February 5, 2014

Cranberry Cake

It's almost that time of year again--Singles Awareness Day. You thought I was going to say Valentine's Day, weren't you. Nope. Just let me be bitter and eat my discount chocolate on February 15, ok? Go ahead and cook for your valentine; I'm sure he or she will love it. Don't worry, I'll be cooking too. That's why I'm posting this recipe, isn't it? The only difference is I get this cake (and whatever else I make) all to myself and you have to share. Ha.

This recipe is a great way to use up any cranberries you hoarded in your freezer over the winter. Personally, I like to stock up since cranberry season is relatively short, so I now have quite a few bags in storage. I've made this recipe a few times to perfect it, and I'll share a secret: this started out as a cranberry upside-down cake. In fact, I still prepare it as an upside-down cake with a caramel on the bottom, a layer of cranberries, and the cake batter on top. However, the cranberries usually rise to the top and the cake soaks up the caramel, leaving it even more moist. So if you want to flip the cake over to see if it stayed an upside-down cake with the layer of cranberries still spread on the bottom, go ahead. The cranberry juices will seep into the cake and make it taste even better. If your cranberries don't want to cooperate, you'll just have a cranberry-studded cake with a hint of caramel flavor.

The cake itself is faintly vanilla. You can substitute almond extract for half of the vanilla and sprinkle some toasted sliced almonds on top. I tried using some orange extract, too, but nobody in my family is a huge fan of citrus. Although I'm sure it tasted wonderful for orange lovers, the hint of citrus from tossing the cranberries in a splash of orange juice was just enough for me.

Cakes are always impressive, and you don't even have to frost this one. I serve it with homemade whipped cream (it's easier to make than you think) and garnish with sugared cranberries and a few shavings of orange zest. As I said earlier, some toasted almonds would be delicious and beautiful as well. This cake will definitely impress your valentine (upside-down or right side up) or provide the perfect dessert to celebrate Singles Awareness Day.

1 ½ Sticks Butter, Softened
1 Cup Sugar
¾ Cup Light Brown Sugar
2 ¼ Cups Fresh Cranberries (9 oz)
¼ Cup Orange Juice
1 ½ Cups Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
¼ tsp Salt
1 tsp Vanilla (or 1/2 tsp Vanilla + 1/2 tsp Orange or Almond Extract)
2 Eggs
½ Cup Milk
¼ tsp Cream of Tartar

Heat oven to 350°F. Line a 9” cake pan with parchment and grease.

Melt 4 T butter in a small pot over low heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until dissolved. Pour into the prepared pan and cool.

Combine the cranberries and orange juice in a small bowl and toss to coat. Spread evenly in the pan and drizzle with any remaining juice.

Whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they hold soft peaks. Set aside. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat the remaining butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then beat in the egg yolks. Add half of the flour, the milk, then the remaining flour. Gently fold in the whites in three additions.

Spread the batter over the cranberries and bake until browned and cooked through, 30-45 minutes.

Makes 1 9" Round Cake
Recipe Adapted from Amanda Hesser

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