Yesterday afternoon, as I was spoiling my husband’s dinner by force-feeding him cranberry cake and whipped cream, he looked me in the eyes and said, with great feeling, “Miy WOUFF Troiusdapes miff Rorfty!”
Fortunately, we have been married long enough that I’m able to translate Full Mouth into English, and knew that he was saying that he loved Tuesdays with Dorie. I have to agree! I have so many wonderful cookbooks that I only consult when I’m baking for a special occasion. I’m sure Baking: From My Home to Yours would be one of those without a weekly obligation to make and blog about a recipe. I’m not sure I ever would have made this Cranberry Shortbread Cake without the prodding of a baking group, but I’m so glad I did.
First, we must discuss this dessert’s identity crisis. Shortbread…cake…? Que? To me it tasted most like a double-crusted tart, which is definitely not a bad thing. The crust was similar to a sugar cookie dough, with a great mix of a crackling sugary crust and a tender crumb inside.
Inside is a simple cranberry-orange jam, with enough sugar to round out the tart edges but enough bite to balance the sweet dough. I chickened out a little with the filling, and didn’t use all of it because it seemed like it might overwhelm the thin crust. In retrospect I could have used the full amount, but it didn’t seem to be lacking for flavor, either.
The real kicker, for me, was the softly whipped cream on top. I added lots of vanilla and a little cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg to the cream, and the combination of spices, aromatic vanilla, and sweet cream on the tart cranberry cake was fantastic. I’m not usually much of a whipped cream fan, but I wanted to put this in a Big Gulp cup and drink it with a straw.
Not that that actually happened.
The final touch was a few of these glazed cranberries. The recipe couldn’t be easier–fresh cranberries dunked in whisked egg whites, then rolled in granulated sugar. After an hour or two the sugar crust gets hard, so they almost explode in your mouth when you bite into them. The berries are juicy and fairly sour, but the sugar keeps them from being too lip-puckering. These were the perfect finishing touch to an already perfect dessert. I’m looking forward to experimenting with this recipe and using sauteed apples for the filling, and maybe a strawberry/rhubarb combination come spring.
Cranberry Shortbread Cake
For the Jam Filling:
1 large navel orange
about 1/4 cup of orange juice
1 12-ounce bag cranberries, fresh or frozen (not thawed)
About 1 cup sugar
For the Cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 stick plus 5 tablespoons (13 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
To Make the Jam Filling:
Grate the zest of an orange into a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Slice off the peel, removing the white, cottony pith that sticks to the fruit, and slice between the membranes to release the orange segments. Cut the segments into 1/4-inch wide pieces and toss these into the pan. Working over a measuring cup, squeeze the juice from the membranes — if you have 1/4 cup, great; if not, add enough additional orange juice (or water) to make 1/4 cup — and pour it into the pan.
Put the cranberries in the pan, stir in 3/4 cup of sugar, set the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook, stirring almost constantly, until the cranberries pop and your spoon leaves tracks, about 5 minutes. Scrape the jam into a bowl and taste it — if it’s too tart, add more sugar to taste. Cool to room temperature. (The filling can be made up to 2 weeks ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)
To Make the Cake:
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and smooth. Add 1 cup of sugar and continue to beat until it dissolves into the butter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the egg and egg yolk and, beating until they too are absorbed. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture, mixing only until it is incorporated; since this is a delicate dough, one that should not be over beaten, you might want to finish mixing in the flour by hand using a sturdy spatula. You’ll have a thick dough, one that is quite malleable.
Turn the dough out onto a smooth surface and gather it together in a ball, then divide in half and pat each half into a disk. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate them for 15 to 30 minutes. (At this point, the dough can be refrigerated overnight; set it out at room temperature for about 20 minutes before proceeding.)
While the dough is chilling, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan (preferably nonstick) and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.
Work with one piece of dough at a time. For the bottom layer, either roll out the dough to size between two pieces of plastic wrap — it’s an easy enough dough to roll — and lay it in the pan, or put the dough in the pan and press it lightly and evenly across the bottom with your fingertips. Spread the cranberry filling over the dough.
Unwrap the second piece of dough, but leave it on the plastic. Press and/or roll it until it is just the diameter of the pan. Carefully lift the dough and invert it on the filling, lift off the plastic and use your fingers to even it as necessary so that it covers the filling. Brush the top of the cake very lightly with water and sprinkle with the remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top of the cake is lightly golden and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and cool for about 20 minutes, then run a blunt knife around the cake, remove the sides of the pan and let cool to room temperature.