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Tara O’Brady’s Cranberry Ginger Cake

by Kristina Gill

cake-beauty
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.

cake-ingredients

cranberry-mix

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

Method

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.

cake-slice

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.

Tara

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Comments

  • Well YUM!!! I love the taste combination of cranberry and ginger, I make my own cranberry ginger ‘lemonade’ and think it will go perfectly with this wonderful cake! Thanks for the recipe – off to pin for later!

  • I am in Australia and it’s really hard to get fresh cranberries, are there any other fruits you would recommend substituting?

    • You can make this with cherries instead! Plums or peaches will work as well, but cut them into smallish chunks and be prepared for a slightly jammier result.

  • This sounds amazing I might actually try this from Christmas, I just have one question. If I make this cake the day before it will be served and I should warm it up before serving, how do you suggest I warm it up? Or to really enjoy this cake should I be making it the day of the dinner

    • Hello! As in the instructions, the cake can be made up to three days ahead and chilled under a cake dome. By warm up, I meant let the cake warm to room temperature, rather than serving it fridge-cold. I would add the cranberries right before you’re ready to slice. I hope that helps!

    • That sounds like a good idea. It would be very pretty.
      Why not just try? If you do, please let us know what happens! Good luck. Mmmmm…
      All the best,
      M.C.

      • I think I will! Well, depending on how crazy I am around Christmas ;) If I do, I will comment how it goes!

        -Amy

        • Hi Amy! I’ve never made the cake in a bundt pan, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work. The batter might be a tad scant for a larger capacity one, so that’s just something to keep in mind. You might want to use a ring or plain tube pan if you want to include the icing. Best of luck and please do report back!

  • Ohhh man! Made the cake and finally ate it today. Delicious! Baked it for my sisters birthday, hands down the best cake I have ever made or tried. Thanks for sharing. What a great recipe.

  • When I saw this recipe I knew I had to change my plans for my entry into a ‘Bake Off’ event at the hospital where I work as a doctor in Manchester, UK. I had been planning to make a festive dobos torte but I tried a test run of this and it was SO delicious (and went down a storm with my partner). I made the 8″ size and added candied orange slices around the sides and a big chiffon ribbon. Guess what – my cake won the competition!
    So a massive thank you to you, Tara, for such a fabulous idea, and another to D*S for consistently featuring excellent recipes. Thanks guys!

  • I tested this recipe and it was very easy. It’s different and I like different. The cake makes a pretty presentation and tastes great – everybody loved it. Thank you for posting it!

  • Can the cake be made up to the point before brushing with the syrup or should I add the syrup and then continue the next day with frosting? I don’t have room in my fridge and want to leave it out overnight but I live in CANCUN and its 82* here.
    Gracias Caroline

    • Hello! Sorry on the delay in my reply — for future reference, I would make the cake and brush it with syrup on the first day, then store it at room temperature under a cake dome (or an overturned stock pot will work too). Then frost the second day. The cake is absolutely stable at room temperature, it’s just the frosting that requires refrigeration. Best of luck!

  • Thanks for letting us know, Melynda! Glad the bundt pan worked out and even happier that the cake was a hit! -Kristina

  • I made this for Christmas Eve dinner, and it was a huge hit! Beautiful (and deceivingly simple – I was so proud to share it!), and tasted just as good. I’ll definitely be making this again.

  • Made this cake a few days ago for my daughter’s first birthday cake as it would be mostly grown ups eating it. It was delicious. But mostly the frosted cranberries…cranberries have never tasted so good. I didn’t have two days for them but 4 hours at room temperature seemed to work great. The simple syrup glaze gave the cake a beautiful sheen and perfect texture. Thanks for the recipe.

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