Follow the scent of these Cranberry Ginger Upside Down Cakes from Baking at the 20th Century Cafe 'Iconic European Desserts from Linzer Torte to Honey Cake' (Artisan Books, October 2020) by San Francisco baker extraordinaire Michelle Polzine all the way to the kitchen.
Cranberry-Ginger Upside-Down Cakes
These cakes have a warming, homey quality that fits perfectly into the Christmas season. With lots of spice from fresh ginger, bitterness from blackstrap molasses, and brightness from tart cranberries, the cakes produce a smell while baking that will surely put you in the holiday spirit (even if you’re like me and can’t have a Christmas tree because your crazy cats will break all of your antique ornaments). Just the batter baked on its own—without its cranberry-caramel topper—makes a damn fine cake, and it’s practically healthy with the good amount of iron from the molasses.
Be sure that all the cranberries have popped and deflated before you pour the batter over them; if they are not fully popped, the berries will lift from the bed of caramel, up and into the cake. Serve with Meyer Lemon Cream if you like.
Makes 8 to 12 individual cakes, depending on the ramekins you use
For the Caramel
½ cup (99 grams) sugar
4 tablespoons (57 grams) unsalted butter
2 cups (210 grams) fresh cranberries
For the Cake
½ cup (99 grams) sugar
½ cup (118 milliliters) grapeseed or vegetable oil
¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons (222 milliliters) blackstrap molasses
1 tablespoon honey
½ cup (118 milliliters) boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda
One 2½-ounce (71-gram) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (about ¼ cup)
1¼ cups (150 grams) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter eight 8-ounce (237-milliliter) or twelve 6-ounce (178-milliliter) ramekins.
Make the caramel: Heat the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. As the sugar begins to melt at the edges, use a heatproof spatula to pull the melted sugar into the center, then continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the caramel is a deep reddish-amber color. If at any point it looks grainy or clumpy, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, until smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter; the mixture will foam vigorously.
Divide the caramel among the ramekins, then top with the cranberries. Set the ramekins on a sheet pan and transfer to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cranberries are popped and deflated. Remove from the oven and stab the cranberries with a fork to ensure that they’re fully popped. Return the ramekins to the oven and bake for 5 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and let the ramekins and caramel cool completely before proceeding. (You can pop the ramekins into the fridge to speed the process, or even do this step a day ahead.)
Make the cake: In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, oil, molasses, and honey. Combine the boiling water and baking soda in a measuring cup, then pour into the sugar mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the ginger. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cloves, and cinnamon, then add to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Stir in the egg until the batter is homogeneous.
Divide the batter among the ramekins. Bake until the cakes are puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack set over a baking sheet for 5 minutes, then run an offset spatula (with its tip pointed outward, so it doesn’t cut into the cake) around the edge of each cake, turn out onto the wire rack, and let cool completely. (Or, if you are making these cakes ahead, let cool completely in their ramekins—do not turn them out—and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
When you’re ready to serve, warm the cakes in a 350°F/175°C degree oven until the cakes and the ramekin bottoms are hot, then invert onto plates.)
(*Excerpted from Baking at the 20th Century Cafe by Michelle Polzine -Artisan Books-. Copyright © 2020. Photographs by Aya Brackett.)