Cranberry Spider Cake with Orange Maple Syrup

Christmas morning is a perfect time for an easy old-school knock-your-stockings-off skillet cake. This one is well suited for cast iron, easily grillified if you want to free up the oven, and screaming for syrup!


This super brunchy cranberry spider cake is an absolute breeze to put together so that all of the troops are well fed and ready to tear open some presents! It also doubles as a great quick dessert! The basis of this recipe dates back to when cast iron pans had long legs to be placed over an open fire. These pans were referred to as 'spiders' because of their legged appearance.

Spider Cake, Spider Cake, does whatever a Spider Cake can
Feeds a family, any size, it’s addictive, just like fries
Look out, here comes the Spider Cake!

This recipe is a snap to make and clean up so it is ideal for any hectic morning like Christmas! Total time is about an hour. This one works great in the Lodge Combo Cooker but any 10-12 inch oven-safe skillet will get the job done. If you don't have oranges or cranberries feel free to omit either or try a seasonal berry of your choice - the result is equally delicious!

Ingredients are as follows:

  • 2 cups milk (preferably whole)
  • 4 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup yellow cornmeal
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups cranberries - cut in half
  • 4 teaspoons sugar reserved for cranberries
  • 1 large naval orange
  • 1 cup real maple syrup

You will end up with a deliciously browned skillet cake with a jiggly and custard-like center. This is sure to become a family favorite so preheat your oven or grill to 350˚ and let's get started!


The first thing you want to do is combine the vinegar with your measured milk and set it aside. The vinegar will react with the milk causing it to curdle. If you look closely at the picture you can see this on the surface of the milk. Buttermilk could be used as an alternative but we think its pretty cool to watch the milk do its thing after the vinegar has been added. All because of magical science!


So here is your basic kit. Your first step after setting the milk aside is to combine the dry ingredients into a suitable mixing bowl while you get ready to candy up the cranberries.


We call for 2 cups of halved cranberries. You will add 1 tsp. of sugar per 1/2 cup of cranberries. So for 2 cups add 4 tsp. of sugar and put them in a small saucepan on medium heat.


Heat the cranberries to a light simmer. You want to make sure that the sugar is fully dissolved but you don't have to cook this down like you might a cranberry sauce, as you want your berries to retain their form within the cake. Set these aside to cool slightly.

Melt some butter in a 10-12" cast iron skillet on your heated grill or on the stove-top. While this is melting whisk your eggs into your milk and add the liquid into the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly but do not over-mix. A couple small lumps are par for the course when doing a classic skillet cake like this, so mix it like pancakes! Fold the cranberries into the batter until they are evenly incorporated.


Pour your finished batter over the melted butter. Then pour the cup of cream into the center of the batter. Slide the cast iron into your preheated oven or leave it on your preheated grill and cover. Bake this one about 45 minutes. Our favorite timer is a ThermoWorks TimeStack which works especially great during the holidays as you can track four different times simultaneously. This helps take the edge off hectic holiday multi-tasking in the kitchen. Plus the red looks festive in the kitchen!


While the cake is baking we'll make some orange maple syrup. We used 1 cup of syrup and 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice which is the equivalent of one good size naval orange. If you want a little extra orange action you could add a bit of zest from your orange peel to kick things up a bit. Heat this in a small saucepan over the stove until well incorporated but not boiling.


Typically when a skillet cake or quick bread is done you want a toothpick to pull out cleanly but with this one don't be alarmed if it is still a bit soft and jiggly in the middle. With this particular cake there is a decadent custard-like layer that extends through the middle of the cake and adds to the character and overall brunchiness of the dish. You want the edges to be browned and pulling away from the skillet slightly. We used a ThermoWorks Thermapen to check the internal temperature. The temperature will continue to rise after pulling it from the oven and the cake will set as it cools. An ideal temperature is 180-185°, but don't burn the edges for the sake of the middle, it doesn't need it.


Finally, allow to cool for a couple of minutes. This cake presents really well with a sprinkling of powdered sugar. You can serve it right at the table in your warm cast iron paired with a boat of the orange maple syrup!


This recipe was adapted from a classic version published in the New York Times and made super festive with rad alterations by Great or Die!

Looking for more great ideas or some last minute gifts and stocking stuffers? Check out the articles in our State of the Great series! 


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