Orange Cranberry Cake – A Holiday Specialty


Finished sliceOrange Cranberry Cake is one example of my love of cranberries.  Their tartness allows them to be paired with sweet items perfectly.  As oranges and cranberries go so well together, I decided this year to come up with a light but intense cake with depths of flavor that also looks stunning.  This Orange Cranberry Cake was the answer.

The orange chiffon cake is as light as a feather.  It is delicious on its own and can be baked in a tube pan, loaf pan or bundt pan if you want a more simple version.  We paired this at the bakery with a passion fruit buttercream for an unusual flavor combination for wedding cakes.  As with all chiffons, it is easy, easy to make.  Basically all the ingredients except the egg whites and a portion of the sugar are mixed in one bowl.  While the egg whites are beaten with the sugar to the soft peak stage.   The most important thing to watch with this cake is to make sure your egg whites are not overbeaten. Eight to ten minutes later the layers are done.  They will be very thin and that is how they should be. These can be frozen for assembly later if desired.  I realize most people don’t have 5 cake pans.  If you don’t see yourself using multiple cake pans very often, consider buying 9″ foil cake pans that are disposable.  Although I generally don’t spray the sides of the pans, if these are rippled or crimped, spray well.

The Cranberry Filling can be made a week ahead of time.  If tasted seperately, it seems tart.  But every other component in this cake is sweet and the tartness is the perfect addition to cut the sweetness.

The Dark Satin Glaze can also be made a week ahead of time and refrigerated.  In any case, it has to be made a day or two ahead to allow it to  be spreadable.  It can be left on the countertop if holding it for a short time.   When ready to use, microwave it in short spurts of about five seconds.  It should be spreadable but not liquid.

The Hazelnut Soaking Syrup lends a depth of flavor to the cake that would otherwise be very good but not outstanding.  (Modesty has always been my shortcoming when it comes to something I’ve created that I love!)

Hazelnuts are also referred to as filberts and in the United States come from the northwest. Make sure you buy blanched nuts and they are the devil to skin.  If they are not blanched, there are several ways of removing the skins.  One is to bring to a boil several quarts of water, depending upon how many nuts you have.  Add 2 teaspoons baking soda per quart of water.  Add the nuts and simmer for about 5 minutes.  The skins should either be left in the water or slip off easily.  The second way is to toast them for about 10 minutes @350 degrees then immediately rub them briskly in clean towels.  I prefer the oven method because it doesn’t water log the nuts and if using the oven method, they will be toasted at the same time.

Last but not least is the hazelnut and chocolate decor as well as the candied orange rind.  Although these are all listed as optional, they add a final flourish to the design.  I love the candied orange rind and used it in my first book, “The New Pastry Cook”.   All the parts of this can be made ahead.

This entire Orange Cranberry Cake can be enclosed in a cloud of whipped cream and frozen then thawed to serve.  However, I prefer to freeze it without the whipped cream so it doesn’t get smudged in the freezer (at least my freezer – which always seems to be overpacked!)  Using 40% or heavy cream allows this cream to be used with nothing to stabilize it.  We used it this way the entire life of the bakery. The cakes were usually frozen after decorating.  They would be thawed in the refrigerator, where they would last for days.

Despite the number of steps, all the component parts are easy to make and can be made ahead to easy the holiday food rush.

I taught this Orange Cranberry Cake a few weeks ago and it was an instant hit.  So I hope this encourages you to give it a try.

Cranberry FillingCranberry filling ingredients1 12 ounce bag cranberries, picked over
1/2 cup sugar (100 grams or 3 1/2 ounces)
3 tablespoons water

Place the cranberries in a jellyroll pan and pick over them removing any that seem over the hill.  See Cranapple Pie with a Pleated Crust.  Add the water to a saucepan with the sugar Water and sugar in potthen the cranberries.  Cranberries in potBring to a boil over low heat, stirring very frequently Cranberries boilinguntil the cranberries start supplying additional liquid as they break.  Lower the heat and cook until thickened, stirring often – about 5 to 10 minutes.  A spoon drawn through it should leave a clean trail behind it.  Cranberry finishedRemove from the heat and transfer to another container.  Cover the top directly with plastic wrap.  It can be blended while warm, but not hot.  The blender is preferred over the processor as it purees completely.  However, a processor is fine.   There will simply be tiny, tiny specs of the skin.  It won’t change the taste at all.   Cool completely before using.Pureed Cranberries

Yield:  Approximately 1 1/2 cups

Orange Chiffon CakeCake Ingredients1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour (170 grams or 6 ounces)
1 cup sugar, divided (200 grams or 7 ounces)
1 1/2  teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil
6 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cream of tarter

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line five 9×2 inch pans with parchment.  Spray the centers only.  See Cake Pan Prep for How to Get a Flat Layer.

In a large mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour,Flour in bowl2/3 cup of sugar (135 grams or 4 3/4 ounces), Sugar in with flourbaking powder and salt.  B.P./salt inWhisk to combine.  Whisking dry ingredientsAdd the oil, egg yolks, juice, zest and vanilla.  All Liquids in with flourMix for about 1 or 2 minutes until well combined.Cake mixing

In a clean mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites and cream of tarter.Egg whites in bowlBeat until the whisk leaves a trail. Egg whites beating Add the remaining 1/3 cup (65 grams or 2 ounces) of sugar gradually Sugar going into egg whitesand beat until soft peaks form.  Pour the flour mixture over the egg whites Pouring cake batter over whitesand fold in gently but thoroughly.Folding together 1

Folding together 2Folding together 3Divide the batter between the 5 pans (160 grams each or 5 2/3 ounces). Scaling batterSmooth the batter in the pans.    Smoothing cake layer Cake smoothing 2 (1 of 1)Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until a tester comes out clean and they spring back when lightly touched.  There will be little to no browning.    Cool completely.  Remove layers from pans and freeze or wrap tightly to use the next day.  The layers will be too tender to continue on to assembly.

Dark Satin Ganache
1/4 cup 40% or heavy cream
2 tablespoons clear cornsyrup
2 1/2  tablespoons butter (35 grams or 1 1/3 ounces)
5 ounces 58% to 62%  semisweet chocolate  (140 grams)

See Lamington Torte for how to photographs.

Combine the cream, cornsyrup and butter in a small saucepan.  Heat until the butter melts and the mixture just comes to a simmer,  but do not let it boil.  It should be steamy hot but not boiling.  Remove from the heat and submerge the chocolate.  Wait for 2 minutes the gently whisk until smooth.  Set aside at room temperature until thickened.  This may take several hours or a day or two. This may be made days ahead and refrigerated.  Bring to room temperature to use.  It may have to be microwaved, very briefly to make it spreadable.

Frangelico Soaking SyrupFrangelico ingredients1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar (65 grams or 2 ounces)
1/4 cup Frangelico liqueur

Add the water and sugar to a small saucepan.  Sugar ad water for soaking syrupBring to a boil and boil 1 minute.  Frangelico syrup boilingRemove from the heat and add the Frangelico.  Frangelico inCool to room temperature to use.  This may be made a week ahead and refrigerated.

Yields about 3/4 cupFinished syrup

Hazelnut Chocolate Decor, optionalDecor ingredients2 tablespoons toasted hazelnuts, cooled, optional
2 tablespoons finely chopped chocolate, optional

Place the hazelnuts in the food processor and pulse until finely cut.  Hazelnuts in processorHazelnuts processedRemove and sift the nuts to remove any powder.  Hazelnuts in sifterHazelnuts strainedAdd the chocolate and pulse until finely chopped.  Chocolate in processorRemove from the processor and sift.  Chocolate StrainedCombine the two.  Chocolate/Hazelnuts processedChocolate/Hazelnuts mixedThis can be done weeks ahead if desired.  Hold in the refrigerator.

Candied Orange Zest, optional
1 large navel orange
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar (100 grams or 3 1/2 ounces)
Additional sugar as necessary

Have several sheets of waxed paper ready.  Set aside.

Pare the rind from the orange. Cut away any of the white pith that might have come off with the rind.  Collect the rind in a stack and cut into a fine julienne.

Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Wash down the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in cold water.  Add the rind, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 7 to 9 minutes or until the rind is tender and translucent.

Lift out with a fork, letting as much syrup as possible drip back into the pan but work quickly.  Place on the waxed paper and separate the individual pieces of rind with two toothpicks.  Cool completely.  When cool, toss in the additional sugar to coat.

This may be made weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

If I hadn’t eaten all the leftovers, we would have a photo to show you!  Told you I love this!!

Assembly – It is easiest to finish this cake if it is very cold or even frozen.
5 layers Orange Chiffon, partially thawed
Frangelico Soaking Syrup
Cranberry Filling, pureed
Dark Satin Ganache
2 1/2 cups 40% or heavy cream
1 cup sifted powdered sugar (120 grams or 4 ounces)
1 tablespoon Frangelico, optional or 1 tablespoon vanilla
Hazelnut Chocolate decor
Candied Orange Rind, see below, optional

Brush layers with about 2 1/2 tablespoons of Frangelico syrup.  Brushing cake with syrupTop one layer with half of the cranberry filling.  Cranberry filling on 1st layerSpread evenly on the layer.  Cranberry Filling  spreadBrush the second layer with syrup and spread with 1/2 of the Dark Satin Ganache.  Ganache on second layerGanache spreadBrush the third layer of cake with syrup and top with the remainder of the cranberry filling.  Brush the fourth layer of cake with syrup and top with ganache.  Top with the fifth layer of cake, brush with syrup; cover with plastic wrap and chill  or freeze the cake.

Whip the cream, powdered sugar and Frangelico together to fairly stiff peaks.Cream, p sugar, frangelico

Whipping creamThe whisk should stand up in the cream.

Whisk in whipped cream

Whipped cream finished

Finish the sides of the cake with the whipped cream.  Finishing sides of cakeFinishing icing side of cake 3Place a large blob of cream on top and spread it evenly over the top.  Finishing top with creamFinish the edges by feathering in.  Place an offset spatula at the top edge of the cake Feathering in 1and move the cream in to the centerFeathering in lifting the spatula up gradually until it is off the cream as you go toward the opposite side. Comb the sides.Combing sideClean the edge of the board with a paper towel wrapped around your finger. Cleaning the board Fill a pastry bag fitted with a number 5 or 6 open starLoading a bagand finish the top with a “running e” design which is continuous circles around the edge.Making the running e 1Making a running e 2Sprinkle the “e” with the hazelnut mixture and then with the candied orange rind.  Finishing sprinkling decorThe bottom can also be finished with the hazelnut mixture.Finishing edging bottom

Finished whole

Pastry has not only been my profession, but my passion. If there is anything in particular you would like to see or any questions about baking or pastry, please let me know. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a post!
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5 thoughts on “Orange Cranberry Cake – A Holiday Specialty

  1. Jay

    Hi Helen, another great one. Exept I have a problem and maybe you could help.? …It’s 40’c down under and I. Need a cake that will stand up to the heat.!! And a car trip to Nana’s place. I’ve tried Sienna cake. Too rich, Stained glass cake,good but been there.Have you any suggestions.?. Even good enough to take to our Xmas lunch at the beach. Eski and ice,no worries we are AUSIES we have the technology !!! ( LOL). Can you help. P.S. HERRY XMAS. cheers JAY.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Jay: Good to hear from you. One of the cakes our caterers loved was the Apple Cake with Caramel Pecan Top. There is no buttercream and it will stand up to heat. Will be happy to send you the sauce if you send me your email. While we are likely freezing for our Christmas, I wish you a great Christmas at the warm beach.

      1. Jay

        HI Helen..Sounds good.My girls love caramel.I need the know how, ask a professional and in this case it happens to be YOU.!…Stay safe and have a Merry Xmas. Love Jay.xx

  2. Hilda

    Whereas I usually serve cookies and candies for dessert on Christmas, this cake is making me rethink this year’s choice. What a wonderful dilemma. Merry Christmas, Helen!

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Hilda-It’s well worth the time. Knowing you, I think this is right up your alley! All best wishes to you for the holidays and always.

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