This whole bit about a master's degree is really, really cramping my style. You see, I've got a stack of brand spankin' new cookbooks piled up on my desk, their newly minted spines not even cracked, and I can't touch 'em. Not with a ten and a half foot pole.
I get a little weepy thinking about where my priorities have gone - now homework has to be done before I can make a cake. I need to finish reading fifty pages before I even think about that cookie. It's cruel and unusual, and the lack of light at the end of the tunnel is an increasingly large problem. There was a time, back in my glory days, where I could bake every night. Not anymore. [Moment of silence in the name of boring, life-taking responsibility.]
But this weekend, I blew it all off. I left my academic ball and chain in Maryland, high-tailed it to Pennsylvania with my sugar daddy for a weekend of pumpkin pickin', margarita sippin', and maybe a little kissin' at the farm. It's Justin's personal mecca - the open fields, the homemade shooting range, the rows of cornstalks and the hideous turkeys that make crazy noises when you talk to them. Every time we head up there he says, "Don't forget to pack your outside jeans and boots that can get dirty." And every time he gets a blank stare and a simple, "I don't own those things." But I made up for it - I brought this cake.
Bless his heart - I'll never be as country as he hopes, I don't own flannel nor do I have any desire to, that deer head is not going on our living room wall and we're not decking out the entire first floor with leather furniture. I mean, I love him, but no. Just no. [Sorry, baby.]
Okay, seriously, let me tell you about this cake. This cake causes me lots of year-long strife at home, mostly because this is my father's most favorite cake of all time and my sorry excuse of a grocery store only stocks fresh cranberries one month out of the year. They don't even sell them frozen which is quite silly since cranberries love to be frozen, so I have to hear, "Why can't you make that cranberry cake?" all year long. Really, I can't blame him. This cake is delicious.
Here's what you do: make a hot caramel spiked with spicy cinnamon and fresh orange juice, pour it into the bottom of a pan and toss a handful of tart cranberries, crunchy walnuts and sweet orange zest over the top. Make a thick and glossy buttermilk cake batter, smoosh it over the cranberries, lick the batter bowl while you watch it rise in the oven, flip it upside down while it's still piping hot and admire the rosy red exploded berries dotted all over the top, drizzle a quick orange sugar glaze over the cooled cake and whiz-bag! You're welcome.
On a side-note: As we continue to house shop, one of my minimum requirements is a well-lit kitchen. My current baking habitat has the worst lighting and I'm forced to work after hours under fluorescent lights - I'm afraid many of my photos show it. So bear with me, friends, hopefully we'll have some good news soon.
Cranberry Upside-Down Coffee Cake
If your cranberries are frozen, no need to defrost them before making this recipe. If you don’t have a 9-inch round pan, you can also make it in a 9-inch square pan. Without the glaze this cake is fairly tart, but with it, it’s sweet enough to appeal to just about anyone.
Cranberry Walnut Topping:
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened and divided
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk or regular milk
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle in about 1 tablespoon of flour and shake around to evenly coat pan.
In a small bowl, combine cranberries, walnuts, and orange zest. Set aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of orange juice, and cinnamon. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Pour sugar mixture into prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with the cranberry mixture. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Place 6 tablespoons of butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat at medium speed until well combined. Beat in vanilla extract and egg. On low speed, alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, starting and ending with flour mixture, until just combined. Spoon the (relatively thick) batter over the cranberry mixture in the prepared pan, and gently spread until even.
Bake 350°F for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Start checking it after 40 minutes - this cake throws me for a loop. The first time I made it I wrote down "Bake for 35 minutes" but when I made it again this year it was still goopy in the center at 40 minutes.) Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5- 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, then carefully invert onto a plate or cake stand. Cool completely.
For the glaze, combine sugar, melted butter and orange juice in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Drizzle over cake. Can be made a day ahead and stored, wrapped, at room temperature.