When I'm home on the farm, I like to take a walk around our three ponds once the sun sets. From afar, the lights of the house are ablaze, standing out like a beacon in the acres of darkness.
I stomp the mud from my boots, open the kitchen door, and warm, sugar-scented air wafts towards me. Two of my sisters are making linzer cookies, one of my dad’s favorites. There’s an open bag of flour on the marble counter. Powdered sugar spills out of its box, a batter-coated spatula is propped up on a mixing bowl, and scraps of cookie dough are strewn around.
I sit nearby, listening to them laugh and chatter while music plays quietly in the living room. I’m leafing through cookbooks looking for inspiration for a cake: something festive, sweet but not too sweet, and easy to whip up.
I have cranberries: a perfect start. I line a cake pan with parchment and set a small saucepan to heat up on the stovetop. In it goes butter, a little honey, brown sugar, and salt. I swirl it around, breathing in the sugary smell. When it’s all melted and smooth, I pour the syrupy mixture into my cake pan. Atop the syrup I scatter handfuls of fresh cranberries. I’ve got some walnuts, so I throw those on too, making a bright layer of fruit and nuts.
Next up, cake batter. I remember a recent cake with a moist crumb and a buttery, sweet flavor. To make it light and sponge cake-like, I whip the egg whites first into airy mounds. I decide to add almond meal into the batter for a nuttier flavor and better texture. The rest of the batter comes together quickly – butter, sugar, egg yolks, flour, and so on – and then I fold in my egg whites.
I spoon the batter over the cranberry and walnut layer, smoothing the top and standing back to admire it. Into the oven it goes to bake.
I wait, playing a round of gin rummy as the cake puffs up and browns. After 40 minutes, I whisk it out of the oven and onto a cooling rack. Impatiently, I make myself wait for 10 minutes, then I flip the cake over to reveal the sticky sugar base. Ruby-hued cranberries stud the surface.
The cake is perfect. It’s delicate and moist and it’s impossible to eat only one slice.
We share it after dinner, mumbling praise through mouthfuls of crunchy walnut topping.
It doesn’t even last a day, and I promise it won’t for you either. Make it for the holidays for your family, or your company (impress your boss!), or just because you want some cake. I do too, and I think I’ll make it again right now.
Cranberry Walnut Cake
For the topping
2 tablespoons honey
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons Organic Valley unsalted butter
½ cup walnuts
½ cup fresh cranberries
For the cake
½ cup (50 grams) almond flour
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup Organic Valley unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs, separated
½ cup Organic Valley buttermilk, at room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Grease a 9” round cake pan. Line the cake pan with parchment and grease it again.
3. In a small saucepan set over medium heat, combine the honey, brown sugar, salt, and butter. Stir until the butter is melted and the ingredients are blended.
4. Pour the sugar mixture into the bottom of the prepared cake pan and swirl slightly so it coast the bottom of the pan.
5. Sprinkle the walnuts and cranberries on top of the sugar mixture in one even layer.
6. In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Set aside.
7. Cream together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy.
8. Add the yolks to the butter and sugar and mix well.
9. Add the honey, vanilla, and buttermilk to the butter and sugar mixture and beat until combined.
10. In a separate bowl, whisk together the almond flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir gently with a spatula to combine.
11. Add the egg whites to the batter and, using a spatula, fold them in gently until the batter is well-mixed.
12. Pour the cake batter over the cranberry and walnut layer in the cake pan and smooth the top.
13. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
14. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert it onto a cooling rack and let it finish cooling.
This post is sponsored by Organic Valley, America's largest cooperative of organic farmers, whose products I've used and loved long before this blog existed! Thank you for supporting the companies that help me keep baking delicious things!