For those of us who did not grow up with Starbucks, much less in a small town that would not have supported a Starbucks even if they had been born then, cranberries did as much to herald the arrival of Autumn as pumpkin spice lattes do now. Spying fresh cranberries in the local grocery store, I went on a search for recipes calling for cranberries, and ran across this delightful recipe (dried, in this case, but look around – I have some fresh alternatives on here, too). It caught my eye because it also features orange, and cranberry/orange really nails Fall for me. It bakes up slightly crunchy on the top, and is a sure-fire hit for breakfast or brunch – or maybe a cup of tea in the afternoon.
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature (plus more for pan)
1 cup all-purpose flour (plus extra to dust the pan)
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
Zest from two large oranges
3/4 cup dried cranberries, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
Put an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan (or alternatively, spray with a non-stick cooking spray with flour). (see NOTES)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and orange zest.
Measure 3 Tbsp of the flour mixture into a small bowl and add the cut, dried cranberries; toss until the cranberry pieces are coated and separated. (see NOTES)
Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy – about 2 minutes.
Beat in the vanilla extract (and, if you want a slightly heavier orange flavor, add 1/4 tsp orange oil).
Add the egg yolks and whole eggs one at a time, allowing each to incorporate before adding the next.
Gradually add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.
Using a spatula, gently fold in the cranberries.
Pour the patter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula.
Bake until the cake is golden brown, and a cake tester (toothpick or bamboo skewer) inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean – about 40 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool for 20 minutes. Then remove the cake from the pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To serve, cut the cake into wedges and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Anytime you are working with dried fruit, and especially when you have to cut it down to size for a recipe, always take a small amount of the primary dry ingredient – usually the flour – and put it and the fruit in a plastic bag and give it a good shaking. Not only does this ‘unclump’ the fruit, it also keeps it from settling to the bottom of the pan when you add the batter to the pan.
You can expect different appearances depending on the cake pan. An aluminum cake pan will give a more uniform top surface; a darker, non-stick pan will produce a cake that has a tendency to sink in the middle. Either way, the cake tastes the same and is very moist. If you sense that the cake is drying out, drizzle a little fresh-squeezed orange juice over the top before serving and before dusting with powdered sugar.
Does the combo of orange and clove remind you of Fall, or maybe the Christmas holidays? Omit the cranberries. Add 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves. What you’ll get is the essence of an orange/clove pomander (how traditional can you get?).
Does the combo of apples, raisins, and cinnamon make you long for cooler weather? Omit the cranberries. Substitute apples, or apples and raisins, and a generous 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon (more, if you want – give it the smell test). The apples have more moisture in them than dried cranberries, so if your first try seems not as sturdy, add an extra bit of flour.