The City Magazine Since 1975

Cranberry Walnut Holiday Cake

December 2018
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For the stewed cranberries:

10 oz. fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 Tbs. cornstarch

For the cake layers:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. table salt
8 oz. unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup stewed cranberries

For the vanilla buttercream icing:

8 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. table salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup stewed cranberries


Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it is reduced by half, about six minutes. Remove from the heat, strain into a heatproof container, and cool to room temperature. The cranberries may be stewed, cooled, covered, and kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. Bring to room temperature before using.

For the cake layers:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease four nine-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about three minutes. Stop halfway through and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating them on low speed to incorporate. Scrape the bowl well.

Combine the milk and vanilla extract. Beginning with the flour mixture, alternate adding small amounts of the flour mixture and the milk, beating on low speed until barely blended. Remove the bowl from the mixer and finish mixing by hand until just incorporated. Do not overmix.

Divide the batter among the prepared cake pans and spread it out evenly. Drizzle one tablespoon of stewed cranberries on top of each layer. Bake the layers for about 12 minutes, or until the top springs back to the touch. Rotate mid-way through baking.

Let the layers cool in the pans for eight minutes. Turn out on a wire rack. If not assembling the cake immediately, wrap the cooled layers in plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out. The layers are best if made on the day the cake is to be served. If necessary, they can be made a day ahead if wrapped well. They do not freeze.

For the vanilla buttercream icing:

Combine the sugar and salt in a bowl. Combine the cream and vanilla extract.

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar and cream alternately in thirds. Once combined, beat for a couple of minutes on medium speed until well incorporated and easy to spread.

Covered, the icing can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Bring to room temperature before using.

Make cranberry filling by putting one cup of icing in a small bowl. Using a rubber spatula, mix in 1/4 cup of the stewed cranberries until thoroughly blended.

To finish:

1/3 cup finely ground walnuts

Stack the cake layers, dividing the cranberry filling among them. Ice the sides and top of cake with vanilla icing. Press the finely chopped walnuts around base of cake. Spoon stewed cranberries on to cover the top of the cake until covered and allow them to drip down the sides.

Covered, the iced cake can be kept in the refrigerator for up to one day. Bring to room temperature and add stewed cranberries just before serving.