As most cooks will say, the winter holidays are the best for no-holds-barred cooking. We get to bake, eat carbs (and lot’s of them), and cook with abandon using cream, butter, sugar, and love. YUM! This time of year, I am always looking to come up with dishes and desserts that can be added to a holiday buffet spread. While I love having free-reign over sugar this time of year, I do not enjoy overly sweet desserts – which was a big consideration for this cake.
The inspiration for this dessert was an extra bag of fresh cranberries that had gone unused at Thanksgiving. I love cranberries cooked in orange juice, brown sugar, and spices with finely chopped pecans stirred in at the end and wanted to incorporate those flavors into the topping of this cake. Revisiting some vintage upside-down cake recipes in my mom’s 1958 Mary Margaret McBride Encyclopedia of Cooking, I found the actual cake recipes themselves to be fairly incidental to the topping; usually a simple sponge used as a delivery vehicle for the topping. Flavored with fresh orange juice and scented with green cardamom, I wanted this cake to enhance what was going on in the topping and to become a perfect compliment.
Cranberry-Orange Upside Down Cake
Adapted from Mary Margaret McBride Encyclopedia of Cooking
1 large orange
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups sifted caked flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
15 green cardamom pods*
1 large orange
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan (preferably with a removable bottom). Cut a circle of parchment 1/2-inch larger than the diameter of the pan and line the bottom of the pan; butter the parchment and set aside.
With a fine grater, zest the orange. Then with a sharp paring knife supreme the orange (cut away the peel and pith then remove the segments); cut each segment in to thirds and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt together the butter and brown sugar, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the orange zest and finely chopped pecans. Spread this mixture evenly over the bottom of prepared cake pan. Layer in the cranberries and evenly distribute the orange segments.
In a small mixing bowl, combine sifted caked flour, baking powder, and salt. With a mortar and pestle, crack open the cardamom pods and empty the black seeds and papery husks back into the bowl and grind to a fine powder; for about 1 teaspoon. Add ground cardamom to the flour mixture and give a quick whisk to incorporate the ingredients; set aside. Remove zest from orange and then squeeze enough juice for 1/4 cup.
In a larger mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar for 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the orange zest and vanilla extract. Beat in eggs one at a time until just incorporated. Combine the 1/4 cup of orange juice and milk (it’s okay if it curdles a little). In three batches, alternately beat in the flour and liquids; scraping down the sides of the bowl between batches.
Spread mixture evenly over the cranberries and tap pan on counter a few times so everything settles. Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 55 minutes, or until golden brown and a tester inserted into the middle of the cake come away clean.
Remove from oven, loosen the sides of the cake, and immediately invert onto a serving plate. Carefully remove pan and parchment. Let cool completely before slicing. Delicious on it’s own or with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream.
*If using store-bought ground cardamom, use 1 1/2 teaspoons as commercial ground cardamom has the hard shell ground into the powder as well.
This awesomely delicious cake will look fantastic on your holiday table or buffet. It is fantastic with my mid-morning coffee beak or afternoon tea. So invite some friends over and enjoy!
Peace – J
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