Hello Christmas cake! Or if you consider gingerbread and/or cranberries to be a Thanksgiving flavor only, then make a mental note to make this for Thanksgiving next year! I like the idea of gingerbread and cranberries being ideal flavors for both holidays. This flavor concept came to me in the beginning of this year, but then it kind of got forgotten during the summer months and warm weather foods. When Annie came out with a pie of these exact flavors, it sparked my memory of my tucked away, hand written note. So, I went digging into my saved note pile and found the original idea I had. I love it when things align like that. It doesn’t happen very often, but I always appreciate it when it does! So, I got to planning.
Let me break down this cake for you. First, I used my new favorite gingerbread cake for the layers, then a fresh cranberry sauce is slathered over the cake, and a fluffy lemon mousse is dolloped over the cranberry sauce. At first, I was a little apprehensive about the flavor combinations. I mean, I’ve done gingerbread and cranberries, and gingerbread and lemon before, but never all together. So, I took a deep breath and dove in. Man oh man, there was no need to be worried. The flavors were phenomenal together. Each layer complimented the other perfectly. So, if you are in search of a show stopping dessert for your holiday party, the look is over. This is it! And, you can make this in advance because it needs to stay in the freezer so it doesn’t fall apart. You can make this this weekend for any holiday parties you may have on coming up. Turn on your favorite holiday music and dance your way into the kitchen and get baking!
For the cranberry sauce
- 3/4 cup water, plus more as needed
- 2/3 cup sugar, plus more to taste
- 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
For the lemon mousse
- 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 whole large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- pinch of coarse salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold
- 1 cup heavy cream, cold
For the cake
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup molasses
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 cup hot water
- To make the cranberry sauce, combine the water, cranberries and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the cranberries and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer uncovered, until the cranberries have popped and the sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Once the mixture is cool enough to handle, purée it with an immersion blender, blender or food processor until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove any solids. Store in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the cake.
- To make the lemon mousse set up a double boiler, bring 2-3 inches of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, eggs, egg yolk, sugar, and salt. Place over the simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Continue to whisk until the mixture thickens and reaches 180ºF on an instant-read thermometer about 10-12 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat. Cut the butter into tablespoons. Scrape the lemon cream into a blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender in the bowl containing the lemon cream. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time, blending or processing after each addition until fully incorporated. Strain through a mesh sieve, then transfer to an airtight container and chill completely before using.
- To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour the edges of a quarter sheet pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and molasses until completely combined.
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves until combined. Pour into the butter mixture and mix until no flour streaks remain. Mix in the applesauce and water on low speed or by hand until completely combined.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes, or until springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely.
- When the lemon mixture has chilled and you are ready to assemble the cake, place the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Use a spatula to fold the lemon cream into the whipped cream until evenly combined and no streaks remain.
- To assemble the cake, invert the cake from the sheet pan onto a work surface. Use a 6-inch cake ring to cut out 2 circles from the cake (these will be the top two layers.) Wipe off the cake ring and place it in the center of a sheet pan lined with clean parchment or a silpat. Use a strip of acetate to line the inside of the cake ring. Use scraps from the leftover cake to place in the ring and push together in a flat, even layer. Spread about 1/3 cup of the cranberry sauce evenly over the cake. Then, spread about 1 1/2-2 cups of the lemon mousse over the cranberry sauce.
- Gently tuck a second strip of acetate between the cake ring and the top 1/4-inch of the first strip of acetate. Set a cake round on top of the lemon mousse, and repeat the layering process once more (1/3 cup cranberry sauce and 1 1/2-2 cups lemon mousse). Place the remaining cake layer on top of the lemon mousse. Spread the top of the cake with 1 to 1 1/2 cups lemon mousse. Swirl in cranberry sauce with a butter knife.
- Transfer the assembled cake to the freezer and freeze for a minimum of 12 hours to set the cake and the filling. The cake will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month. At least 3 hours before you are ready to serve, remove the pan from the freezer, pop the cake out of the cake ring, and peel away the acetate layers. Transfer to a cake platter and serve immediately. Store any leftovers well wrapped in the freezer.