The Year In Food » Fine Seasonal Eating

Masthead header


Maybe the holiday magic is in the mess. I read this late on December 24th, and wished that I had read it earlier. Wished that I had been carrying it around with me throughout the month, reminding myself of this every damn time things got messy. Because it was a messy month.

Christmas brings out an exuberance in me unique to this time of year. I love everything about the season: the deep universality of celebrating light in darkness; the jolly, rotund figure of Santa and all that that merriment embodies. I love the pagan roots connected to the winter solstice, and the Norse influence of stern, fatherly figures and fir trees. I love how wild and ancient it feels to bring a living tree into the home, and dress it up, and make it bright. I love the lights and the glitter and the sparkle and the glass ornaments and the profusion of sweets and cookies. I love the connotations of the season, the pageantry, the use of story to convey the big stuff. I love the sappy sentimentality of Christmas carols, and I love to imagine Santa’s journey across the globe, impossible as it is. And because I love all of that so much, I wanted this year to be motherfucking perfect. I wanted to have the time and the space to do it on my terms.

What comes next is likely obvious. My plan to have the schedule cleared after the 13th, to dedicate myself to holiday spiriting, cookie baking, card writing, and general magic: totally didn’t happen like that. I got lost in a stressful tangle of interpersonal challenges, unexpected piles of work, getting sick, feeling raw and tired and kinda ragged. I got all sad and sorry for myself. I declared, privately, that I had lost the holiday spirit this year.

And then, on Christmas day, cooking with my stepmother, quietly in sync in the kitchen, feeling relief that the storm had passed, I finally grabbed onto that holiday spirit a little bit. My family is so kind. They took such good care of me. And perhaps that’s what I needed: some nourishment, some care. We had a mellow, lovely, unmessy feast at the table. And we finished our Christmas dinner with this cake. Their enthusiasm for it made me blush.

This cake is very much of the season but wouldn’t be out of place as part of a quiet January brunch. It’s rich with the hallmarks of December: heavy on the spices (inspired, in fact, by gingerbread cookie spices), tangy with tart bursts of fresh cranberries (go buy them now while they’re on sale and before they’re gone!), laced with citrus notes from fresh orange zest and juice, warm with toasted almonds, and a little fancy with that powdered sugar finish. But make no mistake: this is an easy cake, and a little messy, just like the holidays, and perhaps because it’s flourless. It tastes equally good with a cup of coffee or a glass of champagne, which is to say, eat it as enthusiastically at breakfast as you would at dessert. I had intended to get this cake to you before December 25th, but, you know, things got messy. Blessedly so.


Yield: 8 slices

2 cups almond meal or almond flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 eggs, room temperature, beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
Zest of one orange
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, baking powder and soda, and sea salt.

In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the beaten eggs with the melted butter, and orange zest and juice. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry, mixing just until everything is thoroughly incorporated. Fold in the fresh cranberries.

Thoroughly grease and then flour a round 9-inch baking pan. Pour the batter into the pan. Sprinkle the sliced almonds over the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Save for a little cranberry juice.) The cake will become very fragrant when it’s nearly done. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes, then sprinkle with powdered sugar. Slice into 8 portions. The cake is a little crumbly when you slice it; roll with it. :)

  • Kathryn - Such good words; it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the magic when everything seems so stressful and manic. I’m glad you were able to enjoy the holidays in the end. This cake looks wonderful. Happy new year Kimberley!ReplyCancel

  • Eileen - Just look at all those beautiful crispy almonds! This cake sounds like the perfect low-key yet delicious holiday treat.ReplyCancel

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - This cake is gorgeous! Love the cranberries in there!ReplyCancel

  • Christine - I’m trying this out right now! Thank you so much for sharing the recipe! Do you happen to know what the best way to store this cake is, and how long it will last?ReplyCancel

  • sara forte - I’ve been making my fair share of almond meal cakes around here.They feel SO much better in the tum than a wheat counterpart. This looks gorgeous and I regret I have not taken advantage of the cranberries at all. Glad you’re feeling better and a happy new year you, beautiful lady.ReplyCancel

  • Mimi - Beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • Joanna - What a beautiful post!!! I know sometimes life just get messy:) but the good things is, but it can always in order again ! Best, warm wishes for 2014! I also love the spiced cake( gingerbread spices are my favorite!). I will try the recipe later on, since I am taking a break from baking or mostly from eating the sweets for next few days!:)ReplyCancel

  • Ashley - I can relate so much to your words! This was quite a year for me, that I would definitely describe as messy. I’m trying to bring focus to the New Year and a better attitude at living *in* the mess instead of dwelling/worrying/stressing about it from outside. Hugs to you, lovely. xo p.s. This cake looks phenom!ReplyCancel

  • Kimberley - @Christine: You should be able to store it on the counter for a day or two. After that, the fridge is probably safest.ReplyCancel

  • ileana - Beautiful cake. Glad you’re feeling better! xo

    p.s. I made your bourbon balls for a holiday brunch and they turned out wonderful. I toasted the pecans before blitzing them and rolling them in cocoa and all that other good stuff. Thanks again for the recipe. Can’t wait to make them again next December!ReplyCancel

  • Kasey - Life’s kind of a mess, isn’t it? I felt similarly – I wanted so much to own this holiday. But it’s hard. I’m glad you had a bit of magic, and were taken care of. I look forward to seeing more of you in 2014 my friend. xoReplyCancel

  • Christine - Thank you so much, Kimberley!!! :)ReplyCancel

  • Bob H - It was a wonderful cake Kimberley! As was the day and our little celebration!ReplyCancel

  • Sini @ my blue&white kitchen - I feel you, girl. And this cake? Pure magic. I want to have a big serving of it right now.ReplyCancel

  • pat - is there any reason you do not offere a ‘PRINT” button so one could easily print off these delicious recipes?

  • sara - Yum! This looks DELICIOUS. Love love love. :)ReplyCancel

  • Perry @CavaCava - I never tasted a spiced cake in my whole life. I think it’s a contrast of the usual sweetness of a cake which make it more interesting. I hope I can have enough time to bake a spiced cake myself in the future. Thanks for the recipe though.ReplyCancel

  • Didi - I made this with dried cranberries (soaked) in stead of raw, because I didn’t want the sour taste and I thought it would be less crumbly. I also but in some vanilla and almond extract. Came out great, like a fruit cake you didn’t have to “ripen.” Next time, some nuts too, I think. Thanks for this great new breakfast cake! Here’s to a happy, messy year!ReplyCancel

  • Beautifood - After all the candies I ate this holidays, I promised myself not to eat sweets that much…. but then I came here. Looks AWESOME! :)

  • Irina - I just discovered your blog. A quick favorite…the photography, simplicity, and healthy recipes. How did I not find it earlier? I found it on I’m going to try this recipe…but with my date and fig purée. Ever tried subbing a puree for b. sugar?ReplyCancel

  • DK - I made this cake today. It’s lovely and light. Hope it’s just as good tomorrow. After that… I don’t think it will make it that far. :) I’ll be making it again for thanksgiving.

    If anyone wants to know, you can buy two 6oz bags of sliced almonds for this cake. About 8oz of almonds will be ground up in a blender for the almond meal and have leftover for the topping. Just don’t over do it with the blender or you’ll have almond butter.ReplyCancel

  • vasanthi - Hi… The recipe looks great..but was wondering about the seeds in the cranberries. Should those be removed before adding to the cake as its not mentioned in the recipe?ReplyCancel

  • Munyole - An amazing post. I love reading this kinds of posts!ReplyCancel

  • Xenia - This beautiful cake just cake out of my oven! Didn’t have oranges, so I used cider. Didn’t have almonds either, so walnuts stood in. And one more thing, I went with coconut sugar rather than regular brown, since it’s a bit more wholesome. And it has emerged from the oven with a perfect loft and spicy aroma. Still warm, I couldn’t help myself and cut into its fragrant crust. I love it! The texture is perfectly light, which is a departure from many gluten free cakes which tend to be heavy. The spices give it a nice kick, and the cranberries, as always, provide the delightful snap we love! Next time, I’ll make sure to have the oranges and almonds this recipe calls for. But honestly, this is great as is. I will be including this in my holiday baking! Thanks for the recipe!ReplyCancel

    • Kimberley - Hi Xenia, Thanks so much for this awesome feedback! I’m making the cake again today for Thanksgiving. Any sweet citrus would work, I think, but I’m also a fan of using what is on hand. Happy Holidays to you.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - I know this recipe is getting on a bit now, but I just made it this evening and already had to have a second slice! It is so good. It’s lighter than I expected and the combination of the spices and sharp cranberries is fantastic. I’m looking forward to it cold with a dollop of greek yogurt :)ReplyCancel

  • Mink - Made this cake and it was enjoyed by everyone. Delicious. Will be saving the recipe.ReplyCancel

  • ZA - Hi. The cake looks delicious. I was thinking of making this. Did you use dark brown sugar or light brown sugar for this recipe?ReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *