So another Christmas has come and sprinkled its magic over all of us. Like many of you this is one of my favorite times of the year. There is just something about Christmas that chases away my inner Scrooge and makes the world seem better somehow. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and pray that 2017 is a better, bolder, brighter year for you!
Now let’s talk about baking. As I had mentioned in a previous post, my baking hat was reluctantly put away due to expanding waistlines and non-existent willpowers.
But it is Christmas. And what is Christmas without the smell of freshly baked goodies perfuming the air? And so I went on a baking spree. And what a mad spree it was (insert evil laughter soundtrack).
I baked not one but two Christmas fruit cakes (I’m still looking for THE perfect recipe so if you have one to share, go on and drop me a comment) and four different flavors of mini loaf cakes for gifting. And the insanity is that it is not over yet. I still plan to squeeze in some baking before the year is out so my oven will have no rest or slumber for days to come.
I was on the hunt for a festive recipe and while gingerbread was definitely on my baking bucket list, I wanted to try something a little different. And in this recipe I think I found the perfect blend of traditional with a twist.
The star of the show – Cranberries
I’ll admit I have never had much of a relationship with cranberries. For some reason it was never a popular fruit at home when I was growing up. My only brush with them has been as prepackaged fruit juices where I have marveled at their sparkling jewel tones. But in recent years I have become more aware of cranberries being sold at stores here and noticed that it seems to be a staple feature in many Christmas menus. So off I went to pick up a pack of fresh cranberries.
Hilarity ensued in my kitchen because I had no idea how the fruit was supposed to look or taste. As I halved them in preparation for my batter, I was surprised to see that they were white inside. From the juices I’d seen I had always assumed they would be deep red in color. I was convinced that the hard, white fruit was raw until a quick Google search confirmed that the fresh fruit is supposed to be white while the red ones are actually overripe and should be avoided. The taste was also a shock to me. The fruit tastes nothing like the sweet juices we buy at supermarkets but rather is sharp and tart. I will admit that as a fruit cranberries are definitely not on my favorites list. And I was worried that my cake would be ruined.
But I persevered and boy was I glad I did. The cranberries did mellow down slightly after baking as I hoped. This cake is a tightrope-tense pitting of flavors against each other.The sharp taste of the cranberries is perfectly foiled by the earthy punch of cardamom and both are balanced by the addition of the tenderly sweet mandarin juice in the batter. The cake itself has a unique taste and texture – the sweet and smoky hit from the mandarin and cardamom respectively while being spongy enough to hold together the fruit-packed slices. It is a winning combination of ingredients and you can bet that I will be trying this again in future, maybe with some slight modifications. If you love spiced cakes as much as I do and if you happen to be a cranberry fan, this is definitely going to go into your Repeat Baking folder 🙂
Cranberry Cardamom Cake
(Recipe adapted from Mom’s Kitchen Handbook)
3 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom (Reduce to one and a half teaspoon if you do not want a strong cardamom taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup fresh mandarin juice
1 and 1/2 cups sugar ( you can reduce this slightly if your mandarin juice is very sweet)
1/2 cup melted butter
4 cups roughly chopped fresh cranberries
- Preheat oven to 350F/177C. Grease three mini loaf pans with butter. I used disposable foil baking pans roughly 5″ x 4″. Set aside.
- Set aside 2-3 tablespoons of flour for coating the cranberries. In a medium bowl, sift together the remaining flour, cardamom, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In a separate large bowl, vigorously beat together the buttermilk, tangerine juice, sugar and egg. Slowly add the melted and cooled butter, whisking continuously until it is blended. Do not add the butter while it is still hot or it will cook the egg.
- Add the flour mixture to the bowl with the liquids and mix until just incorporated with no obvious streaks of flour. Do not overmix.
- Use the flour previously set aside to coat the cranberries. This will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of your mix. Add the flour coated cranberries to the batter and gently stir them in without bruising the fruit.
- Pour the batter into the loaf pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top of the loaf is fairly firm to the touch. My loaf took 45 minutes to bake. You can also make cupcakes with this batter which will be done in about 15 minutes.
The batter was enough for three loaves plus two cupcakes. The batter does rise and the end result is a lovely domed top with cracks through which the cranberries peek through. While it may not look perfect, in this instance I feel the cracks give this loaf so much more character.
What have you been baking for Christmas this year? Do you have any seasonal recipes to share?
Do let me know if you try this out. Until next time…