November 22, 2011


When life gives you cranberries, you make… Cranberry Spice Cake and, of course, cranberry sauce!  After all, Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without cranberries and cranberry sauce, in particular.  Anyway… cranberries are not as popular in Romania as they are in the States, so I didn’t grow up eating a whole lot of them.  In fact, I was more familiar with the Irish rock band The Cranberries (which was very popular in the 1990s when I was starting to learn English), than with the fact that these red tart fruits were called cranberries in English.  However, these days, I’m more educated in the cranberry (the fruit) department.

By the way, did you know that, according to Better Homes and Gardens Fall Baking (Fall 2011), before mechanization, rolling the berries down a flight of stairs tested cranberries for ripeness?  Those that bounced to the bottom were deemed ripe and ready for market, while those that stopped on their way down were discarded.  Interesting… 

The other day, I was looking to make a nice cake to warm up our apartment and our tummies during these cold days of fall.  And I came across this wonderful cranberry spice cake.  It was perfect! 

Cranberry Spice Cake
Adapted slightly from Bon Appétit (November 2011)

Serves: 8 servings
Special Equipment:  An 8”- square cake pan

Ingredients for the cake:

·         Nonstick vegetable spray
·         1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
·         ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         ¾ teaspoon salt
·         ½ teaspoon ground ginger
·         1 teaspoon baking powder
·         ½ teaspoon baking soda
·         2 cups (8 oz.) fresh (or frozen, thawed) cranberries
·         2/3 cup sugar
·         2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
·         ½ cup vegetable oil
·         2 large eggs, at room temperature
·         ½ cup sour cream
·         1 Tablespoon freshly grated orange zest (from one large orange)
·         2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest (from one lemon)
·         1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·         1/3 cup apple cider

Ingredients for the lemon glaze:

·         1 cup confectioners’ sugar
·         2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest (from one lemon)
·         3 Tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice (from about 1 ½ juicy lemons)
·         1/8 teaspoon salt


Cake:  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Coat bottom and sides of cake pan with nonstick spray.  Line bottom with parchment paper; coat paper with spray. 

Whisk flour, cinnamon, salt, ginger, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside.  Pulse cranberries in a food processor until finely chopped but not puréed; set aside.  Stir sugar, brown sugar, and oil in a large bowl to blend.  Add eggs one at the time, stirring to blend between additions.  Whisk in sour cream, orange zest, lemon zest, and vanilla. 

Whisk in dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with cider in 2 additions and whisking to blend.  Fold in chopped cranberries.  Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top.  Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a tester inserted into center of cake comes out almost clean, 1 hour – 1 hour 10 minutes.  Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes.  Run a thin knife around inside of pan to release cake; turn out cake onto rack.  Peel off parchment paper, then flip cake and let cool for 20-30 minutes. 

Lemon Glaze:  Whisk confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl.  Spread glaze over warm cake, allowing it to drip down sides.  Let stand until glaze becomes crackly, about 1 hour.  Serve at room temperature.  Do ahead:  Can be made 2 days ahead.  Store airtight at room temperature.  

This cake is sweet and super moist.  There is a nice tartness from the cranberries, and lovely notes of orange and lemon.  The cake is stunning, colorful inside, and glossy on top.  Moreover, this Cranberry Spice Cake is best complemented by an extra-tart garnish of Citrus-Cranberry Compote.

Citrus-Cranberry Compote
Adapted slightly from Bon Appétit (November 2011)

Makes: 1 ½ cups


·         1 orange
·         2 cups (8 oz.) fresh (or frozen, thawed) cranberries
·         1 cup pure maple syrup
·         ¼ cup fresh orange juice
·         ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


Grate zest from orange and set aside.  Using a sharp paring knife, cut off peel and white pith from orange.  Working over a small bowl, cut between membranes to release segments into bowl. 

Combine cranberries, orange zest, maple syrup, orange juice, and vanilla in a medium saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have burst and sauce has thickened, 8-10 minutes.  Let cool. 

Gently stir orange segments into compote.  Do ahead:  Can be made 3 days ahead.  Cover and chill.  Return to room temperature before serving.  

I couldn’t talk about cranberries without talking about cranberry sauce especially since Thanksgiving is fast approaching.  I love cranberry sauce!  Sweet and tart, it forms a perfect union with turkey.  Apparently, cranberry sauce is a touchy subject.  According to a poll conducted by Food Network Magazine (November 2011), out of 15,000 voters, 54% preferred canned jellied cranberry sauce, and 46% preferred whole-berry cranberry sauce. 

I have to be brutally honest – when I saw the results, I was appalled!  I didn’t think that people preferred to eat the artificial stuff when the real fruit is so in season (cranberries are in season from October to December).  So, I instantly ran to my recipe collection and looked for a healthier and way more delicious alternative to the canned stuff.  And I decided on two yummy and easy to make cranberry sauce recipes:  Tyler Florence’s Cranberry-Orange Sauce and Guy Fieri’s Red Devil Cranberries.

Cranberry-Orange Sauce
Adapted slightly from Cranberry-Orange Sauce by Tyler Florence

Serves: 8-10 servings


·         2 (8-ounce) packages cranberries, fresh or frozen
·         Zest from one orange
·         Juice from one orange
·         ½ cup sugar
·         1-2 cinnamon sticks


Put the cranberries in a saucepan over medium heat.  Zest and juice the orange.  Add the sugar and cinnamon sticks.  Simmer over medium-low heat until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve at room temperature or cool and refrigerate.  Remove the cinnamon sticks before serving. 

This is such an easy and delicious cranberry sauce recipe that you’ll never go back to the canned jelly.  In this sauce you have the sweet, the tartness from the cranberries, the light bitterness from the orange, and the warmth from the cinnamon.  A perfect marriage!  If you want a more grown-up version with a kick, try this:

Guy Fieri’s Red Devil Cranberries
Adapted slightly from Food Network Magazine (November 2010)

Serves: 8 servings


·         2 teaspoons vegetable oil
·         ¼ cup minced shallot
·         1 cup fresh orange juice
·         ½ cup agave syrup
·         1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries
·         1 orange
·         1 Tablespoon minced chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce, plus 1 teaspoon of the sauce
·         1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         Kosher salt


Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the shallot and cook until softened, 3-4 minutes.  Add the orange juice and agave syrup, bring to a simmer and add the cranberries.  Cook at a low boil until the cranberries have all popped and are just starting to reduce, 7-8 minutes. 

Meanwhile, cut off the top and bottom of the orange.  Working over a bowl, peel the orange with a sharp knife, then slice between the membranes, letting the segments fall into the bowl.  Stir the orange segments and any juice, the chipotle and adobo sauce, cinnamon and ½ teaspoon salt into the cranberries. 

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick, about 20 minutes.  Let cool.  Serve at room temperature.  

Like Guy says – “this is money!”  Guy’s version of cranberry sauce is an acquired taste.  It is sweet, tart, with a perfect amount of spiciness from the chipotle chile.  In addition, the dish has a nice kick of flavor from the adobo sauce.  This cranberry sauce will hit you with some unexpected flavor combinations.    

So, whether you like cranberries in a sauce, or a cake, or a juice, or any other combination, take advantage of the real cranberries this season!  Please feel free to try one of these cranberry sauce recipes (or both, why not?) and don’t just eat cranberry sauce from a can this Thanksgiving.  Have some real cranberries

1 comment: