Thursday, February 6, 2014

Gingerbread Cake with Cranberry Streusel

       So it may seem I once again disappeared between posts for a while, but I can assure you this recipe is worth the wait. Last week, I tested a new baking book's banana muffins, not intending to blog them since it was my first time using that source. They were brilliant: little nuanced additions and techniques created the most decadently creamy and moist banana bread I've ever had. Alas, I had no photos, so I could not share them. (Not to fret, that recipe will come.) Then three days of dedicated banana muffin eating passed by and I reentered the kitchen with a new baking project. I prepared a post, took photos and was excited to share, only to find out in the end, my peanut butter ice cream was a disaster I could bare pretend worth sharing. So finally, at the start of a bitterly cold week in Colorado, I made the ideal winter snacking cake-and it is absolutely worth sharing.
       It is a deep ginger bread cake, with robust dark molasses, which needlessly to say, pairs well with the heavy ginger spices. Other notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove dance around to add complimentary warmth. The molasses is met with equal parts honey that brings of a more floral sweetness to the cake, particularly around the edges where the heat directly caramelizes it. However, it is the most subtle difference which will enhance the cakes tons, but be the ingredient that people cannot figure out what is slightly different. 
        Then comes my favorite part: the topping. The cake is covered with a crunchy, light streusel. It forms crunchy bites of sweetness sprinkled all over. Next to the natural bitterness of molasses and ginger, it could not be a more perfect compliment. I know if most people add dried fruit to gingerbread, the go with candied ginger, but I am telling you, cranberries will quickly change your mind. They are equally warm in profile to the cake base, enhancing its natural and desirable qualities. They then give a sticky, soft contrast to the crunchy streusel and tartness to the sweet. The bottom is warm and happy and the top is to die for. Digging your fork through them both and getting a thick bite is just what you should do to survive this horrendous cold. Serve it with tea and you are in business. 
Cake portion adapted from Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker

**This cake is very specific to high altitude adjustments. You can use the streusel topping anywhere, but if you are not at altitude, please read the changes at the bottom of the page. Then follow the normal instructions starting at #7. 

2 1/2 C all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 TSP baking soda
1/2 TSP salt
1/4 TSP cinnamon
1/4 TSP nutmeg
1/8 TSP clove
1 TSP ginger
1/2 C (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
1/3 C+ 1 TBSP dark molasses
1/3 C + 1 TBSP honey
2/3 C boiling water

3 TBSP cold butter
3 TBSP flour
6 TBSP sugar
1 TSP cinnamon
1/3 C dried cranberries

1. Grease and line a 9" round baking pan. Preheat the oven to 350F
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, then beat for another 30 seconds on high, until light and fluffy.
5. Add in the molasses and honey, then beat until fully incorporated. 
6. Switch to a spatula. In 3 additions of flour mixture and 2 additions of boiling water, add the two alternating (starting and ending with the flour) to the liquids. Mix in the ingredients until fully combined, mixing and scraping down the sides between each addition.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, even out the top and set it aside.
8. In a small bowl, cut together the butter, flour, sugar, and cinnamon until they have broken into large pea sized clumps.
9. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over top, then sprinkle the cranberries on top as well. 
10. Bake for 40-50 minutes, removing when an inserted knife or toothpick comes out clean of the middle.
11. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then invert the cake to remove it from the pan and turn over once more to serve streusel side up. 
The cake is best warm and would be heavenly with a dollop of whipped cream (then again most things would be heavenly with a dollop of whipped cream.)

**For those not at altitude (changes are italicized):
1/2 C Butter
1/2 C Sugar
1 Egg
2 1/2 C AP flour (sifted)
1 1/2 TSP baking soda
1 TSP ginger
1/4 TSP each cinnamon and nutmeg
1/8 TSP clove
1/2 TSP salt
1/2 C dark molasses
1/2 C honey
1 C boiling water

1. Melt the butter and allow to cool.
2. Beat together the egg and sugar.
3. Stir in the butter to the eggs and sugar.
4. In a separate bowl sift all the dry ingredients together.
5.  In another bowl, combine the molasses, honey and water.
6. Add the dry mixture and wet mixtures alternating as described in step 6 above. 
   Continue with the recipe as normal from here. 

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