In 2013 Canberra was celebrating the centenary of the city, and the opening of the National Arboretum. Chef Janet Jeffs was moving the Ginger Catering Group into the kitchens of the newly opened Arboretum and needed a cake to celebrate the occasion.
And so the Canberra Cake was created.
The Ginger Group has called the National Arboretum home for the last 10 years. So to celebrate a decade of local food at the award-winning, iconic attraction, it’s relaunched the cake recipe with a few tweaks.
“In 2013 I was working at Old Parliament House where we had the produce shop and café called The Kitchen Cabinet and at the very new, just opened National Arboretum,” Janet told Region.
“This was the inspiration, as we needed a cake as a gesture of celebration.”
Janet has always been passionate about local food, and this cake was intended to celebrate the best of Canberra region produce. Much of the fresh produce used by Ginger Catering in its cafe and restaurant is sourced from within what Janet calls “Canberra’s 100 mile food shed”.
A press release about the cake explained some of the changes:
“As happens in life, the landscape of Canberra suppliers has changed over the past 10 years with some of the treasured growers that were included in the original recipe moved on to other ventures or sadly were unable to continue through the trials of drought, bushfires or the COVID pandemic.”
The updated recipe features local producers Tanbella Orchard apples, Long Paddock Farm eggs, and carrots sourced through not-for-profit supplier Southern Harvest Association, which partners with multiple local farms and regularly supplies fresh ingredients to the Ginger Group.
In order to fully appreciate this celebratory cake, I figured I’d better make it for myself: I really go the extra mile for my job!
The recipe is a carrot, apple and walnut cake. It’s a simple enough recipe to follow with clear steps and helpful explanations of how runny the batter will be.
The cake is moist, dense and pleasantly chunky with pieces of nuts and apples providing texture. Using honey in place of sugar gives the cake a more complex sweetness. It’s not something I often do in baking but I enjoy the flavour and the resulting moistness of the crumb.
While I was able to mostly source my ingredients from the same producers as Janet, I made a few substitutions to use ingredients I already had on hand, including local honey from a friend’s hive and eggs from a different local producer. I sourced most of the other ingredients from the Canberra Food Co-op. It was fun to think about how I could reduce the food miles as much as possible.
I took the cake in for morning tea at the Region Media offices where it was warmly received. Group editor Genevieve Jacobs regularly bakes something delicious for our weekly staff meeting (and she’s my boss!) so it was particularly gratifying to receive her review:
“Superb! A great cake.”
To try it for yourself, head to the Ginger Cafe at the Arboretum, where the Canberra Cake can be ordered by the slice, or you can even order the whole thing to take home! If you’d like to bake the Canberra Cake, you can find the recipe at the Ginger website here.
Ginger Cafe at the National Arboretum is open daily from 9 am to 4 pm.