There's a lot to be said for mixing vibrant colours and flavours on a plate, but when the wind's whistling through the gaps in the window panes and the mice have moved back in for the winter, it's in brown and beige foods that we seek solace: bread, toffee, chocolate, cubes of melting fudge, sizzling roast potatoes. This dark, damp, sticky cake is one such dish. If you're on the hunt for lightness or refinement, you'd better look elsewhere: this is comfort food in all its syrup-soaked, indulgent glory. The less sweet-toothed among you might cringe at the amount of golden syrup that goes into this cake, it's not actually as sickly as you'd expect: the dark brown sugar, rich with treacly depth, balances the simpler sweetness of the syrup. If you want to give it a still darker edge, add 1-2 tbsp of black treacle, too.
150g unsalted butter
125g golden syrup
75g soft dark brown sugar
175g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and line a 900g loaf tin (about 20x9cm at its base) with baking parchment.
2 Melt the butter with the golden syrup over a low heat, then add the sugar. Leave to cool slightly. In a separate bowl, stir the flour together with the baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Stir the eggs and milk into the butter mixture, then whisk in the dry ingredients, taking care to break apart any clumps. Once the batter is fairly smooth, pour it into the prepared tin. It's a far runnier batter than for many other cakes, but it's this that'll help to ensure a damp, sticky texture.
3 Bake for 50-60 minutes at 160C/325F/gas mark 3. Baking on a gentler heat prevents the surface of the cake from drying too much.It's ready when a small knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out with no more than a couple of crumbs stuck to it. Don't wait until the knife emerges spotless, though - better to slightly under- than over-cook it.
4 Leave the cake to cool in its tin. To help keep moisture in, you can give it a tin foil "hat" - the cake will continue to steam under its own heat as it cools. Enjoy within a day or so of making or, ideally, while it's still a little warm, with thick custard and a drizzle of golden syrup.
Ruby's nostalgic golden syrup loaf cake and cookies wait invitingly... Photograph: Jill Mead/Guardian