Southern Africa is home to an intriguing mix of peoples. That part of the world often telescopes into a black-and-white paradigm, but the blend is much richer, with populations of black, white, yellow, brown and everything in between. As a result, the cuisine is varied. On safari in Botswana last month, I mentioned my interest in local foods to the camp manager's wife, a lovely young woman with family roots in subcontinental India. So one evening, she arranged for us to be served a traditional meal of eland stew--cooked slowly on top of the camp stove all day to release the meat's juices and marrow--with mounds of steaming-hot, white polenta as the accompanying dish.
People in Botswana generally eat fruit for dessert, if they have dessert at all. But since the safari camps cater to American tastes, we savored a rich, dense gingerbread cake for dessert that evening. Alongside our plates, the servers placed small white pitchers of warm "pudding," or creme anglaise, to pour over the cake. Ginger is a common spice in Botswana, used both in African dishes as well as in those brought to the continent by its Indian population. In memory of that meal is this easy-to-make version of gingerbread cake.
3/4 cup dark honey
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup unsulphured blackstrap molasses
3 cups sifted flour (half white, half whole wheat)
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons powdered cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups buttermilk
Mix honey, oil, molasses, and eggs in a large bowl. Sift together all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture to the honey mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Pour the batter into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Serve slightly warm with whipped cream, flavored to taste with sugar and vanilla.