Cranberries + Coffee Cake
There are no two ways about it. The holiday season is officially in full swing. The past few years the holidays haven’t been all that festive for me with some stressful situations surrounding them. However, this year I feel a bit more in the merriment mood, having been surrounded by the magic of the Christmas season at Longwood Gardens and a few timely holiday activities like ice skating, wreath making and a little soirée that included an Italian-themed potluck.
The party was the perfect opportunity for me to try out this recipe from this month’s Gourmet. I have to take a moment to thank Deb at Smitten Kitchen for leading the way though, thereby giving me more confidence to tweak it and take an untested dessert to a party. Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake with White Chocolate Ganache did indeed pass the test with flying colors. The cake itself is dense and rich while the layer of cranberries cuts through and cleans your palette with a zippy zing. The drizzle of white chocolate on the top just the touch of sweetness that dresses up the cake for fancy holiday dining.
Cranberries are unique to North America, I realize. And I’ve always felt lucky to have the bogs of New Jersey, the third largest region for cranberry production in the United States, close enough to consider them local. While they are actually harvested in October, the past two years I’ve made a point to buy up as many local cranberries as I can find so I can freeze them to use all winter. If you don’t have cranberries at your disposal, I suspect this cake could be made with dried cherries or an orange marmalade.
As an aside, I thought I’d clear up any confusion about the designation “coffee cake”. In my experience, some folks seem to be under the impression that it has to have coffee in the recipe. In actuality, coffee cake is really just any kind cake that gets served with coffee. Months of Edible Celebrations has a great post on the history and definitions of coffee cake. Coincidentally, I was born on National Coffee Cake Day! Fun, eh?
Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake with White Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from Gourmet, December 2008
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 3/4 C. sugar
2 C. fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (6 ounces)
1 ½ C. all-purpose flour
½ C. whole-wheat flour
2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened,
2 large eggs
1/2 C. whole milk
¼ C. vanilla sugar
1 T. all-purpose flour
1 T. unsalted butter
½ C. white chocolate morsels
1 T. heavy cream
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Generously butter a 9 inch spring form pan. (If you have the baking spray that comes with flour in it, use that.)
Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a food processor. Add sugar and pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl.
Pulse cranberries with 1/2 cup vanilla sugar in processor until finely chopped (do not purée).
Whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat together 1 stick butter and 1 cup vanilla sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down side and bottom of bowl. Using a spatula, fold in flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour, until just combined. Batter will be thick.
Spread half of batter in pan, then spoon cranberries over it, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Spoon small bits of the remaining batter over the top of the cranberries and smooth them with as gentle of a hand as possible.
Blend remaining 1/4 cup vanilla sugar with remaining tablespoon each of butter and flour using your fingertips. Crumble over top of cake.
Bake until a wooden pick inserted into cake comes out clean and side begins to pull away from pan, 45 to 50 minutes. Carefully run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake to loosen any spots that are sticking. Cool in pan 30 minutes and then remove from pan and cool completely.
When cake is completely cool, make the ganache by combining the chocolate and cream in a small bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir and microwave for another 15 seconds. Repeat until smooth and fluid. Place ganache in a piping bag (or use a sandwich bag with a tiny bit of the corner snipped off) and pipe over the cake. Allow to harden before serving.