Thursday, December 18, 2014

upside-down cranberry-caramel cake.

After a hiatus from the kitchen that lasted far longer then I ever thought possible, I have finally returned to the routines of my former life.  And what a return it has been - epic lasagna, pumpkin bread, slow-cooked chickpeas, and now this cake which may be the best thing I've eaten (out of my own kitchen) in a long time.

I realize cranberries are usually consumed in the dried form and while there is nothing wrong with that (tossed in kale salads with sliced almonds and creamy blue cheese they are excellent), I've begun to think it's time we show fresh cranberries a little respect.  I find that in the depths of winter their bright tart flavor is a welcome change of pace form the massive amounts of chocolate desserts people seem to favor.  (Not that there is anything wrong with massive amounts of chocolate but a little variety never hurt anyone right?)

Tart cranberries are nestled in pockets of caramel and layered over a dense and buttery cake that is so obscenely perfect that I have begun to wonder why all cakes can't be this good.  It's rich (even with the addition of cranberries, no one can call this health food), but it doesn't feel heavy.  It's festive and just right for this time of year.  I am not suggesting you eliminate your holiday cookie plate but I will say that no one would be disappointed if you brought this to your next party.

Upside-Down Cranberry-Caramel Cake
Recipe tweaked slightly from Smitten Kitchen

Unsalted butter or cooking spray for the baking pan
2/3 cup (5 ounces or 142 grams) packed light brown sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces or 171 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses or maple syrup
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces or 242 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces or 198 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (9 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (8 1/2 ounces or 242 grams) sour cream
2 ½ cups (10 ounces or 288 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries
Zest of 1 orange
¼ - ½ teaspoon ground ginger (I love ginger with oranges and cranberries so I happily added a generous amount.  Dial it back if you don’t love ginger quite as much)
Few gratings of fresh nutmeg (optional) 

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of the melted butter, molasses and 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Stir well and pour into prepared cake pan. Set pan aside.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together into a bowl or onto a sheet of waxed paper and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with the whisk attachment (eh, I just used a handmixer with standard beaters) beat the eggs and sour cream together at medium speed until well blended. Add orange zest, ground ginger, and nutmeg (if using). Scrape down the bowl and add remaining melted butter (1/2 cup) and beat until combined. Add flour mixture and beat until smooth.

Add the cranberries to the prepared baking pan and gently press the fruit into an even layer. Dollop the batter on top and use an offset spatula to gently nudge it into place without disturbing the cranberries underneath. Bake on the center rack until golden and a tester inserted into just the cake comes out clean, which took 30 to 35 minutes. Please,please check yours on the early side. Remove from the oven and let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the inside of the pan then insert over a flat platter that is larger than your cake pan, to catch any puddling or jumping cranberries.

This cake keeps well for 3 days at room temperature.  

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