Red Riding Hood’s Delightfully Tart Cranberry Christmas Cake…

Red Riding Hood’s Cranberry Christmas Cake

For an adult, I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about fairytales (as you may have noticed). And no, I don’t mean those saccharine, watered-down characters you find at Disney amusement parks. I’m talking about the dark, weird, fantastically-twisted and sometimes frightening characters from the Grimms Märchen (Grimms Fairytales, in German, by the brothers Grimm). I grew up reading and listening to the original, shadowy tales of Black Forest terror -and they haunt my dreams to this day. Little details from the individual stories often blur together in my mind with characters, drawings and narratives by Edward Gorey and Tim Burton, creating a delightfully strange and slightly Gothic/Medieval blend of inspiration.

One of my favorite fairytales has always been Rotkäppchen (aka Red Riding Hood), and I am definitely looking forward to the new Warner Brothers/DiCaprio film —which releases in March 2011— starring Amanda Seyfried as Red, Julie Christie as Grandma and Gary Oldman as the Hunter. In spite of the not-so-awesome trailer, from what I’ve read, I expect it to be quite entertaining. I understand that the film is actually something like Sleepy Hollow —one of my favorites— and the set and costumes look amazing (would you get a load of that cape in the photo below)? When we were kids, my sister and I used to beg my dad to “read” this story to us, because his version was particularly imaginative. My father is a brilliant storyteller, which came in handy because our copy of the Grimms Märchen is written in German, and although the vast majority of my extended family lives in Europe —where my mother is from— my father speaks only a handful of foreign words.

Amanda Seyfried as Red Riding Hood

Dad often used the exquisitely illustrated Grimms Märchen as an inspirational launch-pad for a far more modern —but equally dark— improvisational rendition of “Red Riding Hood”. So, how weird can this possibly get, you wonder? Well, to begin with, the Wolf always wore black leather and rode a Harley. Sure, he was nasty as all get-out, but he was also seriously cool (I picture him as Clive Owen). And Granny, well, she wasn’t the nice little old lady you probably remember… No, not at all. This Granny was actually pretty crotchety, and she wasn’t very attentive to personal hygiene or home upkeep either. Of course, the Hunter was heroic in my father’s version of the story…  I assume this is because at the time, my dad was an avid hunter, and he probably wanted to give the dude a PR-make-over due to the whole ‘Bambi’ thing (don’t worry dad, we won’t go there today). But it’s my father’s heroine, Red Riding Hood herself, that I always found most fascinating. Red was of course exotically beautiful and sweet -but she wasn’t overly sweet. She had a bit of an edge to her. In fact, you might even go so far as to call her tart. Smart, savvy and quite skilled in marshall arts and of course botany, Red was no shrinking violet. I thought she was an excellent role model. And then, there was the swoon-worthy, crimson velvet cloak -who wouldn’t want that? Plus, Red was clever enough to carry some lip-smacking goodies in her basket, in addition to the carefully marked, poisoned cupcakes she handed over to the bad guys. After all, most forest-dwelling heroines know that the way to the Woodsman’s heart, and ‘happily-ever-after’, is usually through a slightly-tart, ruby-glazed sweet cake…

Red Riding Hood’s Delightfully Tart, Cranberry Christmas Cake

For the Cake:

2          Eggs

1          Cup Greek yogurt (I use full-fat)

1          Cup sugar

1/3      Butter, melted and then cooled slightly

1          Tsp vanilla extract

1          Tablespoon golden rum

2          Cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2   Teaspoons baking powder

1/2      Teaspoon baking soda

1/2       Cup of freshly washed cranberries (or more, as you like)

1/2       Teaspoon nutmeg

1/2       Teaspoon of cinnamon

Butter for greasing the pan

For the Cranberry Sauce Glaze:

1/2       Pound freshly washed cranberries

1           Cup sugar

1/4       Cup water

1/2       Cinnamon stick

1/4        Teaspoon ground nutmeg

Zest and juice of 1 orange

Don’t worry, no one will kick you into the oven while you’re checking on the cake… That’s a different Fairytale.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Melt the butter and set aside to cool down. Grease a 10″ round ceramic dish with butter. Mix the yogurt, eggs, vanilla, rum, sugar and melted butter together in a large bowl. In another, smaller bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Combine the dry and wet ingredients and stir until just blended. Add the fresh cranberries and turn them in gently. Pour the mixture into the greased baking dish. Sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon and slide the dish into the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile start preparing the cranberry sauce…

In a medium size sauce pot, combine cranberries, water and sugar. Bring to a medium boil while stirring. Add the spices and reduce the heat. Simmer for just under 10 minutes. Mash the mix up a bit, leaving some whole berries and add the orange juice and zest. Remove from the heat and fish out the cinnamon stick. Allow the mixture to cool and gel up slightly.

Round about now…

After 40 minutes, remove the cake from the oven and test for doneness with a stick. If the stick comes clean, allow the cake to cool for about 1/2 hour.  Glaze and cool in a chilly room, outside or in your fridge to set the sauce up. Carry through the woods in a basket covered with a red-checked cloth and serve at room temperature. Be sure to avoid the wolves. They will gobble you and your cranberry cake right up.


‘Tis the Season for Ruby Fruit and Candlelight

You may also enjoy this Golden Version of the Cake, Fragrant with Spice and Bartlett Pears (click image above or here)

Rudbeckia hirta with ice crystals

Hydrangea paniculata with frost and snow

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) in Snow

The Ice-Cloaked Blue-Green Dragon Stands Sentry at the Secret Garden Door (Acer Palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’)


Article & Photographs â“’ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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6 Replies to “Red Riding Hood’s Delightfully Tart Cranberry Christmas Cake…”

  1. Polly Thompson

    Noticed that your recipe has two mentions of baking powder. If I was a better cook I’d probably know which amount is supposed to be soda.
    Looking forward to a tart red cake. Thanks.

  2. Deb Weyrich-Cody

    Ao,ooo! Who’s afraid, indeed! But Hollywood doesn’t keep up with my overactive imagination once again. Her cloak is indeed beautiful and incredibly romantic, but not velvet (sigh). You and I are definitely on the same page for the Clive Owen vote (double sigh, increased heartbeat), but who do you see as the “hero” woodsman?

    I can’t wait to make this. What a wonderful way to christen my flan pan. (It’s one of the first things I ever built in pottery and I’ve been holding off using it until I could find just the right recipe.) Tasting the wonderful contrasts already, thank you!

  3. Michaela

    @ Deb – Funny how celluloid interpretations of fantasy rarely meet our expectations these days. I definitely would have gone with deep, dark, red velvet for the cape. And for the woodsman? Tough call. He has to be as appealing as the wolf, but not dark. That’s difficult, I think, because a bit of edge is what makes a character multi-dimensional and interesting. Heath Ledger would have been good. James Franco maybe?
    I hope your delightfully tart cranberry cake was scrumptious. xo M

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