It is sometimes very difficult to translate the names of our most traditional cakes into English, and the one below is no different. I’ve spent more time trying to find the best possible name for this recipe than actually writing it. Gingerbread didn’t sound right because it’s closer in taste and texture to what we call perník in Slovakia (and the Czech Republic as well).
Ginger biscuits or ginger cookies were my next choice, but they evoke round or vaguely round shape, and Zázvorníky (pronounced as Zaazvorniki) look so dissimilar that I would most happily call them their original Slovak name. After all, nobody has ever tried to give an English name to the Italian Tiramisu, the French Crème brûlée or the Turkish Baklava.
The main ingredient for Zázvorníky is zázvor (ginger in English); that is why I have finally decided to dub them Crispy Ginger Cakes. It’s very unlikely that you’ll find the traditional zázvorníky cutter anywhere in the world, but if you’d like to try this old Slovak recipe at home, just use any cookie cutter on hand. Or come to our Christmas markets, where you can definitely buy one. Indeed, Zázvorníky are very popular at Christmas time, as they are easy to make and keep well. Plus they fill your kitchen with the most wonderful smell.
Crispy Ginger Cakes or Zázvorníky
Makes about 75
- 350 g plain flour
- 200 g castor (powdered) sugar
- 8 – 10 g ground dried ginger
- 70 g butter, diced and softened
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon baking ammonia (can be replaced by baking soda or baking powder)
- Line two baking trays with baking parchment.
- Place the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir in the butter. Add the eggs and knead by hand until the mixture comes together and forms a semi-thick dough.
- Transfer the dough onto a floured rolling board and roll out to 3mm thickness. Cut out the cakes and place them on the baking trays. Let the cakes dry overnight to better keep the shape.
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC, and bake the cakes in batches for about 10 minutes or until they turn golden brown.
- Let cool thoroughly before transfering to an airtight container.
I love these spicy hard cakes; they are perfect for dunking into a cup of tea or coffee, and I really can’t imagine my Christmas without them.