I love desserts, this is not a secret. Some people like over the top, more is better, super rich desserts. These are not for me. We were recently doing a cake tasting and the chocolate cake was so rich that I could only eat one bite. Literally. I don’t mean, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly…” I mean it was so sweet that I could not eat more than a single bite. Who wants ONE BITE of cake?! Needless to say, some changes were made. I need something to counter the sugar. It could be something tart like lemon or cranberry, salt to balance out the sweet or even something as simple as almost unsweetened whipped cream. Unless it’s little pink piglets frolicking with puppies and baby monkeys in a field of wildflowers, I can’t handle that much sweetness.
As we say goodbye to warm temperatures and hello to the chill in the air, I welcome all the fall flavors. There is more spice in baked goods; pumpkin, butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash are on every menu, cranberries start popping up in everything from muffins to side dishes and the house always smells of something delicious.
This cake is basically the same base as the Clementine Upside Down Cake with a few slight tweaks. I had a tasting for prospective clients and I decided to bake a cake for the tasting. I was out and saw fresh cranberries, so I grabbed them (like any sane person would do) and went home to bake. I didn’t really have a “recipe”, other than the clementine cake and I was taking a cake to a tasting with people that I was trying to land as new clients without ever tasting it! This was either going to be an epic failure or this was going to be a 3-pointer with nothing but net right at the buzzer. I was feeling fairly confident, so I went with it. I walked in to the tasting with cake in hand and when they started to inquire about it, I flat out told them “I have no idea, I’ve never had it before”. Needless to say, the risk paid off.
What I like most about this cake is the lack of sweetness. That’s not to say it isn’t sweet, it is, but it isn’t overly sweet. The tartness of the cranberries combined with the hefty amount of orange zest offsets the sugar and it is nicely balanced with a cake batter that is just barely sweet. It’s great with a cup of coffee in the afternoon, in case you were wondering…
Long story short, the tasting was a smash and I have two new clients. The next time you see fresh cranberries in the store, do yourself a favor and buy some. Then go home and make this cake. Repeat.
- 2 cups fresh cranberries
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
- 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 heaping tbsp. orange zest
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 1/3 cup AP flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 lg eggs, room temp
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. whole milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a 9x2 inch round cake pan, put 1/2 cup of butter and place in oven to melt.
- Add half of the vanilla paste and half a cup of sugar to melted butter and whisk to combine. Place pan back in the oven and when butter has started to bubble and just barely brown, add 2 tbsp. orange juice and whisk to combine. Add cranberries and place back in the oven for 5 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt.
- In a separate bowl, beat zest, remaining butter, 1 cup sugar and remaining vanilla on medium high speed with electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
- With mixer on low speed, add eggs, one at a time until fully incorporated, then add flour mixture in 2 batches alternating with the milk and remaining orange juice.
- Gently scoop batter on top of cranberries and smooth top with an offset spatula.
- Bake until cake is golden and puffed and a cake tester (knife) comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
- Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen cake, then invert onto serving platter or cake stand. Let cool before serving.
- You will have enough batter left over for a 4" cake or a few cupcakes.
- If you are not serving the same day, wrap cake very well in plastic wrap while still warm (not hot) and place in freezer. Thaw at room temp (not in refrigerator) for a few hours before serving.