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Spring for Alice Medrich’s Saucy Cranberry Maple Pudding Cake

Spring cleaning so often turns up a belt you haven’t seen in ages or a pair of shoes buried in the back of the closet you forgot you even bought.

For me, it also means finding stashes I’d overlooked in the freezer.

Cranberries, for instance.

Every winter holiday season, I always freeze an extra bag or two of fresh cranberries so that I can have their bright sweet-tart goodness around just a little bit longer.

Recently while rifling around the freezer, I came upon just such a bag. Thank goodness, too, because it made it so easy to bake up a pan full of “Saucy Cranberry Maple Pudding Cake.”

This homey dessert is featured in the new “Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts” (Artisan Books) by Bay Area baking expert Alice Medrich. The cookbook, of which I recently received a review copy, is full of fuss-free desserts such as “One-Bowl Vanilla Cake” and “Chocolate Pudding Pie.” I especially love the lists of easy tips, such as “10 Ways to Flavor Whipped Cream” and “Things to Do with Gingerbread.”

Imagine a giant moist, tender cornbread muffin baked atop a cranberry compote. That’s what this cake is like.

It’s scarcely sweet, what with the only sweetener coming from a little more than 1/3 cup of maple syrup that is simmered with the cranberries.

You add most of the cranberry mixture to the bottom of  baking pan, then pour on a batter of flour, cornmeal, egg, milk, melted butter and vanilla. Lastly, spoon the last of the cranberries helter-skelter over the top before sticking the pan in the oven.

Enjoy the cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a fluff of whipped cream for dessert. I like it as is for an indulgent breakfast.

This is my favorite type of spring cleaning — when you turn up a find that makes any ol’ day feel like a real holiday.

Saucy Cranberry Maple Pudding Cake

(Serves 6)

For the filling:

2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) fresh or frozen, thawed cranberries

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon maple syrup (Grade B or Grade A dark amber is fine)

1/4 cup water

For the topping:

2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup fine or medium-grind cornmeal

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1/2 cup whole milk

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and still warm

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For serving:

Lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (optional)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 2-quart baking dish that’s 2 inches deep, or a 10-inch glass or ceramic pie plate.

To make the filling: Combine cranberries, maple syrup, and water in a medium saucepan, bring to a simmer; and cook for 3 minutes.

Transfer 1/2 cup of the berries, with some juice, to a small bowl and set aside. Pour remaining berries and juice into the baking dish and set in the oven to heat for about 5 minutes while you make the topping.

To make the topping: Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

Whisk egg, milk, butter and vanilla in another medium bowl. Add flour mixture and whisk just until blended. Remove baking dish from the oven and scrape batter over berries (without necessarily covering them all completely). Spoon the reserved berries and juice randomly over the batter.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until cornmeal topping is golden brown, feels crusty, and springs back when you press it with your fingertips. Cool the pudding for 5 minutes or so before serving plain or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if desired.

From “Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts” by Alice Medrich

More Cranberry Recipes: Asian Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries

And: Cranberry Coffee Cake

And: Zucchini, Carrot and Cranberry Muffins

And: Ming Tsai’s Cranberry-Hoisin Chicken ‘N’ Rice

And: Sally Schmitt’s Cranberry and Apple Kuchen with Hot Cream Sauce

Plus More Alice Medrich Recipes: Pebbly Beach Fruit Squares

And: Nibby Pecan Cookies

And: Sesame Seed Cake