The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Egg Nog Custard Tarts

In the busy, crazy holiday season, necessity is often the mother of invention, and this recipe is proof of that. Some years ago, after a trip to Portugal with a group of girlfriends, I worked out a recipe for Portuguese Custard Tarts. It was really an attempt to recreate a memory for my friends, but they are so easy to make and lovely to serve, that they became something of a staple for me. I always seem to have the ingredients in the house.

Until last year at Christmas, a last minute event was added to an already busy calendar and I was tasked with bringing something sweet. These delicate tarts immediately came to mind. But alas, I had no milk. It being the whirlwind of the season, however, I had a bottle of egg nog from a local dairy in the fridge (as I usually do in December) and I thought why not give it a go. And the results are as lovely as the original, with an added holiday flair. This version is a little sweeter than the original because there is some sugar in the egg nog, but in the holiday season I like my sweets sweet, so I think it is a perfect result.

As with the original, these tarts are perfect all on their own – with just a little dusting of nutmeg on top, but they are also versatile. You could still try a drizzle of dulce de leche, and the little hollows on the top are a perfect cradle for a pretty, wintery dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. And I’d like to try a sweet cranberry sauce on the top for a very festive dessert.

Egg Nog Custard Tarts
Yields 18
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Ingredients
  1. 3 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  2. 3 eggs
  3. 2 cups granulated sugar
  4. 2 cups dairy egg nog
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  6. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, plus more for sprinkling
  7. ¾ cups flour
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°.
  2. Put the butter, eggs and sugar in the carafe of a blender and blend until smooth. Add 1 cup of the egg nog and blend, then add the flour and the remaining egg nog, vanilla and nutmeg. Blend until smooth.
  3. Spray 18 muffin cups with cooking spray. Spray them really thoroughly right before you pour the batter in. Pour the batter into the cups, filling them ¾ full. Sprinkle a little nutmeg on top of each tart. Bake the tarts on the upper and middle shelves of the oven for 40 – 45 minutes until firm and golden in the center. Do not bake less than 40 minutes. If using two muffin trays, swap them from the top shelf to the bottom after 30 minutes of cooking.
  4. Cool the tarts in the tins, then use a plastic knife to loosen the tarts and remove them carefully from the muffin cups. (A plastic knife won’t scratch the surface of the tin). These want to stick, but be patient and gentle and ease them out.
  5. The tarts keep remarkably well for several days in an airtight container.
Notes
  1. I used a nifty little fluted muffin tin I happen to have which adds a pretty touch, but plain tins work beautifully.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Gingerbread Cake with Cookie Butter Frosting

I didn’t really grow up eating gingerbread, though there is a long history of gingerbread cake in the South. I mostly knew those classic gingerbread men cookies, which I have never much liked. I think they dry out too much and never have enough spice for me. But over the years, I started to experiment with various gingerbread recipes, both cookie and cake form, and it is now an essential part of the holiday season to me. And I think gingerbread and spiced cookies just scream holiday. So I’ve combined them in to one moist, delicious dessert that feeds a crowd, perfect for holiday entertaining. I love a good 9 by 13 cake for serving at a party, either in large slabs on a dessert plate or smaller squares on a bigger spread.

The joy of gingerbread is that not only the taste, but also the wafting fragrance of sugar and spice while it’s in the oven. It’s like a nice extra gift. I sprinkle crushed cookie crumbs on the top, but I have been known to add a little gold glitter to jazz things up. I once had some little reindeer cake picks that have unfortunately disappeared, which is a shame, because they would be adorable marching across this cake.

Gingerbread Cake with Cookie Butter Frosting
Serves 12
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Ingredients
  1. 4 cups all purpose flour
  2. 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  3. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  6. 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  7. 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  8. 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
  9. 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  10. 1 1/2 cups molasses
  11. 1/2 cup water
  12. 2 eggs
  13. 2 cups buttermilk
For the Frosting
  1. 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  2. 3/4 cup cookie butter spread, such as Biscoff
  3. 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  4. 3 cups powdered sugar
  5. 3-4 Tablespoons milk
For the Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 13x9 pan.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the melted butter and molasses, mixing until combined (the batter will be thick). Add the water, mixing until everything is loosened. Beat in the eggs and buttermilk then until evenly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Pour the batter into the pan and bake 45-50 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
For the Frosting
  1. Beat the softened butter and the cookie butter together in the bowl of the stand mixer until smooth and combined. Beat in the powdered sugar at low speed 1 cup at a time. Drizzle in the milk a little at a time until you have a spreadable icing. Spread the icing over the top of the cooled cake.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins

Cranberry Oatmeal MuffinsThe holidays are filled with so much sweet and sugary (not that I’m complaining), so sometimes it’s nice to have a treat that’s seasonal and festive, but not as cloying or overly sweet. These muffins hit the spot. Hearty with oatmeal and moist from yogurt, these muffins are filling and comforting with a nice holiday kick. Perfect for a Christmas morning buffet or as a little early morning present opening snack before the big meal. They make a great gift, wrapped up in a pretty gift bag or napkin.

These muffins are not overly sweet and have a tangy kick from the fresh cranberries. That means they are the perfect vehicle for sweet spreads like apple butter or pumpkin butter, or try my Egg Nog Butter for a nice holiday feel. They are also great in a bread basket with a main meal, with a little smidge of butter.

Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins
Yields 12
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup rolled oats
  2. 1 cup whole yogurt
  3. ½ cup canola oil
  4. 1 egg
  5. ¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  6. 1 cup flour
  7. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  8. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  9. ½ teaspoon salt
  10. ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  11. ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  12. ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  13. 1 cup fresh cranberries
Instructions
  1. Stir the oats and the yogurt together in a large bowl, making sure all the oats are covered. Set aside for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400. Grease 12 muffin cups.
  3. Add the oil and the egg to the oat and yogurt mixture and stir well to combine. Stir in the brown sugar until combined, then add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices and stir just until well combined and there is no dry flour visible. Fold in the cranberries.
  4. Divide the dough between the muffin cups – I like to use a large cookie scoop for this – then bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the muffins have browned and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn out onto a rack to cool. The muffins will keep for one day in an airtight container.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Egg Nog Bread Pudding with Hot Buttered Rum Icing

Egg Nog Bread Pudding with Hot Buttered Rum IcingYou have to love a dessert that ticks all the holiday entertaining boxes – feeds a crowd, can be made ahead and is full of festive flavor. And this dish does that in spades. Not to mention that is easy to prepare, but impressive in taste and presentation. And I’ll be honest with you, it’s hard to mess this up. I made it once thinking I’d be so smart and set the oven to a timed cook while I was off opening presents with family so it would be perfectly ready for its icing and transport to the Christmas brunch. But I set the oven timer wrong and it didn’t cook in time for the festivities. So I let it cook later in the day, iced it and stuck it in the fridge. The next day I heated it up and it was still delicious. I wouldn’t recommend doing that though. But if you cook the bread pudding, pour over the icing and let it sit while you eat the main meal, it will be nice and warm and saucy for dessert.

All that being said, I also like it on the buffet with a large brunch spread, not just as a dessert. It is not cloyingly sweet, just a nice hint of rum and spice and that perfectly Christmas taste of egg nog. While I prefer it warm, I can assure you it is equally good at room temperature, so it can hang around while everyone makes their way through the buffet. The icing could be served as a sauce to pour over, but I find it so much easier to during the hectic holiday cooking to serve it all in one dish with no sauce boat or ladle hanging around.

Egg Nog Bread Pudding with Hot Buttered Rum Icing
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. For the Bread Pudding
  2. 1 (1 pound) loaf of soft crust Italian bread or challah
  3. ½ cup dried cranberries
  4. 5 eggs
  5. ¼ cup granulated sugar
  6. ¾ teaspoons nutmeg
  7. 1 quart (4 cups) dairy egg nog
For the Icing
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  2. 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  3. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  4. ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  5. dash of ground cloves
  6. dash of allspice
  7. 1 cup heavy cream
  8. ¼ cup dark rum
For the Bread Pudding
  1. Cut the loaf of bread into small chinks and spread on a baking sheet. Cover lightly with a clean tea towel and leave dry out for several hours, or overnight.
  2. Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking dish and spread the bread cubes evenly in the dish. Sprinkle the cranberries between the bread, doing your best to distribute them evenly. Whisk the eggs, sugar and nutmeg together in a large bowl, until well combined, then whisk in the egg nog. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread and press down the cubes of bread so they are submerged in the liquid. Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  3. When you are ready to cook the bread pudding, preheat the oven to 350. Take the dish out of the refrigerator and leave it to take the chill off for about 15 – 20 minutes, then put in the oven, still covered with foil, and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until the custard is set. Remove the foil cover and cook for a further 5 -10 minutes until the bread turns a lovely golden brown. Take the bread pudding from the oven and immediately prepare the icing.
For the Icing
  1. Put the butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat to melt. Sift the powdered sugar and spices together in a bowl, and when the butter is melted, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the powdered sugar. Add the cream slowly, whisking until the icing is smooth, then whisk in the rum. While the bread pudding is still warm, pour the icing evenly over the top, making sure to cover it all. Leave the icing to soak in for a few minutes, then serve the bread pudding. The icing does not totally soak into the pudding, but the remainder forms a nice puddle of sauce for each serving.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Festive Finds 2016

Holiday shopping season is upon us once again, and I love to share gift ideas for the food lovers in your life. As always, these are just some ideas about personal favorites – no one has asked me to promote any products.

I’m a huge fan of Melissa Bridgman’s pottery, and she now offers a fabulous subscription service for the gift that keeps on giving. The coffee or tea lover in your life will thrill over a new mug each month. Memphian Brit McDaniel makes beautiful pottery that’s also charmingly functional, like this salad bowl with a perfect little dip to rest the tongs on. If you’ve got a biscuit baker in your life, this lovely ceramic biscuit cutter from Heirloomed would make a lovely gift (that might keep on giving if they make the biscuits for you!). Kentucky’s Pomegranate makes absolutely beautiful linens, from napkins to potholders, and this fabulous apron.


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Judy Pound Cakes make wonderfully flavorful and rich pound cakes that make wonderful gifts, particularly for a hostess. I’m particularly fond of the apricot almond flavor. Nashville’s Seersucker Candy Co. offers up some boozy chocolates and liquored up gummy bears for anyone on your list who has a sweet (and spiked) tooth. Salted bourbon caramel Muzzle Loaders are a great gift for a guy. Edwards Virginia Hams suffered a devastating fire earlier this year, but thankfully they are up and running again, so their lovely Tale of Two Hams package is available. It’s a small country ham and small city ham perfect for holiday parties. A pretty jar of French Broad Chocolates Chocolate Sip makes a lovely little gift perfect for chilly holiday nights, or go all out with a chocolate subscription.

Chicken is a meal staple for so many people, so Cynthia Graubart’s new cookbook Chicken is sure to be useful and welcomed. The Chubby Vegetarian Cookbook is a fantastically creative cookbook full of wonderful ideas, for vegetarians, vegetable lovers or anyone trying to expand horizons in the kitchen. Big breakfast lovers will devour Big Bad Breakfast from John Currence, chef of the restuarants by the same name. For the true cookbook lover on your list, Vivian Howard’s beautiful Deep Run Roots will be this year’s prized gift.

But maybe the best gift of all is giving on behalf of someone you love to someone in need. There are so many great organizations to give to that will create special cards you can wrap up for your recipient or have it sent directly to them. Women for Women International is an amazing organization that works to raise women and girls out of poverty around the world. They have a whole selection of gift donations.

And as food banks are under more strain than ever, Give-A-Meal through Feeding America to a family in need in honor of a family you love. And remember your local food bank with monetary donations or canned goods.

For some more ideas about my favorite fun kitchen finds, book and movies – check out The Spoon’s Store, powered by Amazon. Just click on the box on the right hand side of the page.

Sweet Potato Fruitcake

Sweet Potato FruitcakeI adore fruitcake. Some think that a controversial opinion. But I couldn’t have Christmas without it. Every year, on the weekend after Thanksgiving, I make my classic Fruitcake. To be honest, I start in the summer by making bourbon Cherry Bounce to soak the cake, and I pour a good dose over every couple of days until Christmas. My mother and I are sometimes the only ones who eat it, but I simply can’t imagine the holiday without it. So when I came across a recipe for sweet potato fruitcake in a community cookbook, I had to make it. It was one of those old recipes with very few specific measurements and spotty instructions, so it took me awhile to get it right, but I did and I love it.

My favorite thing about this fruitcake is fruitcake for Thanksgiving! I get the immense pleasure of extending fruitcake season, which makes me very happy. This cake is colorful and beautiful on a cake stand on the Thanksgiving dessert spread. The sweet potato adds a lovely, earthy note and is a great counterpoint to pies and fluffy cakes. The cake keeps well for up to a week in an airtight container, but it doesn’t have to be made weeks ahead. The color and texture is a lighter than the traditional version, but no less rich and flavorful.

Fruitcake lovers unite!

Sweet Potato Fruitcake
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ cups grated sweet potato (from about 1 large potato)
  2. 2 cups granulated sugar
  3. 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
  4. 4 eggs, separated
  5. 4 Tablespoons hot water
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 2 ½ cups sifted cake flour
  8. 3 teaspoons baking powder
  9. 1 teaspoon mixed spice or pumpkin pie spice
  10. ¼ teaspoon salt
  11. 1 pound chopped candied fruit
  12. 2 ½ cups chopped pecans
  13. ¼ cup bourbon
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 250. Spray a tube (not a Bundt) pan with baking spray (such as Baker’s Joy).
  2. Beat the sugar and the oil in the large bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment until pale and combined. Beat in the egg yolks until combined. Pour in the hot water and vanilla extract and beat until blended. Add the sweet potatoes and beat just until combined. Beat in the flour, baking powder, salt and spices until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the candied fruit and nuts. Set aside.
  3. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks in the small mixer bowl using the whisk attachment. Fold the whites into the batter in the large bowl using a sturdy spatula. This takes a little elbow grease, but don’t be too harsh, you still want the eggs whites to retain some air. Make sure the get the batter from the center of the bowl combined with the whites as well. Fold until the whites have completely disappeared into the batter.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared tube pan, making sure it is evenly distributed and the top is flat. Pick up the pan and drop it on the counter a few time to knock out any air bubbles.
  5. Bake the cake for 2 ½ hours. A tester inserted in the center should have a few crumbs clinging to it. When you remove it from the oven, immediately drizzle the bourbon over the top, very slowly. Leave to cool completely (even overnight covered with a towel) before removing it from the pan. The cake can be kept for a week in an airtight container.
Notes
  1. You can grate the sweet potatoes on a box grater or use the food processor grating blade. But then you have to clean the food processor.
  2. I separate the eggs putting the whites in the small mixer bowl and the yolks directly into the sugar and oil.
  3. My market sells mixed candied fruit during the holidays and I use that to make things easy. You can also make up your own blend of candied fruit (cherries, lemon peel, orange peel, pineapple etc.) and chop it finely, or toss it with a little flour and pulse in the food processor.
  4. The cake may crumble when you slice, but it can be easily pressed together and the taste is still delicious!
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Slow Cooker Spiced Pecans

Slow Cooker Spiced Pecans

Spiced and seasoned roasted nuts are a great pleasure. The problem I’ve always encountered was baking them in the oven without burning them, or at least some of the nuts on the baking sheet. Nuts contain flavorful oils that can scorch easily. I’ve come across several recipes for cooking nuts in the slow cooker and the idea made total sense to me. Large quantities without the fear of burning. So I adapted a favorite seasoning mixture to the slow cooker method and it has become a favorite. Stirring the nuts into a seasoned butter right in the crock is simple, and the even heat brings out the flavor of the pecans and prevents burning. While this is not a totally hands-off slow cooker recipe, it is easy to have these going while you attend to other tasks. Set a timer for 30 minutes and give them a stir.

This recipe makes a big batch of nuts, so there are plenty to wrap up and give away and still have lots to snack on. These will also keep for several weeks in an airtight container, which makes them particularly handy for holiday gifts or drop-in guests.

Slow Cooker Spiced Pecans
Yields 2
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  2. ½ cup granulated sugar
  3. ½ cup light brown sugar
  4. 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  5. 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  6. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  7. ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  8. a few dashes cayenne pepper to taste
  9. 2 pounds pecan halves
Instructions
  1. Spray the crock of slow cooker with cooking spray and turn the cooker to high. Cut the butter into pieces and place it in the slow cooker and cover. Cook for 15 minutes until the butter is melted. Stir in the sugars and spices until combined, then stir in the pecans until they are all well coated. Cover the slow cooker and cook for 2 hours, stirring well every 30 minutes, then uncover the cooker and cook for a further hour, stirring frequently.
  2. Spread the pecans on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Taste one and if you think it needs more salt, sprinkle some over. As the nuts cool, separate any clusters with a fork.
  3. Once cool, these will keep in an airtight container for up to a month.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Peppermint Cookie Bars

Peppermint Cookie Bars

A good, thickly frosted sugar cookie bar has all the old-fashioned comfort we look for during the holidays. I like to take that recipe and zuzz it up for Christmas, with some rich white chocolate and bracing peppermint. The shower of crushed peppermint candy adds a festive touch and couldn’t be easier to do. These are simple to make, but look gorgeous on a festive platter and will really stand out on a display of other sweets. I took them to a party last year and another woman picked one up then asked what they were. I told her they were peppermint and saw her hesitate – but clearly wasn’t going to put it back on the plate – so she politely took a bite. Her face lit up and she declared “I don’t really like peppermint but these are yummy. My son would love these!” She promptly asked for the recipe.

You could tint the icing pink if you are so inclined and I have been known to add some edible white glitter to the peppermint candies to add an extra sparkle. The soft peppermint puffs work best, rather than the classic starlight style mint, because they crush more easily and are not as hard to eat.

Peppermint Cookie Bars
Yields 26
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For the Base
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  2. ½ cup sugar
  3. 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  4. ½ teaspoon baking powder
  5. ½ teaspoon salt
  6. 1 egg
  7. 2 Tablespoons sour cream
  8. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  9. ½ cup white chocolate chips
For the Topping
  1. ½ cup butter, softened
  2. 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  3. ¼ cup milk
  4. ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
  5. 10 soft peppermint candies (such as Bob’s Sweet Stripe)
For the Base
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line an 8 by 8 inch square pan with nonstick foil or parchment paper.
  2. Beat the butter and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg, sour cream and vanilla and beat until well combined ans smooth. Gradually beat in the flour, baking powder and salt, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until you have a smooth, thick dough. Beat in the white chocolate chips.
  3. Press the dough into the prepared pan in an even layer. Smooth the top with your fingers to make a flat surface. Bake the base for 20 – 15 minutes until lightly golden at the edges, firm, and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the bars completely.
For the Topping
  1. Clean and dry the bowl of the stand mixer, then beat the butter until light. Gradually add the confectioners sugar alternately with the milk, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently, until you have a luscious, spreadable frosting. Beat in the peppermint extract.
  2. Spread the frosting in an even layer over the top of the cookie base. I like to use an offset spatula. Smooth the top.
  3. Unwrap the candies and place them in a sturdy zip top bag. Use a rolling pin or other heavy object to smash the candies to rubble and dust. Evenly sprinkle the candies over the frosting and use your clean hands to press the candy into the frosting so it doesn’t just fall off when served.
  4. Cut into small squares.
Notes
  1. For the batch in the photo, I found white chocolate chips with a red swirl which make a pretty addition. They were not peppermint flavored, but if you find those, I am sure it would be lovely.
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Spiced Baked Fruit Casserole

Spiced Baked Fruit Casserole

Baked fruit casseroles are a favorite food memory for me. They always appeared at holiday buffets, usually when a ham was the centerpiece. Recipes for baked fruit are ubiquitous in community cookbooks, and I was particularly fond of a curried fruit casserole recipe that has always been a favorite around here. But my Mom made a version that involved amaretti cookies, which became a family favorite, though the cookies were not always easy to find in shops. When I became the principal cook for family gatherings, I still asked my Mom to make that casserole, especially for Christmas brunch, and she always obliges.

Eventually, I decided that as it is such a big food memory for me, I ought to share it. But as a professional recipe developer, I knew I wanted to put my own spin on it. Enter spicy Biscoff cookies, once a special treat only procured in Europe or on airlines, but now available widely. I’m generally not a fan of canned fruit, but in this classic recipe, I make an exception, because this dish holds such a place in my memory. A nice dose of spice gives this version a special holiday kick.

Spiced Baked Fruit Casserole
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 2 (15.25 ounce) cans pineapple chunks
  2. 1 (15.25 ounce) can sliced peaches
  3. 1 (15.25 ounce) can sliced pears
  4. 1 (15.25 ounce) can apricot halves
  5. 1 (15.25 ounce) can dark sweet cherries
  6. 1 cup speculoos cookie crumbs (such as Biscoff), from about ½ a package
  7. 1 teaspoon corn starch
  8. ½ cup light brown sugar
  9. ¼ cup butter
  10. ½ teaspoon allspice
  11. ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  12. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  13. ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Instructions
  1. Drain the pineapple, peaches pears and apricots. Spread the fruit in a greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Drain and rinse the cherries (do not drain the with the other fruit, the juice will stain). Lightly toss the fruit with the cornstarch and the cookie crumbs. I find my good clean hands to be the best tool for this. Arrange the cherries amongst the fruit.
  2. Melt the brown sugar, butter and spices together in a saucepan, just until the sugar and butter are melted and combined. Pour over the fruit. Gently stir the fruit, being careful not to break it up. Don’t worry about coating it fully with the brown sugar mixture. Make sure the cherries are distributed throughout the dish; they tend to congregate.
  3. You can bake it immediately at 350° for 30 minutes until bubbly and heated through, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Remove the dish from the fridge for about 20 minutes before baking to get the chill off.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Cranberry Gingerbread Cake with Butter Sauce

Cranberry Gingerbread Cake with Butter Sauce

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
Serves 9
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For the Cake
  1. 2 cups fresh cranberries
  2. 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  3. 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  4. 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  5. 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  6. ¼ cup molasses
  7. 1 egg
  8. 1 cup buttermilk
  9. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  10. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  11. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  12. 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  13. ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  14. ½ teaspoon salt
  15. ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  16. 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  17. For the Butter Sauce
  18. ½ cup (I stick) butter
  19. 1 cup granulated sugar
  20. ¾ cup heavy cream
For the Cake
  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°.
  3. Cut the butter into chunks and place it in a 9 by 13 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. Beat in the buttermilk and vanilla until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Mix the flour, soda, salt, and spices 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Mix the 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.
  7. The cake can be cooled and covered and kept for one day.
For the Butter Sauce
  1. Melt the butter over medium high heat in a medium saucepan until it is bubbling and spitting and just beginning to brown. 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.
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