cranberry gingerbread cake
Mon, 11 December, 2017
The proper gingerbread cake is a little like the English Christmas cake: it’s supposed to mature before being baked and mature after baking so you might as well get it going in February. The amount of sugar it contains is staggering, albeit under the guise of honey, golden or maple syrup, molasses, treacle and whatever else not. It weirdly doesn’t transfer into taste though, sweet obviously but gingerbread cake is not sickly. I guess the sweetness is balanced by the amount – also staggering – of the spices and their secret balance.
My past experience with gingerbread is quite abysmal, gingerbread cookies discounted: those are a huge success every time. But they are a cinch, melted butter and honey stirred into flour and the toughest task is combining the spices.
The one previous gingerbaking occasion was a spectacular disaster featuring a minor in-oven volcano eruption, with flights worldwide not affected but only just. I overestimated the tin capacity. I underestimated the rising of the cake. There was far too much black goo, presumably the molasses separating from the batter. Basically, the recipe I followed was crap.
I can’t trace it back which is a shame as I might test my modern day abilities; or potentially write off my new oven which makes it fortunate. The recipe I used here comes from NY Times Cooking with the sugar content somewhat cut down and the technique simplified. It is foolproof and poses no vulcanological risk. It is festive, and sweet, and tart, and spicy, and something totally perfect for those freaks like me who detest Christmas pudding and fruit cake.
cranberry gingerbread cakeServings: 16Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- 300g (2 cups) cranberries
- 150g (¾ cup) caster sugar (or jam sugar if you have any)
- 110g (1 stick) butter
- 130g (2/3 cup) dark brown sugar
- 120ml (½ cup) whole milk
- 120ml (½ cup) maple syrup
- 60ml (¼ cup) molasses
- 185g (1 ½ cups) plain flour
- 1 tbsp. ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- a pinch of black pepper
- ½ tsp fine salt
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 ½ tbsp. grated fresh ginger (about 5cm piece, peeled)
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1. Prepare the cranberries ahead so they can cool down. Rinse them and place in a saucepan with the sugar and a tablespoon of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until half the cranberries break down and the sauce is thick. Leave to cool down.
2. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Line a square or round 23cm (9in) tin with parchment.
3. Place the butter with the brown sugar, milk, maple syrup and molasses in a small pan and stir over medium heat until the butter melts.
4. Mix the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, salt, pepper, bicarb of soda and baking powder in a large bowl. Pour in the butter mix and stir energetically with a spatula until lumps disappear. Stir in the fresh ginger, then beat in the eggs.
5. Pour the batter into the tin – it will be very runny. Spoon the cranberries in dollops into the cake batter.
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
7. Cool completely in the tin before cutting and serving.