Thanksgiving is next week. In normal times I would be loading my car with suitcases and handing my condo’s keys to The Gant. Thanksgiving is Aspen’s ski season kick-off day. Being a retired-skier, I’m happily not here for it. But these times are not normal. I won’t be spending the holidays with my family in California nor my friends in Nevada. Spending the winter in Paris is off the table. Let’s not talk about that.
Rather, let’s talk about this celebratory, full-on-flavorful triple-layer cake which I’m going to help you build and bake, layer by layer. Shout-out to all you bakers: Make this cake. Recipe below.
Let’s talk about my escaping Aspen’s hearty winter. I’ve opted for a gentler one in Boulder. Yes, it’s still Colorado. Yes, it still snows there. Yes, it’s been a hot spot. Yes. Yes. Yes. Luckily the university’s holiday break coincides with my first five weeks so I’ll be able to settle in and find my way before the student deluge begins. Right now, closer to home suits me.
When this began last March, and quite honestly I was thinking about 3-5 months, I shelved what I couldn’t do and gave more thought to what I could and would do. Why not tinker with my lifestyle, smooth out the rough spots. Readers, do you know how much tinkering you can do in eight months?
REIMAGINE, REINVENT AND SIMPLIFY
Since returning to Aspen, to my accountant’s annoyance, I still rent a storage space 30 miles from Aspen loaded with boxes of ‘precious objects.’ What I’ve found over the years is that they are only precious to me. “If not now, when?” asked Mary to Mary. It took three months but I emptied that space. Several times a week I’d drive to Carbondale and load up my Subaru with boxes. One by one, I unpacked those babies and donated, tossed and dispersed with everything. I cannot pat myself on the back enough for doing that.
It felt good. Less baggage. A lighter load. But it was June 1st and Covid was still hanging around. Why not simplify my Life more? How much junk could a chic chick chuck if a chic chick could chuck junk? *** Readers, just know this. The longer I’ve sheltered-in-place, the more simplified my Life’s become.
I decided to turn my office back into a second bedroom. A project, for sure. My beautiful office furniture found a home with a friend’s wife who’d just moved her office/business home. That felt good. Next I attacked my closets and drawers, whittled down my cookbook collection and God only knows if I tossed and shredded papers that may be needed if the government comes calling. Once you’re in the mood and time is your friend (think eight long months), one can r-e-a-l-l-y edit and purge.
Happy Thanksgiving, Readers. Take care. Be safe.
TRIPLE-LAYER PARSNIP & CRANBERRY CAKE by Dorie Greenspan, Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook
NOTE: 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. (I did all three)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
Finely grated zest of 1 small orange or 1 tangerine
1 cup neutral oil, such as canola
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 pound parsnips, trimmed, peeled and grated (3 cups)
1 cup (120 grams) chopped pecans or other nuts, toasted or not
1/2 cup chopped fresh cranberries
One 12-ounce bag cranberries (if frozen, don’t defrost)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (or water)
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
3/4 pound cream cheese, cut into chunks, at room temperature
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons or 6 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
6 1/4 cups (750 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- To make the cake, center a rack or evenly position 2 racks in the oven and preheat it to 325 degrees F.
- Butter three 9-inch round cake pans, dust the interiors with flour and tap out the excess; or use baker’s spray.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Turn off the mixer and add the flour 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. 7. Divide the batter evenly among the three pans and smooth the tops.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. To make the filling: 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.
11.To make the frosting, 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.
12. TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: If the tops of the cakes have mounded (these usually bake pretty at), you can slice away the crowns to even them. Place one layer bottom side down on a cake plate. Using an off set 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.
NOTE: 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.
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 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 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.
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.
+++Tongue-twister created by a Martha Beck-wannabe