At Milk Bar — the rule-breaking bakery with locations in NYC, DC, and Toronto — chef and founder Christina Tosi has popularized the concept of the naked cake, a cake without a final coating of frosting or icing. Her naked cakes have always been crowd pleasers, beautiful but never too pretty to eat, and with fillings and flavors that are both crave-able and unique. Here, Tosi presents a creation appropriate for any holiday celebration: Her Cranberry Gingerbread Layer Cake features pie crust crumbles, a pie-flavored frosting, and cream cheese icing on top. Find the recipe below, but watch how Tosi builds the cake in the video above. Note her novel use of a bent spoon to spread frosting and fillings between each layer, and her attention to texture, temperature, and timing.
Milk Bar's Cranberry-Gingerbread Cake will also be available for purchase at all Milk Bars and online starting December 2.
Cranberry Gingerbread Layer Cake
makes 1 (6-inch) layer cake, 5 to 6 inches tall. serves 6 to 8
cranberry gingerbread cake (recipe below)
¼ cup (65g) cranberry juice
cranberry sauce (recipe below)
pie dough frosting (recipe below)
pie dough crumb (recipe below)
cream cheese frosting (recipe below)
cranberry milk crumbs (recipe below)
1 (6-inch) cake ring
2 strips acetate, each 3 inches wide and 20 inches long
Gingerbread Cake Recipe:
makes 1 quarter sheet pan of cake
¼ cup (119g) butter
1 cup (210g) light brown sugar
½ cup (76g) sugar
2 tablespoons (32g) molasses
½ cup (105g) grapeseed oil
½ cup (105g) buttermilk
1 teaspoon (3 g) vanilla extract
3 ½ cups (452g ) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (4g) baking powder
¼ cup (21g) ginger
2 teaspoon (8g) salt
1/2 teaspoon (4g ) allspice
1. Heat the oven to 350°f.
2. Combine the butter, and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and
molasses and mix on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. scrape down the sides of the bowl once more.
3. On low speed, stream in the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. increase the mixer speed to medium-high and paddle for 4 to 6 minutes, until the mixture is practically twice the size of your original fluffy butter-and-sugar mixture, and completely homogenous. don't rush the process. you're basically forcing too much liquid into an already fatty mixture that doesn't want to make room for that liquid. there should be no streaks of fat or liquid. stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
4. On very low speed, add the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, and allspice. mix for 45 to 60 seconds, just until your batter comes together. scrape down the sides of the bowl.
5. Pam-spray a quarter sheet pan and line it with parchment, or just line the pan with a silpat. using a spatula, spread the cake batter in an even layer in the pan.
6. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes. the cake will rise and puff, doubling in size, but will remain slightly buttery and dense. at 30 minutes, gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger: the cake should bounce back slightly and the center should no longer be jiggly. leave the cake in the oven for an extra 3 to 5 minutes if it doesn't pass these tests.
7. Take the cake out of the oven and cool on a wire rack or, in a pinch, in the fridge or freezer (don't worry, it's not cheating). the cooled cake can be stored in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 5 days.
Cranberry Sauce Recipe:
makes about 1 ¾ cup (180 g)
1 cup (100g) cranberries
4 tablespoons (50g) sugar
3 tablespoons (28g) water
½ teaspoon (2g) salt
1. Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan.
2. Cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the cranberries are soft. This should take about 10 minutes.
3. Increase the heat to medium and cook until cranberries burst, which will be about 10 more minutes.
4. Puree cranberry sauce in a food processor, or with a hand blender.
5. let the sauce cool completely before using in a recipe or eating. stored in an airtight container, the sauce will keep fresh for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Pie Crumb Recipe:
makes about 5 1/2 cups (790 grams)
3 cups (480g) flour
4 tablespoons (36 g) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon (6 g) kosher salt
1 cup (1 stick) (230 g) butter, melted
3 tablespoons (40 g) water
1. Heat the oven to 350°f.
2. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and paddle on low speed until well mixed.
3. Add the butter and water and paddle on low speed until the mixture starts to come together in small clusters.
4. Spread the clusters on a parchment- or silpat- lined sheet pan. bake for 25 minutes, breaking them up occasionally. the crumbs should be golden brown and still slightly moist to the touch at that point; they will dry and harden as they cool.
5. Let the crumbs cool completely before using in a recipe or eating. stored in an airtight container, the crumbs will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature or 1 month in the fridge or freezer.
Pie Crumb Frosting Recipe
makes about 3/4 cup (440 g), or enough for 1 cranberry gingerbread cakes
½ recipe pie crumb (above)
1 cup (220 g) milk
1 teaspoon (4 g) kosher salt
6 tablespoons (80 g) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (80 g) confectioners' sugar
1. Combine the pie crumbs, milk, and salt in a blender, turn the speed to medium-high, and puree until smooth and homogenous. it will take 1 to 3 minutes (depending on the awesomeness of your blender). if the mixture does not catch on your blender blade, turn off the blender, take a small teaspoon, and scrape down the sides of the canister, remembering to scrape under the blade, then try again.
2. Combine the butter and confectioners' sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes, until fluffy and pale yellow. scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
3. On low speed, paddle in the contents of the blender. after 1 minute, crank the speed up to medium-high and let her rip for another 2 minutes. scrape down the sides of the bowl. if the mixture is not a uniform, very pale, barely tan color, give the bowl another scrape-down and another minute of high-speed paddling.
4. Use the frosting immediately, or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe:
makes about 1 ½ cups (400 g)
4 ounces (100 g) cream cheese
7 tablespoons (100 g) butter
½ teaspoon (2 g) salt
1 ¼ cups (200 g ) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon (4 g) vanilla extract
1. With a hand mixer, or stand mixer cream butter, cream cheese, and salt together until no lumps remain.
2. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 5 minutes.
3. Use the frosting immediately, or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Cranberry Milk Crumb Recipe:
makes about 2 ¼ cups (260 g)
3 ½ cups (before ground) (60 g) freeze dried cranberries
½ cup (40 g) milk powder
¼ cup (40 g) flour
2 tablespoons (12 g) cornstarch
2 tablespoons (25 g) sugar
½ teaspoon (2 g) kosher salt
4 tablespoons (½ stick) (55 g) butter, melted
¼ cup (20 g) milk powder
3 ounces (90 g) white chocolate, melted
1. Heat the oven to 250°F.
2. Grind the freeze dried cranberries in a food processor.
3. Combine the 40 g (½ cup) milk powder, the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Toss with your hands to mix. Add the melted butter and toss, using a spatula, until the mixture starts to come together and form small clusters.
4. Spread the clusters on a parchment-or Silpat-lined sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes. The crumbs should be sandy at that point, and your kitchen should smell like buttery heaven. Cool the crumbs completely.
5. Crumble any milk crumb clusters that are larger than ½ inch in diameter, and put the crumbs in a medium bowl. Add the ¼ cup (20 g) milk powder and the ground freeze dried cranberries and toss together until it is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
6. Pour the white chocolate over the crumbs and toss until your clusters are enrobed. Then continue tossing them every 5 minutes until the white chocolate hardens and the clusters are no longer sticky. The crumbs will keep in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for up to 1 month.