Bake Along: Cranberry Streusel Upside-Down Cake

Cranberry Streusel Upside-Down Cake - LiveDineParty

This week I’m doing my very first bake along with Liz at Books-n-Cooks.  Liz is my sister-in-law and we live too far away from each other to actually bake together, so this is the next best thing!  She has been blogging for a few years now, sharing her recipes and reviews of the books she is reading.  And, yes, she inspired me to start my own blog.

We have decided to take on the upside-down cake.  She baked the Orange Almond Upside-Down Cake from the February/March issue of the Fine Cooking magazine, while I baked a variation of that from the same issue, the Cranberry Streusel Upside-Down Cake.

When I started baking this recipe, I thought it was going to turn out to be a disaster.  I was starting to get a really bad cold and my baking skills were definitely impaired by all of the cold medicine I was taking.  And, I was a little short on cranberries so it looked like things were going downhill fast.

Well somehow, it turned out delicious and it was big hit when I served it to my family.  The tartness from the cranberries paired perfectly with the sweetness of the streusel.  I will say, the streusel seemed a little light to me, so next time I make it, I think I will try 1.5x the amounts listed in the below recipe.  It didn’t look quite as pretty as the pictures in the magazine (if I had enough cranberries this probably would have helped), but based on what I thought I was going to end up with, I was definitely happy with the final product!

I can’t wait to see how Liz’s Orange Almond version came out.

Adapted from finecooking.com

Makes one 9-inch round cake

Ingredients

For the streusel

  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted

For the topping

  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter; more for the pan
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries

For the cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 9 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature (you can substitute whole milk if you don’t have buttermilk)

Directions

Make the streusel

Combine the pecans, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Stir in the melted butter until well combined.

Cranberry Streusel Upside-Down Cake - LiveDineParty

Make the topping

Butter a 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the parchment.

Combine the butter and sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and it turns to a slightly darker caramel color.  Be careful not to burn it.  Slowly add 3 Tbs. water (be careful, as it will bubble and steam). Cook, stirring, until combined, about 30 seconds.

Immediately pour the caramel into the parchment paper lined cake pan. This is where I made another mistake. The cold medicine made me read “immediately pour the cranberries into the caramel”.  You want to let the caramel sit until it is cool enough to touch.  It still tasted fine, but the caramel just didn’t set right.

Then, pour the cranberries over the caramel, pressing them tightly together.

Cranberry Streusel Upside-Down Cake - LiveDineParty

Make the cake

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla, mix to combine.  Then add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined after each addition.

With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour and the buttermilk or whole milk, beginning and ending with the flour, and beating until just combined after each addition.  With a spatula, carefully spread half of the batter over the cranberries.  Scatter the streusel over the batter.  Dollop the rest of the batter over the streusel, and then carefully spread to cover.  The batter is quite thick and difficult to spread so work carefully in order to keep the layers in place.  Tap the pan firmly against the counter to remove any air bubbles.

Bake until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 35-45 minutes.  You may want to place the cake pan on a cookie sheet in order to catch any overflow and keep your oven clean.  Cool on a rack for 35 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of the cake to release it from the pan.  Invert the cake onto a serving plate.  Serve warm or at room temperature and enjoy!

Cranberry Streusel Upside-Down Cake - LiveDineParty Cranberry Streusel Upside-Down Cake - LiveDineParty

I used frozen cranberries this time, but I think I will be making this again in the Fall, when I can get some fresh cranberries from the cranberry bog down the street…yes I do live in the country 🙂

Now you should head on over to Books-n-Cooks to check out Liz’s blog and see how the Orange Almond Upside-Down Cake variation came out!  I can’t wait to give it a try.

Thanks for baking with me Liz 🙂

Non-traditional Thanksgiving Dessert

Chocolate Layer Cake - LiveDineParty

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I did not host Thanksgiving.  But, I was commissioned to help with dessert.  There were going to be a few guests at Thanksgiving (I won’t name any names here and no it was not the children 🙂 ) that would not eat the delicious pear and cranberry tart that my mother-in-law was making or any other traditional Thanksgiving dessert.  So, I decided to take on a chocolate layer cake with chocolate buttercream frosting.  Yes, non-traditional but soooo good!

I’ve made a layer cake before, but this time I attempted to do four layers and I went all out with decorating it.  This chocolate cake recipe is super moist and the brewed coffee really brings out the chocolate flavor.  I used the chocolate buttercream recipe from the famous Magnolia Bakery in NYC.  It is my go to chocolate frosting.

For the Chocolate Cake:

Adapted from Ina Garten, via foodnetwork.com

Ingredients

  • Butter, for greasing the pans
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups good cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 9-inch x 2-inch round cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Chocolate Layer Cake - LiveDineParty

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Mix to combine.  With the mixer on low, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. Add the hot coffee and stir just to combine. Don’t be alarmed, the batter will be very liquidy.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Chocolate Layer Cake - LiveDineParty Chocolate Layer Cake - LiveDineParty

For Magnolia’s Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

The below recipe would probably be enough for a two layer cake, but since I was making four layers, I made 1.5x the recipe below.  No one wants a cake with too little frosting 🙂

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 9 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Directions

To melt the chocolate, place in a double boiler over simmering water on low heat for about 5-10 minutes. Stir occasionally until completely smooth and no pieces of chocolate remain. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5-10 minutes. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy. Add the milk carefully and beat until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and beat well. Add the vanilla and beat for 3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and beat on low until a desired consistency is reached.  If you refrigerate overnight, make sure it is at room temperature before frosting the cake to avoid creating crumbs.

Now for the fun part!…The Assembly:

I baked the cake the night before, covered with plastic wrap and stored it at room temperature overnight.  Then, I made the frosting, assembled and frosted the cake the following evening.

I went to work the day after baking the cake and started to get stressed out about how to cut the cake layers in half without completely destroying them.  In order to make a two layer cake into a four layer cake I cut each layer in half using Wilton’s Small Cake Leveler.  It is a great baking tool that I did not know existed until now.  It made it so easy to get a straight cut and no cake was wasted in the process!

Once the layers were cut, I placed a small dab of frosting on a 12 inch cake cardboard round and placed the first layer on top.  This helps the cake from moving while you are assembling and decorating.  I also placed some parchment paper around the edges of the cake to keep the cardboard round clean while frosting.  Then I began frosting the top of the layer, moving from the middle of the cake to the edges.  Repeat these steps for each of the layers.  Once the cake is topped off with the final layer of cake, I added the top layer of frosting and then moved on to frosting the sides of the cake.

Chocolate Layer Cake - LiveDineParty Chocolate Layer Cake - LiveDineParty

For the decorations, I added some mini chocolate chips to the sides of the cake.  Once I was done frosting the cake and adding the chocolate chips, I removed the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake and magically the mess I made disappeared!  I finished the cake off with some decorative edges using a star frosting tip along the bottom and top edges of the cake.  Hint:  This hides some of the mistakes you made frosting the edges.  And, to make my non-traditional Thanksgiving dessert somewhat festive, I topped it with a hand-turkey decoration!

Chocolate Layer Cake - LiveDineParty