A layer cake is like a fanfare: It blares “Celebration!” This cake is meant for birthdays and anniversaries, graduations, holidays—I love it for Thanksgiving—house parties and any time you want to make a big group of people happy. Full of flavor, it’s based on nuts, cranberries and grated parsnips, a vegetable that might not spring to mind immediately when you’re thinking cake. I’m sure that’s how people felt when carrot cakes were new. In fact, this is very much like a carrot cake—complete with cream cheese frosting—and if you wanted to swap the sweet, earthy parsnips for sweet, earthy carrots, or combine the two, that would be fine.
The cake is double-filled—it gets a layer of cream cheese frosting and then one of gingered-cranberry jam, made lickety-split. It’s a fabulous combo, and the brilliant color of the cranberries makes the cake that much more of an occasion. I’ve given you a recipe for enough frosting to completely cover the cake, but whether you do or don’t is your decision. I love the look of the cake with bare sides, so that you can see the double-decker filling, or with just a thin swipe of frosting for a skim coat. So many choices. All delicious.
Excerpted from Everyday Dorie © 2018 by Dorie Greenspan. Photography © 2018 by Ellen Silverman. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
- 2 cups (272 gm) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup (200 gm) plus 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
- Finely grated zest of 1 small orange or 1 tangerine
- 1 cup (240 ml) neutral oil such as canola
- 1/2 cup (100 gm) packed light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 pound (454 gm) parsnips trimmed, peeled and grated (3 cups)
- 1 cup (120 gm) chopped pecans or other nuts, toasted or not
- 1/2 cup (50 gm) chopped fresh cranberries
- One 12-ounce (340 gm) bag cranberries (if frozen, don’t defrost)
- 3/4 cup (150 gm) sugar
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice or water
- 1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
- 3/4 pound (340 gm) cream cheese cut into chunks, at room temperature
- 1-1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces; 170 gm) unsalted butter cut into chunks, at room temperature
- 6-1/4 cups (750 gm) confectioners' sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 325 degrees F. (If your oven can’t hold three 9-inch cake pans on one rack, position the racks to divide the oven into thirds.) Butter three 9-inch round cake pans, dust the interiors with our and tap out the excess; or use baker’s spray.
- Whisk the flour, coriander, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.
- Put 2 teaspoons of the sugar in a small bowl and stir in the minced ginger and zest.
- Working in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the oil, the remaining 1 cup sugar and the brown sugar together on medium speed for about 2 minutes. The mixture might look grainy, but that’s fine. One by one, beat in the eggs and then continue to beat until the mixture is smooth and velvety. Beat in the vanilla, followed by the ginger-zest mixture and any syrup that might be in the bowl. Turn off the mixer and add the our mixture all at once. Pulse the mixer to start incorporating the flour, then mix on low just until the dry ingredients almost disappear. Add the parsnips and nuts and mix to incorporate. Switch to a flexible spatula and gently fold in the cranberries. Divide the batter evenly among the three pans and smooth the tops.
- Bake for 33 to 37 minutes, until the cakes are golden and just starting to pull away from the sides of the pans; the tops will feel springy to the touch and a tester inserted in the center will come out clean. If you’re baking on two racks or your oven has hot spots, rotate the pans from front to back and top to bottom after 18 minutes. Transfer the cakes to racks and cool for 5 minutes, then run a table knife around the sides of the pans and turn the cakes out onto racks to cool to room temperature. (You can make the cakes a day ahead—wrap them well and keep them at room temperature.)
- Put all the ingredients in a medium saucepan, stir and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture bubbles, many of the cranberries pop and the sauce starts to thicken, about 10 minutes. The filling will thicken more as it cools. Scrape the filling into a bowl and cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate if you’re not using immediately. (The filling can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept in the fridge.)
- Working in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt together on medium speed until very smooth; scrape the beater and bowl down frequently. Add the vanilla and beat to blend.
- If the tops of the cakes have mounded (these usually bake pretty flat), you can slice away the crowns to even them. Place one layer bottom side down on a cake plate. Using an offset spatula or a table knife, generously cover the top of the layer with frosting. Spoon half of the cranberry filling into the center of the frosting and spread it so that it comes to about an inch or two shy of the edges of the cake. Place the second layer on the cake, top side down. Cover with frosting and spread the remaining filling over it. Finish by placing the last layer on the cake, bottom side up. Cover the top layer with frosting, adding some swirls and whorls, if you’d like. If some of the cranberry filling oozed to the edges or maybe even spilled over a little, celebrate it! I love the casual look of this cake.
- You’ll have frosting left over, so you can frost the sides of the cake, if you’d like. I like to leave the sides bare or run just a very thin layer of frosting around them, a layer that looks almost sheer, kind of naked, but not quite. The cake can be served as soon as it’s assembled, but it’s easier to slice if you give it an hour or two in the fridge.
WORKING AHEAD: You can make the filling up to 3 days ahead and refrigerate it. You can make the cake layers a day ahead and keep them wrapped airtight. The cake slices better if it is refrigerated for an hour or two.
STORING : You can keep the cake at room temperature (not hot or humid) for a couple of days or, wrapped, in the refrigerator for at least 5 days. You can also freeze the cake. Freeze it, then wrap airtight; if you can manage it, defrost it overnight in the refrigerator.
For an even more festive cake, crown it with sugared cranberries—finishing it like this is beautiful for the holidays. Make a simple syrup by boiling ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water together, stirring, for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, drop in as many fresh cranberries as you’d like and roll them around to coat with syrup, then lift them out with a slotted spoon or mesh spider and transfer them to a rack. Let them set for about 1 hour—they’ll be sticky and tacky, and that’s what you want. Roll the cranberries around in a cup of sugar and then let them dry on a clean rack for another hour. Sugared berries are meant for the last minute—they’ll get syrupy in the refrigerator and won’t survive freezing.
Claire Johnson says
This cake is rich and full of flavor and texture. Love it!
Sherry Schodts says
6 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar? Is that a typo? Seems like it would be way too sweet.
Robyn Doyon-Aitken says
Nope. . .not a typo, Sherry. It’s 6 1-4 cups of confectioner’s sugar for the frosting.
JILL BAILY says
Don’t forget there’s a lot more cream cheese and butter than in the usual cream cheese frosting recipe – it’s usually 8 oz. of cream cheese and 1 stick (4 oz.) of butter. So this recipe makes a larger amount of frosting.