Sunday 5 February 2012

Cake Love in the Afternoon

Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread Cake. This afternoon cake is onomatopoeic in that it sounds exactly like what it is: sticky, cranberry-y, gingerbread-y and cake-y. It happened to also be sunshine-y in my kitchen boudoir the day I made it and can I just say who needs rubies if you've got cranberries soaking up sunlight? This cake not only looks pretty, but tastes delicious in the way an afternoon cake should. Btw, absolutely no judgment on my part if you happen to deem this cake a morning cake as well. Breakfast and I sure did.

Taut and tart fresh cranberries were seduced into a soft, sweet, bubbling mass by a liberal sprinkling of vanilla sugar and slow and steady heat.

Then some of the spices in my rack were invited to engage in an aromatic orgy in my mixing bowl - coming together to perfectly perfume the cake batter (and my kitchen) with the sweet aroma of ginger, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. These spices are probably the most polyamorous in my cupboard - they flirt their way into many a dish, choosing different partners constantly. The last time I put cinnamon and chili together (another poly spice), sparks flew, and a love child of Mexican dark chocolate pudding was born. 

Dark and sultry molasses and sweet syrupy honey then drizzled their way into warm milk, butter, brown sugar, and vanilla - four of the most comforting, dependable, cozy ingredients, as ingredients go. Not quite as promiscuous as cinnamon, say (that little minx is even crossing over into savoury these days, unabashedly frolicking with some soups and stews that have crossed my counter-top lately). Milk, butter, sugar, and vanilla may be the 'vanilla sex' of baking staples in comparison to their spicier counterparts, but they sure form the foundation for an intimate relationship with my appetite.

You can see by the photo on the left that the buttery sugary mixture melted into a bubbling mass of brown. The recipe suggested I heat up the mixture, but not let it boil. But I got distracted taking pictures of my recently renovated (beautiful) kitchen (Coming soon to a blog post near you!) and let it come to a boil. Did it change the finished product? Perhaps. Did it alter my enjoyment of it or stop me from eating it or serving it happily to visiting friends? Not at all. Something I'm learning in life as well as in the kitchen is to be gentler with myself when I make mistakes. I'm a well-trained perfectionist, and used to unnecessarily berating myself when things go awry and I'm to blame. I've found recently it's a lot more compassionate to myself and others when I admit to what has happened and make the best out of what is left. Mistakes, in my experience, often end up as miracles and although I over-boiled the liquid ingredients and the cake came out slightly chewier towards its outer edges from a few moments too long in the oven (yes, my kitchen is that beautiful. Distracted again.), it didn't stop the cake from tasting good or being a cozy finish to a lunch with loved ones. Besides, mistakes brought to the light and examined (and occasionally eaten) often provide the perfect launching point to making better choices next time around. And if you're Life, or this cake, there is a guaranteed 'next time.'

Candied ginger snuck its way into my mouth the batter as well. I love candied ginger. We're close. 

This next photo is an action shot and required no less than contortionist skills, an invisibility cloak for my annoying shadow, a magical third arm, and a miracle from God. I'm not sure how it happened, but I was determined  to get a shot of pouring batter with sunlight streaming through. It happened (waaaaay too many unsuccessful pictures later). And I am happy now. See below.

The spiced dry ingredients were made wet by the melted butter/sugar/milk mixture and the batter was carefully poured into a prepared cake pan. Syrupy cranberries were lovingly spooned across the top to nestle in the batter. 45 minutes and 80, 000 inhalings of knee-weakening scents later, this afternoon cake was born. 

Meg from A Sweet Spoonful quoted Melissa Clark's description of this cake in her blog as being "rude, sticky and wet.", which is why it found an immediate and welcome home in my "to bake" file (I'm naughty like that). Now I've got you all wondering what else is in there. That's a secret I'll never tell. 


Gossip gir...sorry. Who am I kidding. I will not only tell you every juicy detail, I will take and post inappropriate photos of these recipes that will inspire you to gasp and drool and otherwise engage in sounds usually saved for, er, 'alone time.'    

Since I was feeding this "rude, sticky and wet" cake to guests, and there was a set of baby ears in the room, our appreciation for this cake was kept fairly PG. I did send some home with one friend and received a guilty email the next day saying she had intended to share it, really, she did, but she just 'somehow' ended up eating it (oh so deliberately) alone. 

Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread Cake - lovingly adapted from Meg of A Sweet Spoonful via Melissa Clark's Cook This Now (which I very much encourage you to do). 

OVEN: 350F

2 CUPS (1/2 POUND) fresh or frozen cranberries
1-2 TBSP water
3/4 CUP sugar
1/2 CUP (1 STICK) butter (I always use salted in my baking - find it brings out the flavour)
2/3 CUP brown sugar
1/2 CUP milk
1/2 CUP molasses
1/4 CUP honey (golden syrup works too)
1/2 TSP vanilla extract
1 1/2 CUPS all-purpose flour
1/2 TSP baking powder
1/4 TSP baking soda
1/2 TSP kosher salt
1 TBSP ground ginger
1/2 TSP ground cinnamon
1/4 TSP ground cloves
1/4 TSP ground nutmeg
1/4 TSP fresh ground pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 TBSP candied ginger

Bring cranberries, water and sugar to a simmer and bubble in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves and thick sauce forms. You will hear the cranberries quietly gurgling and glurping with glee from all that sweet sugar  lovin' breaking down the tartness. This courtship lasts about 10 min or so. Remove from heat and set aside.

In another saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, milk, molasses, honey, and vanilla. Bring it to a simmer and remove from heat (do not let boil). HERE. THIS IS THE PLACE. Hi my name is Sonja and I let it boil.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices. Stir in the non-boiled liquid mixture and whisk in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Gently fold in candied ginger.

Pour into greased and floured or parchmented (is that a word? 'Tis now.) 9x9 square or 9" round pan.

Lovingly spoon the cranberry sauce mixture on top of the batter in the pan. Some will sit atop the batter like crown jewels, others will hibernate closer to the bottom of the batter, providing a surprise burst of juicy sweetness later upon eating.

Bake until the top is firm and golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, approximately 45-50 minutes.

Enjoy. This cake tastes like a sunny afternoon with friends feels while also managing to taste like alone time. It's a versatile cake.


  1. this looks beyond luscious! I will have to wait until i am expecting visitors to attempt. Love the writing; tea and visit looming on the horizon. Chelsea beckons you to a walk and fireside whenever. x

  2. Mmm...a walk and a fireside, tea and a good chat. Those are probably four of my favourite things. All of which would go well with this cake :)

  3. O.M.G. this sounds so good! Might you by any small miracle be sharing the recipe that is your famous ginger cookies some time soon? Puh-lease? *on bended knee*

  4. This cake is simply sinful - that batter and those fruits - I will never see gingerbread quite the same again - delicious and bookmarked :D

    Choc Chip Uru
    Latest: Surprise Choc Cookies + Choc Truffle Chunk Muffins

    1. So glad you enjoyed it...there is definitely more ginger on the horizon.

  5. Holy crow! This sounds amazing. It's only 8:45 am here, and I'm thinking I need cake. For breakfast. Now...