A luscious cranberry cake, with the richness of crème fraîche.
Christie is a friend who has appeared here before on The Kitchn; she cowrote the very popular cookbook Flour with Joanne Chang, and she also authored a book on salty sweets.
This book is a lovely single-subject book, with soft, elegant photos by Alex Farnum. It has a smaller square profile, and a hardback cover with glossy pages. The 50 recipes cover the basics, like lemon-poppy seed and milk chocolate. But it also dances into less familiar territory with a persimmon cake, and a cake flavored with pink peppercorns. There are just enough recipes to do something fun, but not so many that you feel overwhelmed with choice. It feels like a bright, creative, well-edited little collection of recipes.
So, if you'd like to put your bundt pan to work, pull this one out and give it a try.
• Find it: Cake Simple: Recipes for Bundt-Style Cakes from Classic Dark Chocolate to Luscious Lemon-Basil, by Christie Matheson and published by Chronicle Books. $13.35 at Amazon.
Cranberry Crème Fraîche
This cake is inspired by the cranberry-sour cream coffee cake my mom makes on Christmas morning. I learned from pastry chef Joanne Chang what an amazing difference it makes to the richness and texture of the final product when you use crème fraîche instead of sour cream in baking, so this version is made with crème fraîche and topped with a slightly tart almond-cranberry glaze. You could use canned cranberry sauce for this, but making your own is so easy, and it gives this cake fantastic cranberry flavor.
1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus melted butter for greasing the pan
2 cups (240 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (200 g) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (240 ml) crème fraîche (recipe follows)
Whole-Berry Cranberry Sauce (recipe follows) or 2 cups (450 g) canned whole berry-cranberry sauce
1/2 cup (45 g) chopped toasted almonds
Cranberry Glaze (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C/gas 4). Brush the inside of a 10-cup (2.4 L) Bundt pan with the melted butter and dust it lightly with flour. (Use a pastry brush to help distribute the flour and tap out the excess.)
Whisk the flour with the baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter with the sugar on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture (in three increments) alternately with the crème fraîche (in two increments), beginning and ending with the flour and beating after each addition until just combined.
Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Swirl half the cranberry sauce over the batter. Pour the remaining batter over the cranberry sauce, and then swirl the remaining cranberry sauce over the batter. Sprinkle the almonds over the top. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until golden brown on top.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack and let it cool completely. Transfer the cake to a serving plate and drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake. The cake will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream
2 tablespoons buttermilk
Combine the heavy cream with the buttermilk, cover tightly, and let sit at room temperature (in a warm room) for at least 8 hours. Stir the mixture - it should be thick and creamy. If it hasn't thickened completely, cover the mixture again and let it sit in a warm place for another 2 to 3 hours and check it again. When it has a nice, thick consistency, it will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Whole Berry-Cranberry Sauce
12 ounces (340 g) fresh cranberries
3/4 cup (180 ml) water
2/3 cup (147 g) brown sugar
1/3 cup (70 g) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cranberries with the water, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and salt and cook for about 15 minutes (after about 10 minutes, remove about 1 tablespoon of the liquid for the cranberry glaze), or until the sauce has thickened and most of the liquid has reduced. Let the sauce cool completely before using it in the cake. The sauce keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
1 cup (93 g) confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 tablespoon cranberry juice (reserved from making the cranberry sauce)
Mix the confectioners' sugar, almond extract, and cranberry juice in a small bowl until smooth.
Reprinted with permission of Chronicle Books from Cake Simple: Recipes for Bundt-Style Cakes from Classic Dark Chocolate to Luscious Lemon-Basil by Christie Matheson
(Images: Chronicle Books, Alex Farnum)