Spice Cake – Beauty

“That wonderful table would never have offered me the same dish twice; but while I reveled in the variety, I also sometimes demanded a repetition. There was a dark treacly spice cake that I like very much, and asked for several times. Sometimes it burst into being like a small exploding star, several feet above my head, and settled magnificently to my plate; sometimes a small silver tray with a leg at each of five or six corners would leap up and hurry towards me from a point far down the table.”

Beauty, by Robin McKinley


The cake is reminiscent of proper gingerbread: light and airy, with a distinctive ginger bite. However, the treacle gives it an earthy density that can only be achieved with treacle or molasses, and is somehow inherently autumnal. I tried it plain, and while it was good, it really benefits from a touch of icing.

As in the book, I recommend that you enjoy this cake followed by tea sweetened with orange peel, and spiced with fresh ginger.

Treacle Spice Cake Recipe

Cook’s Notes: Although quite nice plain, as an accompaniment to tea, the spice cakes are also wonderful iced. I drizzled a little apple cider glaze over half of mine, then topped with a red cinnamon candy. Wonderful!


  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks) 
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup black treacle (molasses can also work, in a pinch)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch of cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 325F; grease an 8″ square baking pan, cover with parchment paper, and grease again.

Cream together the butter, sugar, treacle, eggs, milk, and ginger in a large bowl. Sift in the dry ingredients into this and mix thoroughly. Pour into the prepared pan, and bake for 35 minutes. When it’s done, a toothpick inserted into the cake should come out clean.

Pull the cake out by the parchment paper, and allow to cool. Cut into squares, and if you like, dust with powdered sugar, or glaze with icing. Enjoy!

 *For an apple cider glaze, start with 1 cup of powdered sugar. Add, in tiny increments, just enough apple cider to get a nice runny consistency. Drizzle this over the cake, and serve.*


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