Are you craving a slice of McVities ginger cake, but can't buy it in the States? It's surprisingly easy to make your own with this easy recipe! If you haven't tried it before, Jamaican ginger cake is a delightfully spicy sweet treat that tastes similar to gingerbread, and makes a great snack with a cup of tea.
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This ginger cake takes mostly traditional US pantry ingredients, but you may not know what the British names are for them! Learn these names so next time you read a British recipe, you'll know exactly what they're talking about. (Since our recipes on Savor the Flavour are primarily read by Americans, please realize that we used the American names in the recipe card.)
- Plain Flour: this simply means all-purpose flour.
- Mixed Spice: there's no close substitute for this sweet spice blend in the States, but you can easily make your own.
- Bicarb: this is the short form of the full name "bicarbonate of soda," which is the more technical name for baking soda.
- Black Treacle: the British version of molasses. It has a slightly more bitter flavor, but is very similar to what you'd get in the States.
- Golden Syrup: like molasses, this is a byproduct of sugar refining. There's no exact substitute for its rich golden color and amazing buttery flavor.
- Muscovado Sugar: this is a type of brown sugar. Muscovado is even darker than American dark brown sugar, but you can use the American kind as a substitute.
- Crystallized Ginger: also known as candied ginger in the States. It's fresh ginger root that has been sliced, boiled, and rolled in sugar to preserve it.
Side note: Many Americans don't realize that the measuring system of cups isn't widely used outside of the US and Canada. Most British bakers will be weighing their ingredients on a kitchen scale (affiliate) and using measuring spoons for smaller quantities (i.e. spices, baking powder, etc.). I encourage every baker to weigh their ingredients, as it's faster, much more accurate, and doesn't dirty extra dishes.
Is Jamaican ginger cake from Jamaica?
Yes, this cake did originate in Jamaica. Sugarcane and many kinds of exotic spices grow in Jamaica, making it easy to obtain the key ingredients. It has a similar taste and ingredients to that of gingerbread.
Nowadays, most people in the U.K. don't make their own ginger cake, but rather buy the McVities version (affiliate). It's definitely cheaper for us in the U.S. to make our own, plus it tastes much fresher!
How do you eat Jamaican ginger cake?
Many people in the U.K. like to cut off a slice and eat it plain. Others in the U.K. like to whip up some custard (affiliate) and pour it on top of a warm slice of ginger cake to make a lovely pudding. No matter whether you want your ginger cake with custard or not, make sure to serve it with a hot cup of tea.
How many calories are in Jamaican ginger cake?
If you slice a 10-inch loaf into ½-inch slices, you'll get 20 slices total. Each slice of this size contains 169 calories, 5.3g of fat, 29.3g of carbs, and 1.9g of protein. For the full nutrition facts, scroll to the bottom of the recipe card.
How long does Jamaican ginger cake last?
A homemade ginger cake should keep at room temperature for a week. Make sure to have it well sealed in an airtight container or zip-top plastic bag. Alternatively, you can freeze the loaf and thaw it in the microwave.
How to Make
Gather the ingredients for the ginger cake.
Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl.
Combine the sugar, syrups, and butter over medium heat, stirring until smooth and melted.
Pour the syrup mixture into the flour and mix until combined.
Add the egg and milk and mix until smooth.
Pour into a parchment-lined tin.
Bake at 340 F for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let the cake cool completely, preferably letting it sit well covered for at least 24 hours and up to 4 days before cutting to let it develop a sticky crust and richer flavor. When your ginger bread is to your liking, slice and serve with a cup of hot black tea.
- Vegan: Use vegan butter and plant-based milk along with ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce instead of the egg.
- Gluten Free: Substitute your favorite gluten-free flour blend (affiliate) for the all-purpose flour.
- Iced: Top the cooled cake with a simple icing made from powdered sugar and ginger syrup.
- Extra Ginger: Add a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger root, or a couple tablespoons of syrup from a jar of stem ginger for extra flavor.
- Stir the batter gently to prevent the cake from getting tough.
- Be careful not to overbake the cake, as that will make it dry.
- Want the best flavor and a sticky crust? Let the cake sit covered for at least 24 hours and up to 4 days before slicing and serving.
Other English Teatime Treats to Try
Other Sweet Breads You'll Love
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Jamaican Ginger Cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons mixed spice
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- 5 tablespoons molasses
- ¼ cup golden syrup
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ½ cup whole milk
- 1 large egg
- ⅔ cup crystallized ginger, finely diced
- Preheat the oven to 340 F. Butter a loaf pan and line it with parchment paper. I used a pan that measures 10 inches long, 5 ½ inches wide, and 2 ¾ inches deep. (This is a 2-lb tin in the UK.)
- Sift the flour, ginger, mixed spice, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda into a large bowl.
- Pour the molasses, golden syrup, dark brown sugar, and butter into a saucepan and set over medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the butter is melted, taking care not to let it boil.
- Pour the syrup mixture into the sifted flour mixture, then stir well with a spoon or spatula to combine.
- Gradually add the egg and milk, stirring to form a wet batter. Gently stir in the crystallized ginger.
- Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake at 340 F for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let the ginger cake cool in the tin, cover, and store at room temperature. It's best if you can make the cake 24 hours before you slice and serve it to allow the flavors to mature and the crust to become sticky.
- Avoid a tough cake by stirring the batter gently and not overmixing.
- Check the cake 10 minutes early to prevent an overbaked, dry loaf.
- It's best to let the cake sit for at least 24 hours before slicing and serving. That way, you'll get an even richer flavor and a lovely, sticky crust.
- Serve the loaf warm with custard and a cup of tea to make a lovely pudding (meaning dessert in general, not American pudding!).
Serving sizes and nutritional information are only an estimate and may vary from your results.
when do you add the stem ginger?
Thanks for your question, Darren! That was accidentally left out of the recipe instructions, but we've corrected it now. You should add the ginger in step 5.
baking powder and bicarbonate of soda are two completely different chemicals. Not basically the same thing as the writer of this recipe states.
This post clearly states that bicarb and baking soda are the same, not baking powder.
Tastes good but not sticky like a McV's.. not sticky at all in fact.. despite reducing baking time to 40 mins.. I didn't have a 2lb loaf tin so used a 1lb instead and baked 2 cakes, one after the other - would that be why?
If you cool the cakes and wrap them in plastic wrap and leave them on the counter overnight, they'll get sticky. They won't be sticky right out of the oven. Hope this helps, Adam!
This was delicious and British husband approved! Thank you so much!
You're very welcome, Heather! I'm so glad that you and your husband enjoyed it!
I used to travel to the UK with my ex husband- One of the first things I’d do was head to Tesco’s and get my McVitties Jamaican Ginger Cake. It’s my favorite thing to eat. On a whim last week I decided to see if there was some sort of copycat recipe. I made two loaves today knowing I didn’t have the willpower to let the loaf sit for a day or so. I just ate my first slice once the loaf cooled and I can’t imagine this tasting any better. I can’t wait for the next slice! Thank you for this perfectly wonderful recipe!
You're very welcome, Annelle! I'm so glad that this recipe could help you recreate McVitties ginger cake!
The crust of this cake is crispy and delicious on the first day. The candied ginger inside is so good! After it sits for a day, it is moist and even more flavorful. Yummy!
Glad you enjoyed the Jamaican ginger cake, Alex!
This soft bread is filled with the flavor of ginger. This is a wonderful cake! It's slightly crumbly and reminds me of Christmas. After sitting for 24 hours, the gingerbread taste intensifies and the crust becomes slightly sticky. The lovely bits of candied ginger add another dimension of delicious ginger flavor to the cake!
I like that this cake reminds you of Christmas, Beth! Thanks for leaving a review.