Gingerbread cake with jammy cranberries dotted all over the dark brown sugary surface. It’s honestly better than the Christmas cake!
What’s a proper gingerbread cake like?
A 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 start 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: even though it’s obviously sweet, gingerbread cake is never sickly.
I guess the sugar content is balanced by the amount – also staggering – of spices.
Gingerbread and I have a chequered past, gingerbread cookies notwithstanding: those are a huge success every time. But they are a cinch, whether you make the Lebkuchen German style, English ginger snaps or Dutch chunky ginger slabs. It’s about melted butter and honey stirred into flour and the toughest task is combining the spices.
Which country has the best gingerbread biscuits?
The fun element usually speaks in favour of the German Lebkuchen option. They are deliciously nicer than the ordinary English gingerbreads and can be cut into festive shapes.
The best part is decorating them: covering in more icing you ever thought possible and adorning with the most garish arrangements of assorted sprinkles. That’s usually when the Weather Man is in his element.
Ginger snaps are doddle-easy to make and the only worry is whether they’ll snap or stay limp and chewy. Snapping is not an essential requirement for me (you can always dunk), but to make sure they come out as crunchy as you want, cut them quite thin.
Dutch speculaas are awesome: a great big slab of gingerbread, broken up by those partaking into as large or small (or large) pieces as they wish. With whole almonds on top – it doesn’t get better, or easier to make too.
Ginger biscuits vs. ginger cake
Whole gingerbread cakes are trickier. My one previous full-cake 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 suddenly everywhere, presumably the molasses wanting to break free from the rest of the batter. Basically, the recipe I followed was not very good: the oven was nearly a write-off after all the minor explosions.
I can’t trace the recipe back which is a shame as I might test it against my modern-day abilities.
NY Times Cooking ginger cake
The recipe I used here comes from NY Times Cooking with the sugar content somewhat cut down and the technique simplified.
It is completely failproof and poses no vulcanological risk. It has since become one of the absolute must-have staples of the holiday period. It is festive, and sweet, and tart, and spicy, and something totally perfect for those freaks like me who detest Christmas pudding and Christmas cake.
How to make cranberry gingerbread cake?
It is seriously easy. It starts with making a sort of jam from the cranberries and I honestly can’t think why cranberry jam isn’t a thing. It doesn’t need any pectin; it sets like an angel and it’s just the right amount of tart and sweet.
You can make the cake batter from start to almost finish in a saucepan, but if you have a large bowl handy, it will up the quality. For some reason, it gives a much better outcome if you pour the wet ingredients into the dry, instead of the other way round.
Into that runny-ish batter, spoonfuls of cranberry jam/preserve are dolloped in, and dollop is the operative word. You can’t daintily distribute the fruit over the cake as it’s thickened a lot since you’ve cooked it. But it’s the festive-rustic type of thing – hence, perfectly fine.
The cake bakes into a gorgeous mass interloped with tart clumps of cranberries. Icing sugar to dust? completely no need, not to even mention icing. It’s a perfection, exactly as it is.
More cranberry recipes
Whether it is a cake or a bread, the cranberry and walnut loaf is the easiest festive bake you’ll be making again and again.
Classic American dessert, pumpkin pie, gets a festive twist in the shape of cranberry layer, adding tang and cutting through sweetness. Pumpkin and cranberry pie trumps plain pumpkin pie, for sure.
Cookies with cranberries; the gooeyness squared. In the shape of cranberry and condensed milk cookies, the best ever.
More ginger cake recipes
Carrot, ginger and almond cake studded with preserved stem ginger and topped with a layer of cream cheese frosting, that’s a posh carrot cake.
Ginger cake layered with orange marmalade has the same cake batter as this recipe, only sliced and layered.
And you could not forget cookies: ginger molasses cookies are the absolutely best.