Vanilla Cranberry Cake: fluffy vanilla bean mini cakes with fresh cranberries, cranberry curd, and vanilla mascarpone frosting
The typical winter palette is drab and slightly monochromatic. Gray skies, brown leaves, pastel-colored squash and muted landscapes shrouded in fog. But winter isn’t all dark colors and big clouds. There are some exceptions. Like cranberries. And rosehips peeping out beneath the snow.
Just when we need our Vitamin C more than ever, we get handed these bright red fruits that are full of it.
But this isn’t about staying healthy in the winter. This is about making vanilla cranberry cake. Why should these amazing berries be relegated only to an uninspiring Thanksgiving side dish? They can do so much more.
This cake is for the cranberries, really. To put them in the spotlight for once. If you have an inkling that cranberry curd might be delicious, your are correct. It absolutely is. This vanilla cranberry cake plays with tartness against sweetness, texture against creaminess. It is for the winter lovers.
So, try this cake out the next time you want to make something for the holiday table. It is just a little bit different; only a little bit unexpected. But it still fits right in there.
It has it’s place at Thanksgiving, for sure. And it would be happy to join a small Christmas table. I’m willing to bet it would be just fine for New Year’s Day. Really, it’s just a nice way to add a little color into our winter days.
If you’re lucky enough to find local cranberries at your Farmer’s Market when they’re fresh, be sure to pick some up. They freeze easily and beautifully and can be used in so many more ways than you used to think.
Vanilla & Cranberry Cake
vanilla bean cake
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/12 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 egg whites
- 1 egg
- 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise and scraped
- 1/2 cups cranberries
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 4 ounces butter, diced room temperature
- 1/2 cup cranberries
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 2-3 tbsp sugar
- 4 ounces mascarpone
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp sugar
for the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease three 4" cake pans (or 2 X 6") and line bottom with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk dry ingredients together.
Whisk wet ingredients together in a liquid measuring cup, including beans scraped out of vanilla bean, but not the pod itself. Combine wet and dry ingredients; stir to combine. Finish by folding with a spatula to eliminate streaks of flour. Pour evenly into prepared pans.
Bake until center springs back and edges are golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool about 15 minutes before inverting on rack and removing from pans. Cool completely.
for the cranberry curd:
Meanwhile, make the cranberry curd. Cook cranberries, sugar, water, and lemon juice in a small saucepan until soft and berries are popped - about 5-10 minutes. Strain through a fine wire strainer, pushing with a spatula to extract as much juice as possible. Discard solids.
Place eggs in a small stainless steel bowl; whisk to emulsify. Add a small amount of warm, strained cranberry juice to the eggs and whisk immediately. Pour in the remaining juice. Place bowl over a small saucepan with an inch or two or simmering water in it. Cook on medium heat, whisking frequently, until thick, about 7-10 minutes.
Add butter; whisk to combine fully. Strain into a clean bowl and allow to cool.
for the cranberry compote:
Cook cranberries, orange juice, and sugar until berries are soft and popping, 5-10 minutes. Mash gently with a fork and adjust for sweetness as desired. Cool.
for mascarpone frosting:
Place mascarpone, cream, vanilla, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on high just until very soft peaks form (it will continue to "whip" as you ice the cake).
On bottom round of cooled cake, spread a thin layer on cranberry compote. Follow with a layer of cranberry curd. Top with second layer of cake and press lightly to adhere. (You could also slice each cake in half horizontally so you have more layers or curd and cranberries).
Use a small amount of mascarpone to apply a crumb coat. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, at least 30 minutes.
Finish frosting cake with remaining mascarpone. Serve with additional cranberry compote or curd.
This cake is best served the day it is made.