Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Elizabeth's Extra Baking - Cranberry Upside-Downer

I know you are all waiting for Ann to post her March bread. Unfortunately, she is busy with school projects right now, and by school projects, I mean "Facts of Life" marathons with her new fiance.

I figured that while we wait for Ann to post her bread, I could share a recipe I made a couple days ago (plus, I'm sick today and I don't want to do much of anything else).

We invited friends over for dinner on Sunday, but it was kind of last minute. Since I don't go shopping on Sunday, I knew I'd have to use only the ingredients I already had on hand. Dinner ended up being Spaghetti alla Carbonara, green beans with almonds, and a cucumber salad. Very simple.

Dessert is always the trickiest for me when I do last minute invites, because I start to think of fancy concoctions involving whipping cream and other ingredients that I don't have on hand. I flipped through Dorie Greenspan's book Baking: From My Home to Yours. (Have I mentioned before that this book is a winner? I believe I have! I believe I also may have previously stated that Dorie is amazing and that I want to be her best friend and that I think we might really enjoy selecting ingredients at the farmer's market together. But I digress.)

I saw the Cranberry Upside-Downer recipe in the book, and I remembered that I had a bag of cranberries in the freezer and some red currant jelly downstairs in the pantry. Hurray! Let's get baking!

The cake turned out to be magnificent. I did leave off the walnuts, since I didn't know how our guests felt about nuts, and the cake was still fabulous. It was subtly flavored with cinnamon, and the cranberries on top were a perfect balance of tart and sweet. Another winner from Dorie Greenspan.

Someday, with the help of Ms. Dorie, my children will not immediately picture white cake with colored icing when I say the word "cake." They'll know that cake can be so much more! But it will probably be a loooooooooong time before that will happen.

Cranberry Upside-Downer
from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 teaspooon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 sticks (14 tablespoons; 7 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not thaw)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 large eggs
1/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup red currant jelly

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put an 8-x-2-inch round cake pan on a lined baking sheet and keep it at hand. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and keep these nearby, too.

Melt 6 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan. Sprinkle over 6 tablespoons of the sugar and cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to the boil. Pour this evenly over the bottom of the cake pan, scatter over the nuts and top with the cranberries, smoothing the layer and pressing it down gently with your fingertips. (Don't be concerned if you've used frozen berries and they've caused the butter to congeal - everything will melt in the oven.) Set aside.

Working in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a bowl with a hand mixer, beat the remaining stick (8 tablespoons) of butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue to beat until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Pour in the extract and then add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add half of the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the batter. Mix in the milk, then the rest of the dry ingredients. Spoon the batter over the cranberries and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

Slide the sheet into the oven and bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and run a blunt knife between the sides of the pan and the cake. Carefully turn the cake out onto a serving platter. If any of the berries stick to the pan - as they might - just scrape them off with a knife and return them to the cake.

Warm the jelly in a small saucepan over low heat or do this in a microwave oven. Gently brush the glaze over the hot cake.

Serving: When the situation allows, I like to serve this cake about 20 minutes out of the oven, when it is still warm. However, it's more than fine at room temperature - even the following day. And, it's always good with vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.

Storing: The cake is best served the day it is made, but it can be covered and kept at room temperature overnight. Because of the berry topping, it's not a good candidate for freezing.