A winter cake

It seems winter in Colorado has been canceled this year, considering that it was nearly seventy degrees (21C for our international audience) when we took these photos. In December. And on one hand, this is delightful, because driving in the snow is truly one of my least favorite activities, despite being a born-and-bred Colorado native. And on the other hand, these disconcerting weather patterns freak me out in a serious fashion. But I’m working on my anxiety, and my ability to “accept the things I cannot change.” So let’s make a cake.

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This lovely cake has all the flavors of winter: tangy, bright cranberries and citrus, plus sharp, spiky ginger. And pomegranates. Oh, pomegranates. Is there any fruit I adore more? I think not. When these babies are in season, as they are now, I often eat one a day. Somehow their tart sparkle seems to apologize for the misery of endless winter – or whatever season it is we’re currently having. The cake isn’t excessively sweet, either, which pleases me; if you had a strong, dark honey on hand, I imagine that might be compelling here.

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Any time you’re making a light, delicate cake, friends, please be careful not to overmix the batter – it’s a sure way to achieve dense, tough gumminess. This is even more key when baking at altitude, as we are here. Assemble all of your ingredients in advance, then place your liquids in one bowl, your dry ingredients and the fruit in another, and whip the egg whites at the very last minute, when everything else is ready. Never pre-whip your egg whites then go back to put together the other components – their ethereal fluffiness is exactly what you need. (Tossing dried, fresh or frozen fruit with flour helps keep it from sinking to the bottom of the cake, and from bleeding its juices, though that effect can actually be quite pretty. If you’re using frozen fruit, never let it thaw first but just throw it in frozen. And move quickly.)

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As before, make sure your pan is prepped and your oven is preheated. Once the batter is together, it needs to go straight into a hot oven. This is not the time to dilly-dally.

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This recipe as written makes for quite a moist cake, which is lovely here in Colorado as it stays fresher for longer in our dry climate. I reduced the leavening by 1/4 tsp. and added 1/4 cup extra flour, as is often done when adjusting baking recipes for altitude. If you’re at sea level, you may need to use a total of 3/4 tsp. baking powder. You can probably reduce the whole wheat pastry flour by 1/4 cup at sea level, too. Make sure to check carefully for doneness with this cake; I found that I needed a bit more baking time than the recipe indicates. Ovens vary; adjust accordingly.

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Pomegranate, Cranberry and Ginger Cake (written for 5,300 ft. elevation)

For The Cake

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup mild olive oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • 2 tbsp. freshly grated orange zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 5 tbsp. crystallized ginger, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh or dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tsp. confectioner’s sugar for dusting
  

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan; line with parchment paper and butter and flour the parchment.

In a small bowl, stir together honey, olive oil, egg yolks, zest, juice and 3 tbsp. crystallized ginger. In a large bowl, sift together both flours, baking powder and salt. Gently fold cranberries and pomegranate seeds into dry ingredients. In another bowl, beat egg whites and a pinch of salt with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, about 1-2 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold honey mixture into flour mixture, then fold in egg whites until combined. Do not overmix.

Pour and scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Allow cake to cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes; run a knife around sides of pan to loosen cake and turn it our onto rack. Remove paper and allow to cool completely.

To serve, sift confectioner’s sugar over cake and garnish with remaining crystallized ginger and additional pomegranate seeds.

4 thoughts on “A winter cake

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