Right around Thanksgiving, when supermarkets are full of fresh cranberries, I decide that I cannot possibly go through the rest of the winter, spring and summer without enjoying these crimson tart little balls and so I buy a few bags to stash in the freezer, ensuring that I can bake with them to my heart's content year round. What generally happens though, is that I use them for about a month and then they wind up getting buried in the bottom of the freezer as my enthusiasm for them becomes replaced with other seasonal favorites. What can I say, I'm fickle. Last week, I saw my first bag of fresh cranberries in the store and that reminded me that I still had a bag leftover from last year, which is my long-winded explanation for how I came to make this lovely little Cranberry Vanilla Coffeecake. Whew!
This is one of those wonderfully versatile homey cakes that you don't have to wait for a special occasion to whip up. It's a light finish to an autumn meal, just the thing with an afternoon cup of tea or a special treat at a weekend brunch. The cake is light, moist and full of amazing vanilla flavor with a crunchy sugary top and a tart layer of gooey cranberries in the middle that complements the sweetness perfectly.
And it's easy to make too--definitely manageable on a calm weeknight (if those exist for you) or a weekend. You start by processing the seeds of a vanilla bean with sugar to make a deliciously aromatic vanilla-infused sugar.
Next you make a simple batter and spread half of it into a round cake pan.
You top the batter with cranberries that have been processed together with some of that vanilla sugar--
And then spread the remaining batter on top, so that the cranberry layer is sandwiched between the two layers of batter.
Then, you make a simple streusel out of butter, flour and more of that vanilla sugar and sprinkle it all over the top and bake.
The streusel gives the cake a scrumptiously sweet crumbly golden brown top.
Inside is tender cake with a layer of jam-like cranberry filling that hits the balance between sweet and tart perfectly.
This would be a great cake to have on hand around Thanksgiving for when people drop by or for a fun morning-after-Thanksgiving brunch. Or for right now, since cranberries have hit the stores again (unless of course you're like me and have a few bags stashed away in the freezer from last year!!)
Cranberry Vanilla Coffeecake
Makes 8 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes; Bake Time: 45-50 minutes
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 2 cups fresh or frozen and thawed cranberries (about 6 ounces)
- 2 cups plus 1 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour, divided
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 9 tablespoons (1 stick, plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted softened butter, divided
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup whole milk
1. Make sure rack is in the center of the oven and preheat to 375ºF. Generously butter a 9x2-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Butter the paper well and set aside.
2. Into a food processor, place the sugar and scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into it. Pulse to combine well and transfer to another bowl.
3. In the same bowl of the food processor, pulse the cranberries with 1/2 cup of the vanilla sugar until finely chopped but not pureed. Set aside.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups of the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
5. Place 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of the butter and 1 cup of the vanilla sugar together in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy for a few minutes. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. On low speed, in 3 additions, alternate adding the flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with the flour, until just combined.
6. Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan. Spoon the entire cranberry mixture on top of it, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edge. Spoon on the remaining batter and spread it evenly over the cranberry mixture.
7. In a small bowl, place the remaining 1/4 cup vanilla sugar and the remaining tablespoons of flour and butter. Use your fingers to make a crumbly mixture and sprinkle it evenly on top of the cake.
8. Bake the cake for 45-50 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cake part (not the cranberry part--it will be gooey) comes out clean and the sides have started to pull away from the pan. Cool the cake on a rack in the pan for at least 30 minutes. Then run a thin knife around the edges to loosen the cake from the sides if necessary and invert the cake onto another rack. Remove the parchment paper and use the other rack to turn the cake right side up. Cool on the rack completely. Serve the cake at room temperature.
9. Cake is best on the same day it's made but can be made one day ahead and kept well wrapped at room temperature. Leftovers can be kept, well wrapped at room temperature for several days.
Note: Recipe adapted from an old issue of Gourmet Magazine.