leave it overnight. When it came out of the oven it was after midnight so I was able to resist tasting it. But we decided that it tasted as good after one day wrapped as on the third day. (Though I confess I don’t understand wrapping and storing cakes for days, so I couldn’t tell you if it made a difference if we cut open the cake before the three days are up.)

It was a very simple and delicious cake. Usually I want a rich chocolate cake and E wants a buttercake. We both loved this soft gentle gingery cake. It is neither fiercely spicy nor darkly mysterious but it has a particular old fashioned charm. The oats add to the moisture and texture. It is very good with butter. As we sat eating it, E asked if it was easy to make. Fear not, no cake would excite him enough to start him baking. But he was hoping I might make it again.

Orkney Ginger Broonie
(from Claire MacDonald)

1½ cups plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup oatmeal
⅔ cup soft dark brown sugar (or raw sugar)
85g (⅓ cup) butter
2 tbsp black treacle
1¼ cups buttermilk or yoghurt
1 egg, beaten
½ cup raisins (optional – I didn’t use)

- Preheat oven to 180 C.
- Grease and line 10 x 20cm (4 x 8 inch) loaf tin.
- Place the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- Melt the butter and treacle. Whisk in buttermilk and egg.
- Pour wet ingredients into bowl of dry ingredients and mix til combined.
- Pour batter into prepared loaf tin.
- Bake 50-60 minutes or until a skewer in the centre comes out cleanly.
- Leave in tin 15 minutes before turning out to cool.
- Wrap and keep in a tin for 3 days (That’s Claire MacDonald’s advice – we thought it was great after 1 day.)

On the Stereo:
Tigermilk: Belle & Sebastian


  1. I must apologize. I have never heard of Tartan Day, but surely am enjoying the goodies that you prepared for it! The stew sounds great but, oh my, I can almost smell the ginger cake. I do not know how you resisted just taking one smidge of a piece when it came out of the oven. Great will power Johanna!

  2. Your cake sounds lovely. I find that ginger cakes tend to turn more sticky and moist when left wrapped for a few days, although are still very yummy when eaten fresh.
    The oats certainly add a great scottish feel.

  3. Love the sounds of this. My sweetie also happens to be a huge gingerbread fan and he would be most pleased if I made this for him.

  4. That ginger cake does look and sound good!

  5. Oh, wow. that sounds delicious. I am bookmarking this to make the next time I have a weekend at home to bake. I love the idea of the oats and the softness of a ginger cake. Mmmmmm. Now my mouth is watering.

  6. This looks great Johanna. I've yet to bake a ginger cake- umm I've yet to cook a lot of things.

  7. Now you've got me thinking about Scottish foods--must make something like this for the HH next year. Thanks for letting me know about Tartan Day, too--what a neat idea!

  8. thanks deb - I don't think Tartan day is well known but sean connery is into it so I am sure it will take off :-) I am not usually good a resisting fresh cake but when it is late I get too tired to be hungry.

    thanks Katie - I hope I have more patience with my next ginger cake as I still hope to find a really sticky ginger cake

    thanks Lisa - if he likes ginger cake then you will be very popular with this cake

    thanks Kevin

    thanks Kathleen - the oats do add to the taste and texture - although you wouldn't necessarily guess they were there

    thanks Pixie - I hope you get to try gingerbread sometime

    thanks Ricki - I think it was E's excuse to request some Scottish food!

  9. that's such a cute name for a dish:) lately I've developed a taste for ginger-flavored cakes, so this one sounds exciting Johanna! the loaf looks fab!:)

  10. Ummm that richer aspect your plates have all, enchants your blog to me. I found it by chance, was preparing a straight line of "rumbledethumps" and aparecistes. I am of Spain and here this prescription is not very habitual. I liked your version. Thanks, Enhorabuena by your blog


    Ummm que aspecto más rico tienen todos tus platos, me encanta tu blog. Lo encontré de casualidad, estaba preparando una recta de "rumbledethumps" y aparecistes. Soy de España y aquí no es muy habitual esta receta. Me gustó tu versión.
    Gracias, Enhorabuena por tu blog


  11. Johanna ~ My personal experience with gingerbread is that the three days of being left wrapped allows the ginger to lose some of its zing, so that it melds with the other flavors, eventually rounding out and deepening all the flavours. The ginger itself is never entirely lost, but it is more mellow. Additionally, there might be something to be said about the moistness of the cakes, but I don't know that this has anything to do with the ginger but the nature of the other dry and liquid ingredients.

    This is a wonderful post, and I, too, am glad for your healthy perspective on the broonie - sure there is sugar, but the oats are enough to convince one that this baked goodie is healthy.

  12. I must try this! It looks like it's less sweet than the oatmeal cake I made-- so it's great alternative!

  13. This looks really great... and seems to have less sugar than my "crack cake," so I must try it!

  14. thanks Mansi - amazing how a name can make a dish seem more aligned to a nation!

    thanks trotamundas - thanks for visiting - glad you liked my version of rumbledethumps

    thanks Shaun - that is v interesting about the ginger mellowing - I hope I will have better timing with my next gingerbread! And yes this cake did feel relatively healthy

    thanks Ann - it isn't particularly sweet but doesn't have your childhood connections which I am sure contribute to your crack cake's attraction :-)

  15. I read the title of the post and sat scratching my head over what a broonie was, but my curiosity has been wonderfully sated! I've never had gingerbread before (only cookies) but I think the idea of a hearty gingerbread with oats will be one to try in the coming cooler months :)

  16. thanks Ellie - it is a great cake for winter!


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