We’ve all got layers. This Gingerbread Cake is no exception.
All 3 layers of this cake, bound together in delicious harmony with whipped mascarpone cream and topped with sugared cranberries, made the journey from our house all the way across the city on the floor of my car. Miraculously, the cake, Lu and I arrived at the Plotkins fourth annual cioppino feast without a hitch.
I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen. I wanted to bake something that tasted cozy, so searched for a dessert rich in warming spices. Gingerbread Layer Cake? Ding ding ding! I adapted it only slightly by adding chopped, crystallized ginger (and reducing the sugar) to the whipped mascarpone cream. The ginger is an addition I highly recommend but is by no means necessary.
If you’re thinking three layers of cake sounds intimidating or too much, rest assured that it turns out just right. The layers are thin. And once the cake comes together, it’s really a stunner. The frosted cranberries add glamour. Shiny, red things tend to do that, I guess. Like lipstick and sports cars.
Anyway, you’ll need to start making the cranberries the night before or early the morning of, but they’re worth it. You’ll have more than you need for the top of the cake, but that’s not a bad thing.
Cozy Gingerbread Layer Cake with Whipped Mascarpone Cream and Sugared Cranberries
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 cup plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup oatmeal stout or Guinness Stout beer
1 cup dark molasses (ideally, not blackstrap)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable or another neutral oil
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of ground cardamom
2 cups whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar (you can use up to 6 tablespoons if not adding crystalized ginger, depending on how sweet you like it)
1/2 cup mascarpone (sour cream or creme fraiche will work too)
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped (optional)
Make sugared cranberries: Bring 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup water to a gentle simmer (not a full boil) on the stove, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and add cranberries. Pour mixture into a bowl and let syrupy cranberries chill in fridge overnight. (I only had a few hours for chill time and they turned out fine, but the longer the better.) The next morning, drain cranberries (you can reserve syrup for soda or sweetening cocktails). Place remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a bowl and roll cranberries in it. Arrange them on a tray or plate and refrigerate for another 45 minutes to an hour, so that the sugar sets. (They’ll feel mostly dry to the touch.)
Make the cake layers: Heat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour, or use a nonstick spray to coat three 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each with a fitted round of parchment paper.
Bring stout and molasses to a boil in a large saucepan and remove from heat; whisk in baking soda carefully — it will foam up. Cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugars and oil. Whisk in eggs, then whisk in cooled stout-molasses mixture. Place dry ingredients in a fine-mesh sieve or sifter and shake over bowl. Stir until just combined.
Divide batter into prepared cake pans. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out batter-free. Cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes, then flip out onto cooling rack, carefully remove parchment paper and flip back right side-up (this flip is important because the side the parchment paper was on is quite sticky and will stick to the rack), letting each layer cool completely. You can hasten this along outside (if it’s cold) or in the freezer.
Make whipped mascarpone cream: Beat heavy cream and powdered sugar in a large bowl with a whisk or electric beaters until soft peaks form. Beat in mascarpone, one spoonful at a time, just until it disappears into the cream. Stir in crystallized ginger.
Assemble cake: Place first cake layer on cake stand and level top with a serrated knife if it has domed. Spread with 1 cup whipped mascarpone. Repeat twice, then smooth sides. Decorate with sugared cranberries. Serve immediately, or keep refrigerated until needed.