Chocolate Juniper Cake with Milk Jam Sour Cream

Chocolate Juniper Cake with Milk Jam Sour Cream

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2 heaping teaspoons juniper berries
1 3/4 cups flour
1 2/3 cup sugar (plus more for caramelizing the cake)
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp coarse salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk (if unavailable, substitute soured milk)
3/4 cup neutral oil, like vegetable or grapeseed
2 large eggs

Milk Jam Sour Cream:
1 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
1-2 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk


To make the cake: Preheat your oven to 350° Farenheit. Grease a 9x13 pan, line the bottom with parchment and grease again, then dust everything with flour. Set aside.

Heat a dry skillet over a medium heat, then dry-toast the juniper berries until they become oily and fragrant (this will barely take a minute). Let cool slightly, then grind in a spice grinder.

In a large bowl, sift together the ground juniper berries with the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil and eggs until well combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and fold or whisk until just combined (don't over-mix). Quickly transfer to your prepared pan, smooth the top if needed, and bake until a tester comes out clean, ~35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool, then transfer to the freezer until solid, at least two hours and up to three weeks (if the latter, wrap well in plastic).

To make the milk jam sour cream: Stir the sweetened condensed milk or milk jam into the creme fraiche/sour cream to taste — you want something that's lightly sweet, but still quite tangy.

To finish the cake: Remove the cake from the freezer, turn out onto a cutting board and discard the parchment. Trim off the edges, then slice the cake down the middle, so that you have two rectangles of about 4-inches in height, then slice each rectangle crosswise into 1 1/4-inch bars.

Pour out some granulated sugar onto a plate, grab a pair of tongs if you've got them, and heat a pan over a medium heat (the recipe recommends nonstick, but I did this with a regular steel pan and it was fine). Roll each cake bar in the sugar, so that they're well-coated with a thin-yet-thorough dusting. Working in batches, transfer the cake slices to the skillet. Let caramelize on each side, turning to expose the next side when the side in the pan has melted and caramelized (once your pan is hot, it'll take less than 30 seconds per side). You can also caramelize the short ends if you are quite obsessive, but it's not necessary. Serve straight from the pan, with a dollop of milk jam ladled over the top.