Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cranberry Cake

I came across this recipe after some friends came to visit, bearing gifts of yummy, fresh cranberry goodness from back home. There were also some fresh, squeaky cheese curds amongst the goodies, but those were gone by the next day! I had SOME help polishing them off!! (Luke works for one of the local cranberry marshes, where he and Lindsey live, and his sister is co-owner of a local cheese factory. I have the best friends ever!! ;-D)
Anyways... Lindsey was telling me about a cranberry cake that several people there have made, but hasn't gotten the recipe to me yet. While waiting, though, I thought I would check out some recipes and see what I could find on my own. While looking at the pictures, this cake instantly caught my attention and so I went to investigate. And was immediately intrigued!
Honestly, I would say that this was more of a coffee cake, but that could be because of the way I prepared it, with the nut topping. For the most part, I did follow the initial recipe, but you know I had to do my own thing a little bit too. While I do enjoy pecans, I don't generally have them around my house, as I prefer to snack on hazelnuts, walnuts, and flavored almonds. So, walnuts it is! I have to admit, walnuts are really the ones I prefer in baked goods anyways... If you know me, you know that I try to make everything a little bit healthier (it helps me to justify eating naughty treats for breakfast), so I used Smart Balance for half of the butter, and I left out the kirsch altogether. I think I probably did the topping a little different than was instructed also, as I was more interested in caramelized walnuts more so than a caramel kind of topping for the cake.
While I thought this was quite delicious with a little bit of whipped topping served on top, a friend of mine thought there was too much cranberry in it. Thus the basis of its appeal, right?! ;-P So, I guess if you're not really a big fan of cranberries, this would probably not be such a big hit for you. But, that's the great thing about a recipe - you can change it to be whatever you want it to be! I think some blueberries would also work well for this, so substitute those for half of the cranberries, if you'd like. Or just change the fruit entirely! Just be careful when doing this, as the water content varies between fruits and you don't want to end up with a runny batter that doesn't set up when baked. To help prevent this, you can coat your rinsed berries with flour before folding them into the cake batter, which will also keep the colors from running throughout your batter.

3 eggs
2 c. sugar
¾ c. unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 c. flour
2½ c. cranberries (1 bag)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9x13 pan or a 10" springform pan and cut the butter into chunks.
Beat eggs and sugar together for 5-7 minutes; the eggs will increase in volume quite a bit, streaming into ribbons when you lift the beaters. They will also turn pale yellow. Add butter and flavorings and beat for 2 minutes. Stir in flour and fold in cranberries (especially if using frozen cranberries, the batter will not be thin or soft at this time). Spread into greased pan and top with caramelized walnut topping (recipe below).
Bake 45-50 minutes for a 9x13, or a little over an hour for the springform. You may need to tent the cake with foil in the last 15 minutes or so to keep the top from browning too much. Cool completely before serving (Or not!).

Nut topping:
¼ c. butter
¼ c. brown sugar
1 c. finely chopped walnuts

Heat the butter in a pan over medium heat; add the sugar and stir until the mixture starts getting foamy and makes a kind of caramel sauce. Add the walnuts and cook for several minutes, stirring, until the butter and sugar mixture is shiny and smooth and the nuts smell toasted. Spread over the cake batter and bake as above.

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