Cranberry Caramel Sundae with Homemade Ginger-Cardamom Ice Cream

Cranberry Caramel Sundae. This is now a thing. A thing you will want in your life stat. The base is a very holiday-ish homemade ginger-cardamom ice cream and then there’s the cranberry caramel sauce. Can I be honest? I could skip the ice cream all together in favor of just the cranberry caramel. Every time I make it, I think, “Why don’t I make this more often? Like every week?!” Well, that’s because cranberry season is very short and unless I stock my freezer full, I have to wait until fall and winter roll around again. Trust me – you want to stock your freezer with cranberries just for this caramel sauce. You do. Promise.

I started making cranberry caramel sauce years and years ago when I dabbled in catering. It’s kind of a funny story actually. It was my first big solo catering job. It was for an wedding open house in New Canaan, Connecticut. The open house took place a few days after Christmas in a gorgeous home that had been recently featured in a national magazine. The house, particularly the kitchen, was amazing. I was in heaven.

I carefully planned my menu items – appetizers, salads, soup and a dessert buffet. I neglected to realize that so soon after the holidays people would be burnt out from sweets and rich food. The salads disappeared, the appetizers were picked at, a few people ate soup, and the dessert table remained relatively untouched.

Of course, I was crushed. I couldn’t believe my desserts went untouched. I had made every delicious holiday dessert I could think of and was sure they would be a hit. It wasn’t too difficult to carve them up to hand out to people who helped me in the kitchen and with the home owners. Some things I brought home and put in my freezer and fridge. One of the items left untouched was the glorious cranberry caramel sauce. I saw the recipe in an issue of Martha Stewart. It was truly incredible. It was supposed to be the perfect accompaniment to (four!) apple pie cakes I made. I ended up taking it home with me and that’s when I decided I was officially in love with it.

I ate it by the spoonful straight from the jar. It is quite possibly the best cranberry recipe of all. Sure, you might say, it’s only caramel sauce. It’s only cranberries. But there is just something magical about the deep flavor of caramel with the slightly bitter tartness of the cranberries. It just works.

It starts off with a wet caramel (water and sugar) and when it turns an beautiful amber color, you drop the cranberries into the bubbling caramel and they begin to pop and release their juices. And then there’s butter, naturally. I changed it up by adding some ground ginger to the caramel sauce and that was a very good idea. This sundae screams Merry Christmas and A Very Happy New Year! Before you get totally burnt out on holiday sweets (I’m almost there myself) give this a try.

Cranberry Caramel Sundae with Homemade Ginger-Cardamom Ice Cream
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Cranberry Caramel Sundaes ice cream, original recipe; caramel sauce from Martha Stewart Living , December 2002
Recipe type: sauce
Cuisine: American
Serves: 1½ cups
  • For cranberry caramel sauce:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons syrup (maple, brown rice, or corn)
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger, or more to taste
  • For garnish: diced crystallized ginger
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, water and syrup and bring to a boil.
  2. Brush the sides down with a pastry brush to prevent crystallization. Cook until it becomes amber in color (temperature?).
  3. Remove from heat and add the cranberries and 2 tablespoons of the butter. Stir until some of the cranberries start to break up. Add the remaining butter and vanilla bean paste.
  4. Cool slightly and transfer to clean jars. Will keep for about 2 weeks. To reheat, transfer to caramel to a small saucepan or gently warm in the microwave.
  5. To assemble: Layer scoops of ice cream and cranberry caramel in bowls or dessert cups. Top with crystallized ginger. Serve.

Ginger-Cardamom Ice Cream
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A lightly spiced ice cream infused with ginger and cardamom.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 1½ quarts
  • For ginger-cardamom ice cream:
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 3-4 green cardamom pods
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • ¾ cup cane sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Heat cream and whole milk in a saucepan until very hot, but not boiling. Add the cardamom pods and ginger. Remove from heat and let steep for at least 30 minutes or up to a few hours. (The longer it steeps, the more pronounced the flavor of the spices.)
  2. After the spices have steeped in the milk and cream, heat again until very hot, but not boiling. Whisk together egg yolks, cane sugar, and pinch salt. Pour the hot milk/cream mixture into the egg yolks and whisk well. Pour back into the pan and cook over medium-low heat until it registers 170 degrees F. on an instant read thermometer. Pour through a fine mesh sieve set over a clean bowl.
  3. Chill in an ice bath or refrigerator until very, very cold.
  4. Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer directions. Transfer to a freezer-proof, airtight container and allow to harden in the freezer for a few hours before serving.


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