Fresh Ginger Snack Cake: A Piece of Cake #5

First week of January means time for a new snack cake!

Ok, originally this edition was going to be about celebrating the good news out of Georgia. Uh… But now, it’s more like, “Hey, do you really need to eat cake right now? Same.” In that spirit, here’s my Fresh Ginger Cake with Crème Fraîche and Tangerine Curd. 

This is my take on spice cake, featuring all the classics: cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, and a lot of fresh ginger. Ginger two ways, if you will (and I will!). You can use store-bought crème fraîche (or homemade, see below). And if you’re a subscriber who made last week’s Hummingbird Swiss Roll, you already have the optional tangerine curd in your fridge! The fresh ginger, crème fraîche, and citrus make this an easy, bright, weeknight sweet treat. 

The base recipe for this cake has seen many iterations. Many of my favorite cakes are oil-based, or a combo of oil and butter, because I find that oil-based cakes are tender, moist, and keep forever. So once I settled on a cake recipe that ticked all the boxes, I’ve been sliding in different flavors ever since. If you ever ate my Vietnamese Iced Coffee Cake at MeMe’s Diner, that cake is a relative of this ginger cake. The VICC, made with oil, sour cream, cold brew, and instant coffee, became a perennial favorite at the restaurant.

Over the years, I’ve based a few cakes on this formula: oil, sour cream, a liquid, and flavor. Here we have orange/tangerine juice (liquid) and fresh ginger (flavor). So, if you want to play around with the formula? Feel free. Swap the flavor: Instead of fresh ginger, try freeze-dried fruit powder (pretty!), or vanilla bean (pricey!), or more citrus zest. Anything that won’t add much more liquid. Swap the liquid: Instead of the OJ, you can swap in black tea, or pineapple juice, or water, but not ginger beer, unless you want a science project in your oven. Trust me. I tried it.

To really get that ginger flavor in this snack cake, I threw the peeled ginger in the blender with the orange juice. It’s easier and far faster than grating the ginger, but you do you. This cake batter is thin; it has a lot of liquid. That's why I use the whisk attachment when mixing, to avoid clumps. But don’t be tempted to overbeat it: you want clump-free batter, not tough cake. 

For topping this cake, I used crème fraîche straight out of the tub, no fuss. If you have some heavy cream in your fridge that may be... on the edge? Go ahead and make some crème fraîche of your own. In the past, I’ve used these instructions from Lindsey Shere’s Chez Panisse Desserts, with good results. 

Crème Fraîche

Adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts, 1985 

1 cup whipping cream

1 teaspoon buttermilk

Warm the cream to 95 degrees. Stir in the buttermilk and transfer to a clean glass or plastic container and loosely cover. Leave in a warm place for 12-24 hours. Stir, cover, and refrigerate until you want it. It will keep a week to 10 days. It then can act similarly to sourdough starter, a crème fraîche starter. In your next round of making crème fraîche, sub in a teaspoon of the last batch of crème fraîche for the buttermilk.

I have found this crème fraîche to have better flavor and texture the longer it sits in the fridge. As in, like, a week. I’ve never quite achieved the thickness of commercial crème fraîche, but it’s luscious and more like a sauce. (I promise we’ll take a break from sour cream-related things soon. Maybe.)

If you intend to eat this entire cake in one go, and no judgments if you do, top it once it’s cool. But if you plan on eating a slice here and there, store the toppings separately in the fridge and the cake wrapped at room temp. Just dollop each slice as you go. The tangerine curd topping is optional, but I think it really makes it. Subscribers already got that recipe in the Hummingbird Swiss Roll last week.

Fresh Ginger Snack Cake


1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda 

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon cardamom 

The zest of 1 lemon

1 ¾ cups granulated sugar

2 eggs

⅓ cup canola oil

40 grams peeled ginger (2.5” nub, approx.)

⅔ cup orange juice (or tangerine juice)

⅔ cup sour cream 


Crème fraîche (store-bought is fine) and the tangerine curd from my Hummingbird Swiss Roll. If you’re really feeling fun, garnish with candied orange wheels.


  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 inch round cake pan with parchment, and spray with cooking spray. 

  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside. 

  3. In a blender, blend the peeled ginger and orange juice until fairly smooth.

  4. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat eggs, sugar, and zest until pale and fluffy. 

  5. Add the ginger/juice mixture and sour cream to the egg mixture, beat until fully combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then beat for another few seconds. 

  6. Whisking on medium low, add one half of the flour mixture. Then add the second half. Beat until fully combined.

  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. 

  8. Cool fully in the pan, then flip onto a serving plate. 

  9. If serving the cake all at once, top with the crème fraîche first and swirl the curd into crème. Make it pretty. If not serving all at once, top each slice with a dollop of crème and curd as you serve.

January’s line-up has some real bangers coming for subscribers (pizza babka, for starters). So if you don’t want to miss out on all the fun, subscribe!

Quick Bites: 

  • We were gifted a bunch of dehydrated citrus wheels this holiday season (thanks John!), and I’ve been loving them as a garnish in our Manhattans. If you have some extra, hydrated, citrus kicking around, like I do currently, dry some slices in your oven for your at-home happy hours. 

  • Umm, definitely making this Ottolenghi One-Pan Crispy Spaghetti on NYT Cooking this week.

  • I love gummy candy, much to my dental hygienist’s (AKA my sister's) dismay. I stumbled across these Rainforest Frogs last week and can’t stop eating them. They have the right amount of citric acid in them. The texture reminds me, stay with me here, of those frogs you launch with a hammer at like, a school carnival. Not that I chewed on those. Moving on! My bodega just started stocking these HARIBO watermelon slices that are new (to me). They’re not my ideal gummy candy, but Andrew says they remind him of an old-timey candy, and I think that’s valid. 

  • I got my copy of Chez Panisse Desserts at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in the East Village. The last time I was in, the person in front of me was on the hunt for a very rare cookbook, which Bonnie was happily hunting for. He passed over his card on his way out the door. As I walked up to the counter she read the card and said, “Oh! It’s always good to know an anesthesiologist. You never know when you’re gonna want to take a very long nap.”

    A Piece of Cake is written by Bill Clark and edited by Andrew Spena. Photography by Hunter Abrams. Logo design by Brett LaBauve.