I knew I would cave.
In my last post I said we wouldn’t be decorating for Christmas this year to make our move easier. But I needed something to give the pics of this gorgeous cake a festive look, so into the storage room I went! Do your Christmas decorations smell amazing too? I don’t know what it is, but when I open those boxes it’s like being hit with a million smell memories (is that a thing?). So I couldn’t help myself – I started digging through and unwrapping the tissue-covered ornaments, pulling out garland and candles, and finding all the fun little Christmassy things that were put away ‘until next year’ – example – my phone charger with the cord made of old-school Christmas lights that illuminate when you plug it in (you know you want one). I didn’t unpack everything, just a few things that would make our home feel more merry. I carried everything back upstairs (it only took me three trips, so I obviously managed to control myself), put on the Christmas tunes, and started setting up. The decorations are subtle, but I feel so much more in the spirit!
This cake has become a tradition this time of year for us. It’s special enough that I’ve baked it for dessert after dinner on Christmas day, for cooking demos, and even for cocktail parties. I garnish it simply with a few sugared cranberries sprinkled over top and on the cake plate, then add a few cranberries to each sliced serving. (The sugared cranberries look like little jewels – make a batch and keep them in a pretty bowl on the counter, add them to a cheese board, or my favorite way – put a couple in your Champagne.)
Chocolate-cranberry flavour is abundant all through this cake, with puréed cranberries and cocoa forming the base, and pieces of the dried fruit and chopped chunks of semisweet chocolate studded throughout.
The dried cranberries, which are briefly rehydrated with a splash of brandy (or any orange flavoured liqueur) and the chopped chocolate lend this cake such great texture and flavour that all you need to finish it off is a quick poured glaze, which also serves to keep your cake from drying out and maintain its perfectly divine texture, so feel free to make it a day ahead.
Thank you to the Dean of Pastry Arts at the International Culinary Center, Chef Jansen Chan, for this brilliant recipe that I’ve made every year since he first introduced me to it.
2. Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 9" cake pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with a parchment circle. Pour brandy over dried cranberries and set aside to soak.
3. In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and making sure to occasionally scrape the bottom of the bowl.
4. In the meantime, combine the cooled cranberry/cocoa mixture with the sour cream.
5. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.
6. Back in the mixer, alternate additions of the cranberry/cocoa mixture with the dry ingredients, being sure to scrape the bottom occasionally.
7. Fold in the soaked dried cranberries and the chopped chocolate.
8. Add to cake pan and bake until cake feels springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 60 to 75 minutes.
9. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely, then proceed with glaze.
10. For Glaze:
11. Set oven to 450. Set cake (still on cooling rack) onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.
12. Combine the powdered sugar and water and stir until dissolved. Add more water if the glaze is too thick; more sugar if it is too thin. Pour over cake, spreading with a spatula if necessary, allowing it to drip down the sides.
13. Bake until glaze is set, about 5 minutes.
14. For Sugared Cranberries
15. Combine 1 Cup of Sugar with water and place over high heat until just simmering. Remove from heat and let simple syrup cool 5 minutes.
16. Stir in cranberries and let soak at least 2 hours, preferable overnight.
17. Drain off simple syrup (reserve for another use). Spread remaining 1 Cup of sugar on a cookie sheet and toss cranberries in it. Leave on cookie sheet to dry out for an hour.
* 6oz Cranberries, fresh or frozen
* 2 Cups Water
* 6 Tbsp Cocoa
* 1 Cup Dried Cranberries
* 1 Tbsp Brandy or Orange Juice
* 6oz Unsalted Butter
* 1 3/4Cup Brown Sugar
* 2 Eggs
* 4oz Sour Cream
* 1 3/4 Cup Flour
* 1 tsp Baking Soda
* 1/2 tsp Salt
* 1 Cup Semisweet Chocolate, chopped
* For the Glaze:
* 2 Cups Powdered Sugar
* 1/4 Cup Water
* For the Sugared Cranberries
* 2 Cups Sugar, divided
* 1 Cup Water
* 2 Cups Cranberries