I am very nostalgic about gingerbread, though it is not part of some long-standing family holiday tradition. Other than the occasional hard gingerbread man cookie, I was well into my teens before I ever even knew there was any other form. But soft, cake-like gingerbread seems to hark back to the olden days. It has a Little House on the Prairie or Frances Hodgson Burnett kind of quality to it. Maybe it’s the gingery smell of Christmas when the cake is baking, or the rich, warm spices so associated with the holidays. Gingerbread makes me feel like I am continuing a tradition, though I never had one to begin with. And it does play nicely into my anglophilia, for it is definitely an British tradition.
I’ve upped the American ante here though with our native cranberries for a festive touch. This cake perfectly straddles the Thanksgiving – Christmas line, featuring flavors perfect for both. Make it for either or both. This recipe can be made ahead, which is always a bonus during the hectic season. I serve this as dessert, and the butter sauce adds a touch or decadence fit for the season. But this would also make a lovely breakfast without the sauce.
Cranberry gingerbread cake with butter sauce
For the cake:
2 cups fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup molasses
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon (for the topping)
1. Pulse the cranberries in a food processor (the mini one works fine) until roughly chopped. Add the flour and 1 tablespoon sugar and pulse until you have a fine rubble.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
3. Cut the butter into chunks and place it in a 9- x 13-inch glass baking dish. Melt the butter in the oven for about 5 minutes. Swirl the butter around to cover the sides of the pan, then pour the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the brown sugar and molasses and beat on medium low for a few minutes until thoroughly combined and smooth. Add the egg and beat until combined.
4. Beat in the buttermilk and vanilla until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
5. Mix the 2 cups flour, soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves together in a small bowl, then beat into the wet ingredients until combined, scraping down the bowl a few times. Add half of the cranberries and mix in gently. Take the bowl off the mixer and give the batter a good stir to distribute the cranberries. Scrape the batter into the buttered baking dish.
6. Spread the remaining cranberries evenly over the surface of the batter. I find my clean fingers the best tool for this, breaking up the cranberry mixture as best I can and distributing over the batter. The batter will not be completely covered, just do your best to evenly spread the cranberries and press them lightly into the batter.
7. Mix the remaining 3 teaspoons cinnamon and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar together for the topping and sprinkle evenly over the top of the cake. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
8. The cake can be cooled and covered and kept for one day.
For the butter sauce:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1. Melt the butter over medium high heat in a medium saucepan until it is bubbling and spitting and just beginning to brown.
2. Stir in the sugar and the heavy cream and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then remove the sauce from the heat and stir well. The sauce can be served warm or a room temperature. You can cool, cover and refrigerate one day ahead, then loosen the sauce by heating it in the microwave.
Related post on The Runaway Spoon: Gingerbread pillows