Monday, November 23, 2015

Vanilla Cranberry White Chocolate Cake

I can't believe we're just a few days away from Thanksgiving! The holidays are surely upon us and I absolutely love it! (I've had Christmas music on in my car since the day after Halloween. I know I'm not alone on that one, am I right?) 

One of the many reasons I love the holidays is all the seasonal baking I get to do: pumpkin, apple, sweet potato, gingerbread, hazelnut, cranberry. There's just so much to choose from! I've already shared a couple of these flavors with you (make sure to check my archives for the sweet potato cake, the gingerbread cake and the pumpkin cake. I love them all!). For my next holiday-inspired cake, I wanted to incorporate cranberries. Last year I made a gingerbread cranberry white chocolate cake, but since I just recently did the gingerbread latte cake, I decided to go for a vanilla cake, and knew it would pair perfectly with the cranberry compote and white chocolate frosting. 


I had actually come across a cranberry white chocolate cake recipe on Pinterest a while ago, so I went back to that one and decided to give the vanilla cake recipe a try to see how it compared with some of the vanilla cakes I've already made.

For the first go-around, I tried the recipe exactly as it was printed (as I always do), and ran into a few issues. My first concern was that it said it was a "one bowl" cake - that means you're basically throwing everything into your mixer at once and giving it a whirl. From all the reading and research I've done on cakes over the years, that seemed like a red flag to me, but I went with it. Unfortunately, it didn't work out to my liking. The original recipe said to add the butter and other wet ingredients to the already mixed dry ingredients and mix until smooth. However, my batter never became smooth (even though my butter was at room temperature). I decided to bake the cake anyway to see what would happen. Here's a look:


Because of the clumps of butter in the batter, it crinkled and was kind of oily on top. To my surprise, however, when I leveled it and tried some scraps, I didn't hate it. I decided it had some good components as far as flavor and texture go, but it needed a few tweaks. First and foremost, the instructions needed to be reworked. For round two, I creamed by butter and sugar first, then added my eggs (one at a time), then greek yogurt (one of the changes I made), and then I alternated adding the sifted dry ingredients with milk, ending with the dry ingredients. The other changes I made include: decreasing the flour a little, sifting the flour, adding vanilla bean, using whole milk instead of lowfat and using plain yogurt instead of sour cream.

I'm really happy with the flavor, but even my revised version is a little dense in texture, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I've had many people tell me they like a denser cake over a lighter, fluffy cake. If that's you, I think you'll really like this cake. And I think the cake pairs really nicely with the light, whipped white chocolate frosting. 

Cranberry compote filling 

Vanilla beans straight from Switzerland (they're so cheap there, I had to stock up and even had my sister's boyfriend get me more when he visited a few months ago)
Can you see those flecks of vanilla bean? Aren't they gorgeous!


The 6" cake from my first round

These cakes were for a holiday photoshoot, so when I dropped them off, I snapped a couple pictures but they don't do justice to the beautiful spread being put together. I can't wait to get the professional shots back. I'll be sure to share!

And the 8" cake from round two





Vanilla Cranberry White Chocolate Cake

Yield: one 8-inch, 3-layer cake 

Ingredients:

For the Sparking Cranberries
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 cup water

For the Cranberry Compote
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch, sifted

For the Vanilla Bean Cake (recipe adapted from Life, Love and Sugar)
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, (split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out all the vanilla bean seeds)
1 cup plain greek yogurt (can substitute sour cream or creme fraiche)
1 cup whole milk

For the White Chocolate Frosting
2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
4 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Instructions:
For the Sparking Cranberries
1. Bring the 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar to a simmer in a saucepan. Simmer until sugar is completely dissolved.
2. Pour the simple syrup into a heatproof bowl and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
3. Add cranberries and stir to coat.
4. Refrigerate cranberries during the day or overnight, stirring occasionally to coat with syrup.
5. Remove cranberries from syrup and roll in remaining 1/2 cup sugar. You'll need to roll them a few times to get a couple of layers of sugar on them.
6. Set cranberries aside to dry for an hour or so.

For the Cranberry Compote
1. In a saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar and water over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and then cover to allow the cranberries to cook and soften.
2. When the cranberries have softened and begin to pop, slowly add the sifted corn starch and stir until it is incorporated. (If you don't sift the cornstarch, you'll likely get white clumps in the compote that are hard to dissolve.)
3. Allow the cranberries to simmer for another 5-10 minutes. The mixture will become thick and somewhat jelly-like. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and let cool to room temperature or store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.

For the Vanilla Bean Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three 8-inch cake pans with spray, parchment paper and a flour dusting. Set aside.
2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
3. Cream the butter and the sugar on medium speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for one minute. 
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
5. Add the greek yogurt and mix until incorporated.
6. Alternately, add the flour mixture and the milk, starting and finishing with the flour. Combine until incorporated.
7. Stir in the vanilla extract and vanilla bean and mix for 30 seconds.
8. Evenly distribute the batter among the three cake pans and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pans 5-10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, you can cover with plastic wrap and store in your refrigerator overnight or freezer for longer.

For the White Chocolate Frosting
1. Pour the white chocolate pieces or chips into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 60 seconds. Stir and, if needed, microwave for another 30 seconds. Set aside and let cool. 
2. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed for about two minutes.
3. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the sifted powdered sugar until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue to mix for another minute.
4. Slowly add the cooled white chocolate while mixing on medium speed. 
5. Add the heavy cream, one tablespoon at a time. Once the cream is incorporated, add the vanilla and increase the speed to medium-high and beat the frosting for five minutes. It should get lighter in texture and color.

Assembly:
1. Level cake layers if needed. Place the first cake layer, right-side up, on a cake board or plate. Using a pastry bag or a strong plastic zip-loc bag, pipe a barrier around the edge of the cake. This is done to ensure the cranberry compote won't ooze out the side of your cake as your stack.
2. Spread half of your cranberry compote around the open space.
3. Place second cake layer on top of the compote and create another frosting barrier around the edge, filling it with the remaining compote.
4. Place third cake layer, bottom-side up, on top and give the cake an even crumb coat. Chill it in the refrigerator or freezer for 15 minutes and then continue frosting. (While cake is chilling, I like to cover my frosting with plastic wrap so it doesn't have a chance to dry out).
5. Top with sugared cranberries.

3 comments:

  1. The cake looks amazing, I hope I can handle this recipe though, I'm only good when I cook in online Papas Games, but in real kitchen, not very much :S

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  2. Delightful cake!!! It is very Delicious, Thanks for offering so simple recipe that everybody can understand and can get savor of a delicious cake.
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    ReplyDelete