Credit: Earl Carter

Licorice molasses cake with candied ginger

David Moyle is a chef. He is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

Credit: Earl Carter

Learning to cook with less sugar is something of a contradiction to this recipe. By subbing out refined sugars with greater quantities of the same product in a more raw form, any potential benefits are lost. However, this recipe hinges on licorice. Despite containing very little sugar in its dried root form, nothing tastes sweeter on the tongue.

Licorice evokes images of black, rubbery straps of intensity. But in its pure root form it can be very versatile. It is commonly found in therapeutic teas and can also be adapted into cooking. The other major ingredient of licorice straps is blackstrap molasses. Molasses is effectively a byproduct of refined sugar. It has high nutritional benefits and an aniseed flavour that tastes vegetal.

Sometimes when faced with bold flavours, the best thing to do is double down. Which is why I use candied ginger to accompany the cake. For me, the ginger, lemon and salt work so well alongside the intensity of this cake that it forms a bizarre and chaotic synergy. It’s not a cake you would demolish in one sitting, but that is exactly the point. Instead it provides a small, sweet hit that can perfectly accent a meal or provide an afternoon pick-me-up.


Candied ginger

  • 100g young ginger
  • 150g white sugar
  • 30ml lemon juice


  • 200ml molasses (or malt extract)
  • 300g salted butter (diced and at room temperature)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 350g almond meal
  • 2 tbsp dried licorice root powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon powder
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • zest of one lemon
  • ¼ tsp salt flakes
  • 140g plain flour
  • 2 large eggs

To serve

  • 100g clotted cream
  • salt flakes
  1. Peel the ginger and cut into rounded thumbnail-size pieces. Shred the most tender piece and retain it to finish the plate. Bring a pot of water to the boil and blanch the ginger pieces for 20 seconds, then remove and refresh in ice water. Repeat the process twice, then combine the ginger with the white sugar and 200 millilitres of water and cook over a low heat for about one hour until the ginger looks translucent. Add the lemon juice and cook for a further five minutes, then strain and set aside the ginger to cool to room temperature.
  2. In a kitchen mixer with a whisk attachment, cream the molasses and butter on a medium speed for two to three minutes. Add the egg yolks one at a time and then turn the speed to low. Add the almond meal, the spices, the lemon zest and the salt and mix until well combined. Turn the mixer off, add the flour and the whole eggs, then incorporate with a spatula gently until the mixture is combined. Tip the batter into a buttered mould similar to a parfait dish or a small loaf tin. Bake at 185ºC for 35 minutes, then 160ºC for 12 minutes. Remove the cake from the mould onto a cake rack.
  3. Let the cake cool slightly before serving either whole with the clotted cream and shredded and candied ginger, or divide into portions and plate up separately. Finish with salt upon serving.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on November 9, 2019 as "Sweet relief".

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