November 23, 2014

Cranberry Orange Loaf Cake

Thanksgiving is the time for pie: pumpkin pie, pecan pie, even s'mores pie.  But that doesn't mean pie should be the only thing on your table for dessert. I absolutely love cake, especially when it's Thanksgivingified with all the fall baking staples, namely cranberries and pecans with a pop of orange.

This cake definitely won't be a 5-tier showstopper with perfectly styled buttercream and cute little decorations straight from Pinterest. No, this is a dense (in a good way), sweet, moist loaf that will make all of your dreams come true. If you like poundcake, this is your new fall go-to dessert. To make it even better, it's covered with a cinnamon pecan streusel, which gets all nice and crunchy. Who doesn't love streusel? Why else would you order coffee cake?

Anyway, to make the streusel, combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon, then add some butter. I throw in some pecans for even more crunch. Streusel is pretty simple, but the one tip I have is to keep it cold while you make the cake batter. It's easier to crumble when cold, and it holds its shape better while baking.

The cake is also fairly simple. I use regular all-purpose flour; this isn't a particularly light and fluffy cake, so there's no need to use cake flour. There's buttermilk, too, because I think pretty much every cake could use some buttermilk.

I use a mixture of granulated and light brown sugar because the brown sugar adds a slight hint of molasses flavor and the granulated sugar is a great medium for more orange flavor. Orange juice would have too much of an impact on the batter's texture and acidity (which affects the baking soda) and orange zest only goes so far. To make the zest more flavorful, I rub it into the granulated sugar as soon as I zest it; the oils from the zest permeate the sugar and therefore the whole cake. Just massage the zest into the sugar until the sugar is a pale orange and very fragrant.

When the batter is done, I stir in some cranberries and pecans. Make sure you toast the pecans so you can actually taste them in the cake; just heat your oven up to 350 or so and pop them in until they are fragrant and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

I use fresh cranberries since they are available, but if you fall in love with this recipe (and you will) and want to make it year-round, dried cranberries could work, too, but they will obviously have a different texture. I've found that cranberries freeze exceptionally well, though, so stock up on a few bags now and throw them in your cakes in a few months (you don't even have to defrost them).

2 1/4 Cups Flour
1/2 Cup + 2 T Sugar
1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
Pinch Cinnamon
3 T Butter, Softened
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
2 T Orange Zest
1 Egg
1 Cup Buttermilk
1/3 Cup Oil
1 tsp Vanilla
1 Cup Cranberries
1 Cup Chopped Pecans, Toasted

Heat oven to 350ºF. Line a loaf pan with foil and grease.

Combine 1/4 cup flour, 2 T sugar, and cinnamon. Add the butter and mix until just combined. Stir in 1/2 cup pecans. Chill until firm.

Whisk the remaining flour, baking soda, and salt together. Rub the orange zest into the remaining sugar until fragrant. Whisk in the egg and brown sugar, then stir in the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Stir into the flour mixture until just combined. Gently fold in the cranberries and the remaining pecans.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the streusel. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until browned and cooked through.

Makes 1 Loaf
Recipe Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

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