Bonfire Night Ginger Cake

We called it Guy Fawkes’ Night when I was a child, and saw nothing odd about burning the effigy of a human being on top of our back garden bonfires. Dad would fire off rockets from milk bottles buried in the ground, the Catherine Wheels would always fizzle out after a couple of revolutions, I’d make patterns with my sparkler and my big brother would try to terrorise me with bangers thrown near my feet. It was over in no time but then we’d crowd into the kitchen.

Mum would have potatoes baking in the oven and she would have made sticky ginger cake and a big tin of Bonfire Night toffee, which had to be smashed apart with a hammer. It locked our jaws together, no bad thing from an adult point of view when you’ve got a room full of over-excited children.

I’ve brought the toffee and ginger flavours together in this traybake, perfect for cutting into squares for small hands but equally popular with grown-ups. You can add chopped preserved ginger or dates or a handful of sultanas, but it’s gilding the lily. Gingerbread with chewy, gooey bits. It will keep for more than a week, well wrapped, but I don’t think it’ll last until Bonfire Night in our house.

Bonfire Night Ginger Cake


225g plain flour

1 tspn bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tspn salt

1 tbsp ground ginger (plus another 1/2 tbsp if you like it hot)

1 tspn powdered cinnamon

75g butter

100g soft light brown sugar

100g golden syrup

100g black treacle

2 eggs

1 to 4 tbsp milk (see below)

1 x 125g bag of soft caramels


Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease a 20cm square brownie tin and line the base and two opposite sides with a piece of baking paper long enough to overlap the edges. Don’t skip this stage, no matter how non-stick your tin, or you’ll be scraping toffee off the bottom later and cursing.

Measure the golden syrup, treacle, sugar and butter into a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the butter has melted and the mix has blended. Remove from the stove and cool until you can comfortably hold your hand against the side of the pan.

Sieve the flour, bicarb, salt, ginger and cinnamon into a bowl.

Whisk the eggs lightly with the milk – use 1 tbs if you have used golden syrup from a squeezy bottle and four if from a tin. The consistency is very different. Stir into the treacle mixture. Add the whole lot to the flour bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in the caramels.

Pour into the tin, place in the centre of the oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until well risen and a cake probe comes out clean. Cool in the tin for half an hour, then lift out using the baking paper and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Wrap in foil and store for two days before eating, or for a week if you like it stickier.

24 thoughts on “Bonfire Night Ginger Cake

  1. Wow. This is a diabetic bomb 🤣
    Sounds absolutely gorgeous, and a nice easy recipe!
    I enjoyed your reminisces of “Bonny Nght” as we called it in Merseyside. Boxes of Standard Fireworks, that farted and pftttd on their way, and, no matter how pathetic they seem now, were the height of excitement in our house. And every year, Mum shouting, “Don’t return to the fireworks!” if they didn’t go off.
    Mum would make her version of toffee apples. Really horrible jaw breakers, but I insisted on them every year!
    Happy days…

  2. Oh Linda, what a wonderfully evocative description of my own childhood Bonfire Nights. The only addition a few potatoes wrapped in tin foil and buried in the fire. They were always
    imperfectly baked (hence all the others in the oven) but were part of the magic of the evening. What cookery is this? No oven? (You can tell I was never a Girl Guide!). It’ll be a strange 5th November when the exhortation to ‘Keep your distance’ refers to people rather than fireworks. But I’ll make this wicked traybake and deliver portions beforehand (perfect that it keeps well) with hopes that things might be different this time next year. Thank you for bringing back lovely memories x

    • You’re welcome. NB I was a Ranger Guide for a couple of months before I realised that (in those days) the Venture Scots had all the fun. So pleased you like the recipe, Sue, hope you enjoy it. Lx

  3. This sounds lovely, thank you. Hoping to make it very soon. Now…………where to find soft caramels? I wonder if salted caramel spread would work or would that spread out too much?

  4. It’s out of the oven and cooling along with a Sussex Apple cake. House smells fantastic. I love ginger and switched the caramels with ginger gems (husband is not a great toffee fan!). Looking forward to tasting later 😀

  5. It’s very nice [had to try some before I wrapped it up!!] thank you. As a nod to those toffee apples we used to try to eat I added small cubes of apple ~ works well enough but I think I shall put in stem ginger next time instead.

  6. Gosh, that looks like it’d hit the spot on a day like today! I’m really loving the sound of these flavours..

    • Well, the answer to that is “it depends”. Some parents think burning a human effigy is in poor taste and pre-coronavirus, most Bonfire Night celebrations were group events run by local organisations to prevent injury and tended to focus more on the fireworks. But some places keep the Guy Fawkes tradition alive and it can get quite political: (Scroll down to the bottom.)

  7. funny how halloween has taken over here in australia, so guy fawkes night is a thing of the past. well i guess that happened when they banned the sale of fireworks! such a shame. love your ‘tray bake’. i think we would call it a slice.

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