I know we still have three weeks until Thanksgiving, but I am already testing some recipes for the holidays. I was intrigued by this one because it only has 6 ingredients and the most labor intensive part of making it is beating the eggs and sugar for 5-7 minutes. I can handle that. Plus the cake uses one of my all-time favorite holiday ingredients, cranberries. This recipe is perfect for the novice baker who may not have confidence in the kitchen but wants to make a lasting impression with his/her confection creating skills. You can’t fail with this one, trust me!
Recipe Rating: A+ This recipe is so easy to make and so delicious. It reminds me of a cranberry coffee cake. I actually was going to take the entire 9 x 13 pan with me to work, but my husband wouldn’t hear of it. He suggested that I only take such a small portion of it that I decided just to keep the whole cake at home. Needless to say, half of it was gone in the first day and I didn’t have one bite. It must have been those darn Christmas elves raiding the kitchen again!
Lesson Learned 1- Beat the sugar and eggs for 5-7 minutes: Don’t skimp on the time – this step is very important. You will notice that there are no “traditional” leavening agents in the ingredients. In this recipe the eggs act as the leavening agent so it is important to beat them with the sugar for a long time. I actually thought I got the desired consistency at about 6 minutes but I let the mixer run for an additional minute just to make sure. The mixture should actually double in size and form ribbons when you lift the paddle out of it.
Lesson Learned 2 – Weighing the flour: One cup of flour is 125 grams. I have taken to weighing flour in my baking as I’ve found that I use too much when I don’t, even if I aerate it before I scoop it out. If you don’t have a kitchen scale just make sure you at least aerate the flour before you scoop it. Flour can compact when it settles and if you don’t weigh or aerate it you will wind up using far too much resulting in a tough cake. For this recipe I used the high altitude trick of adding two additional tablespoons of flour to the called-for amount. The batter baked perfectly. If you are not at high altitude, don’t add the additional flour.
Lesson Learned 3 – The batter will be thick: The consistency of the batter will be quite thick making it slightly challenging to spread evenly throughout the 9 x 13 pan. Once you’ve spread it, take the pan over a hard surface (I used my wooden butcher block for this – if you don’t have a wooden surface you should consider using a dishtowel over another hard surface to soften the impact so as not to crack your dish) and lift it up about a half inch (not any more – you don’t want to break the pan) and drop it. Do this a couple of times. This will help the batter settle and even out any areas that you may have missed.
Lesson Learned 4 – Dust the cranberries with a little bit of flour: Even though this cake isn’t very thick, you still want to dust the cranberries with a little bit of flour before putting them in the batter. Doing this helps the berries to distribute evenly in the baking process versus all of them falling to the very bottom. Just take about a tablespoon of flour and put it on top of the cranberries. Then with your hands mix the flour throughout. You will wind up with some flour on the bottom of the bowl. No need to add that into the cake. Just make sure all the cranberries have a light dusting. If you use frozen cranberries you can skip this step. Just don’t thaw them before adding them to the batter.
In my estimation this is the perfect holiday recipe. Not only does it exude the colors of the season it is so simple to make. You don’t even have to cut up the cranberries. The longest part of the preparation is beating the eggs and sugar. And with little effort you get a delightfully delicious cake. You can certainly make this any time during the year, but for me this one screams Christmas. ‘Tis the season! Enjoy.
Cranberry Christmas Cake
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups of sugar (slightly less for high altitude)
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (250 grams) of flour (plus 2 Tbs. for high altitude)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 12oz package of fresh cranberries (if using frozen cranberries do not thaw)
Preheat the oven to 350. With a mixer beat the eggs and sugar for 5-7 minutes until slightly thickened and light in color. (the mixture should almost double in size). Add the butter and vanilla and mix for another 2 minutes. (It is important to try to get the butter to blend as smoothly as possible. There may be some very small lumps and that is ok but beat out the large ones (this is why it is so important to have the butter completely softened before doing this part of the process).
By hand, stir in the flour until just combined. Add the cranberries and stir until they are dispersed throughout the batter.
Spray a 9 x 13 pan with baking spray. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake is lightly browned. Cool completely before slicing.