Cranberry Upside-down Cake

December 13, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’m pretty vocal about cake. Notably about not liking most cakes. If I eat a cupcake, it’s for the salted buttercream frosting. If I eat a layer cake, it’s either because I’m starving or I can’t resist a sugar rush. But if I slice off a sliver of a dense, vanilla cake topped with gooey, caramelized brown sugar and sticky, candylike, tart cranberries and pop it on top of the toaster for added warmth and crunch, you can believe that I really want to eat that cake.

I made this back in late-November but somehow December has turned into a whirlwind of papers and projects and now finally, just as winter break is about to start, internship applications and you never saw it. Somehow (don’t look at me!) nothing has been posted in almost half a month. And I’m here to rectify this, because really if you wanted to stray from the cranberry sauce but stick to the cranberries, this showstopper wouldn’t be out of place on your holiday dessert table. Sure it has imperfections; the bright cranberries balloon out on the surface like tiny pieces of confetti tossed in the air, the sticky sugar top (or bottom depending on how you look at) flows like syrup around everything in sight when you flip the pan, and it is so laden with fruit and liquid that the cake itself threatens to split down the middle when still warm if you don’t call in reinforcements. But the eye won’t be able to stray from it to the other competing desserts on the table. This I swear. Plus, who doesn’t like cake you can toast and eat for breakfast for days afterward?

Did somebody say cake?

Pear-Cranberry Ginger Crumble

November 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Just when we were preparing for a long period of hibernation, just when I was preparing to outlast the snow, the sleet, and the slush, it suddenly became summer again. Well, as close to summer as you can get mid-November; Hey, I was actually wearing shorts today! And I realized that with all the time I’ve spent complaining about being stuck in Princeton, and how awful and uninspiring most of this state is, I’ve neglected to tell you about the beautiful parts of New Jersey.

We spent the last weekend on our fall break at my long-time roommate’s house in northwest New Jersey. My roommate is a very defensive defender of New Jersey. Crack one joke about how dirty Jersey is, and you’re in for a spiel about how all of Jersey isn’t Newark. And as much as we give her a hard time, she’s right.

Her house sits on the highest piece of land for miles around, above the largest reservoir I have ever seen. We happened upon the area at the peak of fall, when the air was chilly and brisk and the trees hadn’t quite ridded themselves of their yellowed leaves. We spent the majority of the weekend being what we call “old ladies.” We went on short walks, did crossword puzzles, watched movies, and baked every night — a sort of routine that was as enjoyable as it was comforting. We did some hill running that was more or less comparable to running at home in San Francisco. We made this pear-cranberry gingersnap crumble, and may have spooned it over oat pancakes and topped it with maple syrup from a two-gallon jug the next morning. The morning’s activities were interspersed with updates from the New York City Marathon on TV. Next thing we knew, break was over and we were piling up in the car and driving back to campus.

This crumble combines all the flavors I love about the fall — the spicy bite of ginger, the tartness of cranberries and the sweetness of soft, translucent cooked pears. It was impossible to ignore sitting on the countertop. We added an extra apple, thinking the fruit filling might get too mushy with ripe pears. Oh, and we browned the butter, of course. Otherwise, we left the recipe untouched.

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