For our next holiday treat, we’ve turned to Tara O’Brady, author of the cookbook Seven Spoons and blog by the same name. Tara’s signature, mouthwatering cakes are always a sight to behold, and this Sticky Cranberry Double Ginger Cake may be one of her finest. A seasonal adaptation of one of her favorite everyday cakes from her cookbook, this cake says “Christmas” to me, inside and out. With its shiny glaze, simple cream cheese frosting, and sugared cranberries on top, I am sure this would be the showstopper of any holiday gathering. Please note, however, that you will need to start the sugared cranberries the night before! You can see Tara’s recipes for pakoras here, and her esquites and gazpacho here. —Kristina
Why Tara loves this recipe: This recipe is a holiday-appropriate adaptation of a favorite everyday cake from my cookbook, the Blueberry Poppyseed Snacking Cake. I love taking a family regular and dressing it up for festive occasions. While the recipe reads long, the cake is simple to make and never fails to impress. It has the dense, buttery charm of a pound cake, but then the hum of dried ginger and the zip of candied ginger, punctuated by jammy pockets of sharp-sweet cranberries. The generous swathe of pristine frosting and shimmering berries remind me a bit of a frozen winter landscape — a welcome bit of fancy for this time of year.
Sticky Cranberry Double Ginger Cake
Makes one tall 6-inch cake, or a shorter 8-inch one
Note: The sugared cranberries must be started the night before.
For the simple syrup
– 1 cup water
– 1 1/4 cup (250 g) granulated sugar
– Seeds scraped from half a vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the sugared cranberries (these need to be started the night before the cake)
– 1/2 cup (120 ml) simple syrup
– 1 cup fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over
– Granulated sugar, to coat
For the frosting
– 4 ounces (115 g) cream cheese, soft
– 1/4 cup (60 g) unsalted butter, soft
– 2 tablespoons heavy cream
– 2 cups (230 g) confectioner’s sugar, plus more as needed
– A pinch of fine grain sea salt
– Seeds scraped from a vanilla bean, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the cake
– 2 cups (256 g) all-purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
– 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
– 1/2 teaspoon dried orange zest, or the the zest from half an orange, finely grated
– 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 1 1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar, plus extra
– 4 eggs
– Seeds scraped from a vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
– 1/4 cup heavy cream
– 3 tablespoons minced candied ginger
– 1 cup (100 g) fresh cranberries, rinsed, picked over, and cut into halves
– Crushed pistachios, for decorating
For the simple syrup, stir the water, sugar, and vanilla together in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring, then let simmer for 5 minutes. Cover and refrigerate half the syrup for the cake.
For the cranberries, let the remaining syrup stand off the heat until warm. Stir in the cranberries. Leave the berries to steep until cool, gently stirring now and again. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, pour some sugar into a bowl and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Use a fork or slotted spoon to fish a few cranberries out of their soak, and let the excess syrup slip away. Drop the berries into the sugar, and roll them around until lightly coated. Move the berries to the prepared sheet pan, then continue draining and dipping cranberries until all are coated. Set aside to dry until needed.
To make the cake, preheat an oven to 325°F/160°C with a rack in the middle. Butter a 6-inch or 8-inch round cake tin, and line with parchment, on bottoms and sides. Butter the parchment.
Stir flour, ginger, dried or fresh zest, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl, then set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attached, cream butter and sugar for a full 8 minutes on medium-high, scraping down the bowl and beater with a silicone spatula regularly. Knock the speed down to medium, and add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the beater after each, and beating well. The batter may look to curdle; keep beating until it smooths out, raising the speed to medium-high if needed. Add the vanilla. With the mixer on low, stir in the flour in two additions, alternating with the heavy cream. Do not overmix. Fold in candied ginger by hand, making sure to get all the way down to the bottom of the bowl. Dollop one-quarter of the batter in the prepared pan, then scatter with cranberries. Continue to layer scoops of dough and cranberries until both are used up. Smooth the top of the batter.
Bake cake in the hot oven, rotating halfway through, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean (not including cranberry juice), 80 to 90 minutes for the 6-inch cake, about 60 to 70 minutes for the 8-inch. Transfer cake to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes in its tin, then unmold. Place, right side up, onto a cooling rack set over a baking sheet to cool until only slightly warm. With a thin skewer or toothpick, prick the cake all over. Using a pastry brush, coat the top and sides of the cake with a thin coating of the reserved simple syrup. Wait 5 minutes, then give the cake a second bathing, it should be sticky but not sodden; you may not need all the syrup. Leave the syrup to soak in while you make the frosting.
For the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attached, or with an electric beater and bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, and heavy cream until smooth and light. Add the vanilla and salt. With the mixer on low, add the confectioner’s sugar, stirring until combined, then increase the speed to high and beat until fluffy. If the frosting is too soft, add more confectioner’s sugar as needed. Frost the cake as desired, decorating with the sugared cranberries (you might not need them all for the smaller cake) and crushed pistachios.
The cake can be chilled under a dome for up to 3 days. Let the cake warm up a bit before serving.
About Tara: Tara O’Brady is the author of The Globe and Mail bestselling cookbook Seven Spoons (Ten Speed Press and Appetite by Random House, 2015), and the award-winning blog of the same name. She regularly writes for The Globe and Mail, was a past columnist for UPPERCASE Magazine, and has contributed to Kinfolk, The Guardian, JamieOliver.com, BonAppetit.com, Saveur.com, Oprah.com, and more. She lives in Southern Ontario, Canada, with her husband and two sons. You can find her online mostly everywhere as @taraobrady, and her favorite place to hang out is Instagram.