February 6, 2013
Here’s a tasty cake I made a few weeks ago for my mother’s birthday. The photos aren’t very good (my ISO was accidentally set to something insane like 1000), but trust me, the cake was very, very good. In fact, it may be in my list of top cakes. Although, I say that about a lot of cakes. I’m either really good at picking cake recipes, or I’m not a very discriminating cake-eater.
It’s a vanilla layer cake with a tart cranberry puree between two layers, and a sweet, rich cream cheese frosting layer that also smothers the top and side of the cake. A sprinkling of juicy-sweet-tart-sugared cranberries adorns the top, sparkling like little jewels and adding a much needed break from the sweetness of the frosting. These sparkling cranberries are amazing – soaking them overnight in a simple syrup that you’ve simmered them in makes them soft and they soak up a lot of the sweetness, I changed a few things from the original source recipe, and I can safely say there isn’t anything else I would change about this cake!
The cake itself was light and buttery, with a fluffly crumb. A perfect base cake, really. I added one quarter cup of the cranberry puree to the cake batter, but it didn’t make much of a difference to the cake itself, either visually or gustatory-ly. However, the puree between the layers and the cranberry jewels all over the top made the cake burst with cranberry, so no real complaints there!
Cranberry Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Sparkling Cranberries
Adapted from Huffington Post
One 9-inch layer cake
2 cups (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup water
¼ cup cranberry puree
3/4 cup (6 ounces) evaporated milk
6 large egg whites, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups (9 ounces) cake flour (I made my own cake flour following this exactly)
1-3/4 cups (12-1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 ounces (12 tablespoons/1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
1 pound (two 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, softened and cut into small pieces.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
(I added cooking cream at the end, to bring it to the consistency that I wanted)
2 cups cranberries, picked over
2 cups water
2 cups sugar, brown or white (I used brown)
1. Place the cranberries in a medium glass bowl and set aside.
2. Make your simple syrup by bringing the sugar and the water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Let the syrup cool for a couple minutes and then pour it over the cranberries. If the syrup is too hot the cranberries will burst, so be careful. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
3. The next day, drain the cranberries and toss them with larger grained sugar until they are well coated. Use a scoop of sugar at a time, and small batches of cranberries, so the sugar doesn’t get too damp. Place the coated cranberries on a baking sheet to dry for a few hours.
4. Do a second toss with the regular granulated sugar, this typically takes care of any sticky spots on the cranberries. Let dry another hour.
1. Place cranberries, sugar and water in a saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until cranberries have popped and become mushy, about 5 minutes. Blend the heated cranberries with a handblender until smooth. Set aside and cool for 10 minutes.
1. In a 2-cup measuring cup, whisk together 1/4 cup of cranberry puree, milk, egg whites, and vanilla. Set aside.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350℉. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment, grease parchment, and flour.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, add flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, and mix until only pea-size pieces remain, about 1 minute.
4. Add half of milk mixture, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
5. Reduce speed to medium-low, add remaining milk mixture, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Give batter final stir by hand.
6. Evenly divide batter into prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, discarding parchment, and cool completely, about 2 hours. (Cooled cakes can be wrapped with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.)
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
1. Mix cream cheese and butter together until light.
2. Add vanilla.
3. Add icing sugar, 1 cup at a time, until the consistency is what you’re looking for
1. Cut each cake in half horizontally. (I used the dental floss method)
2. Place one cake layer on the bottom of cake stand or serving platter, spread a generous layer of cranberry puree over cake layer and top with another layer of cake.
3. Spread about 1 cup of frosting on top and spread evenly.
4. Repeat with the remaining 2 layers.
5. Spread or pipe frosting on top and side of cake. Garnish with sparkling cranberries. Refrigerate cake for 30 minutes.
One word of caution – the longer the sparkling cranberries sit on top of the cake, the more the sugar on them dissolves into the frosting, so only garnish with cranberries when you’re ready to serve!
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