02 January 2011

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

We had friends over tonight. Again. Liz is on a friend-dinner-binge, and it's been fun. We recreated our holiday brisket and served it with noodles and it was fine, but the real star was the cake. I've never really been a fan of cake; I mean, why would you eat sugary, bouncy, dry cake when you can have fudgy, gooey, drippy, flavourful everything else. You see, boxed cakes, while labeled with myriad flavours like white, yellow, and confetti, all taste about that same—like sugar. I think the person who decided that colors=flavours should be ostracized from all world societies.

Then I discovered that cakes can taste like vanilla, chocolate, fruit, nuts, brown sugar, brown butter, or carrot. Or pumpkin. Or banana. Or cinnamon. This one is in the buttery, sweet, cinnamon category, and that's before the winter fruit and nuts. It's moist, tender crumb is perfect for serving anyone, but parents will especially appreciate it because it's not crumbly and messy; it stays together on plate and fork and is just dense enough to fill those last minute spaces in the tummy. Serve it with vanilla ice cream and you'll be very popular. You'll also thank yourself because it will look like a giant party cake without all the fuss. It's one layer (you could easily double it and make 2 cakes if you need) and flips over to reveal red, glistening jewels atop a moist bed of buttery cinnamon goodness. It's especially fitting for the holidays.

A note about the cranberries: They can be fresh or frozen, but since fresh are seeing their last good days, I suggest heaping a bunch of bags into the freezer for the coming months. You can take them straight from your freezer and put them in this recipe and no one will know they're not fresh. I'm sure you could sub in dried fruit, but it will be a completely different cake, so I don't suggest it at this point.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake
adapted from Dorie Greenspan

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick+6 Tbsp (1 3/4 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup+6 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans (what I used) or walnuts would also be good.
2 cups cranberries (no need to thaw if frozen)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup red currant jelly, optional, for glazing the cake

Put rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350˚F. Pull out an 8" round cake pan. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl; set aside.

In a small pot over medium heat, melt 6 Tbsp butter, then add 6 Tbsp sugar and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then pour into the bottom of the cake pan. Sprinkle nuts over the bottom of the pan, then put cranberries on top. Smooth them out the best you can, but don't get too crazy about it; just make sure they at least cover the bottom.

In a bowl combine 1 stick butter and 1/2 cup sugar and beat with a mixer until pale and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each one. Blend in vanilla. Add 1/2 the dry ingredients and blend on low just until combined. Mix in milk, then add the rest of the dry ingredients. Spoon the batter over the cranberries and smooth out the top with an offset spatula.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown and it passes the "clean toothpick (or knife)" test. Remove from the oven and run a butter knife around the edge of the pan. Invert the cake onto a serving plate. If you want to use the jelly (I've done it both ways) warm it in the microwave for 30-45 seconds, until liquid. Brush over the cake, and serve.

with vanilla ice Cream, if possible.

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