Now, many people know Justin Gellatly for his doughnuts (I’ve used his recipe to make Paska and Rhubarb + Custard ones), but he makes something else just as good! Some may even say it’s better – I’m talking about his cracking ginger cake! Rich, moist, and very moreish. And if you pick up a copy of Justin Gellatly’s book Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding you can try his recipe yourself! Or just keep reading to make my slight adaptation.

You can bake this cake in a simple 9×9″ tin, and cut it into squares. Serve it warm, adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream – it’s the perfect end to a meal! Or, you can fancy it up a notch like I did here – baking it in two round tins to make a layered cake. I used a vanilla German buttercream between the layers (and a thin layer on the outside for a ‘naked cake’ look), then topped it with caramel sauce, poached pears and some candied nuts.

Ginger cake with poached pears and caramel sauce | Hello Victoria

Now, I made this once before with the same amounts used in Justin’s original recipe – and found that it didn’t taste quite as strong as the cakes sold in Justin’s bakery (Bread Ahead). So this time, I increased the amount of chopped stem ginger and ground spices. It’s such a great cake – sticky and full of ginger flavour.

Ginger cake with poached pears and caramel sauce | Hello Victoria

For the caramel sauce – I really wanted to use a recipe that only had a couple of ingredients. Caramel sauce isn’t complicated – just sugar and a fat (butter and/or cream) that has been heated to a specific temperature for the consistency you want. I adapted this recipe slightly, using a dry caramel (I can’t be bothered adding water only to then boil it away) to make a sauce with the right thickness to top a cake. Not too runny, but you can still get some nice drips on the edges. Of course, I accidentally boiled it too long (distracted) and it was super thick, so I just thinned it a bit with some hot water! You could also add more cream instead.

As for the buttercream? Well, I decided to go for a German buttercream, as I dislike the traditional stuff. I was always that kid removing the icing from her cupcake because American-style buttercream is either sickly sweet or just tastes like butter. German buttercream is pastry cream that has been whipped with butter. And it is delicious! I used inspiration from this recipe, whipping the butter first, and adding the pastry cream in increments. I didn’t have any issues with it splitting, so perhaps it’s the new way to make buttercream?

And to top off the cake? Spiced poached pears and candied nuts! I used Jamie Oliver’s recipe for the pears, which is just so simple! The candied nut recipe makes waaaay more than you need – but they taste great so who cares! I had hoped to get some gold leaf to finish everything, but they sold out 🙁 Maybe next time!

And that’s it! Maybe a good cake for New Year’s Eve? I had hoped to post this before Christmas, but time got away from me… but hey – what else is new?

Ginger Cake with Poached Pears + Caramel Sauce

A deliciously spiced ginger cake, layered with a vanilla German buttercream and topped with poached pears in a caramel sauce. Perfect for your next festive occasion!
Total Time 6 hours
Course Dessert
Servings 10 people


  • Ginger Cake
  • 300 g plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1.5 tsp mixed spice
  • 1.25 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 375 ml whole milk
  • 165 g dark brown sugar
  • 150 g unsalted butter cubed
  • 85 g black treacle
  • 165 g golden syrup
  • 1 tsp sodium bicarbonate
  • 120 g stem ginger chopped
  • 80 ml stem ginger syrup
  • 1 egg beaten
  • Caramel Sauce
  • 120 g sugar
  • 2 tbsp water optional
  • 115 ml double cream
  • pinch salt
  • Vanilla German Buttercream
  • 250 ml whole milk
  • 100 g sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 20 g corn starch
  • 7 g unsalted butter
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 250 g unsalted butter softened
  • Spiced Poached Pears
  • 3-4 pears
  • 0.5 cinnamon stick
  • 0.125 tsp nutmeg
  • 4 cloves
  • 0.5 vanilla bean optional
  • 2 cardamom pods crushed
  • nub fresh ginger peeled sliced
  • 200 g sugar
  • 700 ml water


  • Ginger Cake
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt.
  • In a medium pot, melt the butter along with the golden syrup, treacle, brown sugar, and 75ml of the milk. Bring to a slow boil.
  • Whisk in the baking soda (be careful as it will bubble up quite a bit!) and then the rest of the milk to cool it down. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
  • Whisk in the flour mixture, followed by the beaten egg, stem ginger and syrup.
  • Let the mixture sit for 2 hours at room temperature. Meanwhile, grease and line the tin(s) with parchment paper.
  • Preheat the oven to 160°C (140°C fan). Stir the cake mixture and pour into the prepared tin(s).
  • Bake in the preheated oven for an hour, or until the cake is firm to the touch.
  • Spiced Poached Pears
  • In a medium saucepan, place the sugar, water and all of the spices. Bring to a simmer.
  • Peel the pears (leave the stems intact) and place in the spiced liquid. Simmer for about 2 hours – or until soft.
  • Leave in the solution while it cools, and store in the liquid until you are ready to serve.
  • Caramel Sauce
  • In a small pot, make a dry caramel with the sugar. If you’re not comfortable making a dry caramel, use water to get the sugar dissolving, then simmer until it turns a dark amber.
  • Warm the double cream in the microwave until steaming. Once the caramel is a dark amber, add the cream, and whisk together.
  • Boil the solution until it reads 107°C, then remove from the heat. Whisk in a pinch of salt, and some vanilla (optional).
  • German Buttercream
  • In a small pot, add the milk, half the sugar, and the vanilla bean. Bring to a simmer and remove from the heat. Let infuse for at least 30 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk with the cornstarch and sugar. Add enough milk to make a slurry.
  • Bring the milk back to a simmer, and slowly whisk into the egg mixture. Return to the pot and bring to a boil (whisking constantly).
  • Boil the mixture for at least 10 seconds, and then pass through a sieve. Stir in the 7g butter, then press cling film to the pastry cream to prevent it forming a skin. Cool to room temperature.
  • Whip the butter in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add the pastry cream a spoonful at a time, whipping well in between.
  • Cake Assembly
  • Place one of the ginger cake layers on your cake plate, and top with a third of the buttercream. Place the second layer on top, cover with another third of the buttercream, and then use the rest to ice the sides.
  • Spread some of the caramel sauce on top, allowing small drips to go over the sides.
  • Remove the poached pears from the liquid, and pat dry with some paper towel. Arrange on top of the cake, and surround with some candied nuts.
Keyword Buttercream, Cake, Caramel, German buttercream, Ginger, Ginger cake, Pears

Leave a Comment

Recipe Rating