Saturday, January 5, 2013

Cranberry Maple Pecan Cake

Cranberry Maple Pecan Breakfast Cake

As the holidays approached, the list of things I wanted to bake was building. I wanted to try all kinds of cookies, make another kugelhopf, and this cranberry cake. Then December was insanely busy and I kept to my tried and true recipes for parties and potlucks. But I was going to have my cranberry cake, holidays or not!  Who says cranberries are relegated to November and December only?  This cake has whole cranberries, pecans, and maple syrup, and Joanne Chang writes in Flour that it tastes like pancakes. I don't agree, but it's still a really good cake.

I like the use of whole, juicy cranberries instead of the dried cranberries you often see in recipes, and that they're not too tart here. The loaf is moist, and the maple pecans give a nice sweet crunch. The maple glaze is good. I did run into two problems:

  • Most of the berries and nuts sink to the bottom.  On my second try I tossed them with flour, usually a sure remedy, but a lot still sank to the bottom as the cake baked.  This affects only the aesthetics, not the taste.
  • I checked on the cake early and found it slightly overdone.  I think it's because my bread pan is made of a dark metal. The second time I took the cake out of the oven a few minutes early and it was perfect, and I'll note that in the recipe after the jump.

Even with these minor issues, though, I really enjoyed having a slice of this at breakfast or teatime.  You don't need to wait for the holidays to roll around again to make this.

Cranberry Maple Pecan Breakfast Cake
From Joanne Chang's Flour

For maple pecans:
3 tbs maple syrup
½ cup (50 grams) pecan halves, toasted and chopped

1⅓ cups (160 grams) cake flour
¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt
6 tbs (¾ stick/86 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature cut into 6 to 8 pieces
⅓ cup (80 grams) nonfat buttermilk at room temperature
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
⅓ cup (110 grams) maple syrup
1 cup (100 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped

For maple glaze:
½ cup (70 grams) confectioners sugar
2 to 3 tbs maple syrup

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, or line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper.

To make the maple pecans: In a small saucepan, combine the 3 tablespoons maple syrup and pecans over medium heat and stir for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the syrup is completely absorbed by the nuts. Remove the pan from the heat, scrape the pecans onto a plate, and let cool completely. (If you leave the pecans in the saucepan, they will stick to the pan.) Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer), beat together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and butter on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes or until the butter is completely incorporated into the dry ingredients. The mixture will look like coarse meal. (If you use a handheld mixer, this same step will take 5 to 6 minutes.)

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and ⅓ cup maple syrup until thoroughly mixed. Add about half of the buttermilk mixture to the butter-flour mixture and beat on medium-hih speed for about 1 minute, or until the mixture is light, fluffy, and pale. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all of the buttermilk mixture is incorporated. On low speed, add the remaining buttermilk mixture and beat for about 30 seconds, then stop the mixer and scrape again. Turn on the mixer to medium speed and mix for another 30 seconds.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the cranberries and the maple pecans. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and springs back when you press it in the middle. [If you have a dark metal loaf pan like me, check this at 50 minutes.] Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes.

To make the maple glaze: While the cake is cooling, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar and enough of the maple syrup to make a thick, spreadable glaze.

When the cake has cooled for at least 30 minutes, pop it out of the pan and place it on the rack. Spread or spoon the glaze over the top of the still-warm cake, letting the glaze dribble down the sides.

The cake can be stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 3 days.


  1. This cake sounds really good. I also like that the real cranberries are used in it.

    1. Yes, I figured you would appreciate a cranberry recipe! :)

  2. Thats my problem with light cakes with nuts and fruits they sink in the bottom, some said you can add them when its half baked, meaning its still its in liquid state but starting fluff.

    1. That makes a lot of sense! I wonder if it would work better with all-purpose flour, instead of the cake flour the recipe calls for?

  3. Those sugared cranberries on top are so pretty! I had the same thing happen when I made bread pudding a while ago--once I added the liquid, all the yummy things I added sank to the bottom and the bread came to the top. But as long as it tastes good, right? :)

    1. Thanks! It was funny, I shared the sugared cranberries with coworkers as a snack, and most of them didn't know what it was. They were surprised, said they thought it would be hard or dried instead of juicy fresh berries. The cake did taste very good, in spite of the sinking fruit and nuts.

  4. I love Joanne's recipes. The flavors sound wonderful and the bright red berries are so pretty!

  5. Hm, interesting thing to find out that dark metal pan will cook the bread faster. Tips like this really help me learn a little bit knowledge about baking. :) My berries sink at the bottom too, and I think I read tips about it somewhere before...but now I cannot remember what the trick was. :(

    1. Yes, I've heard that dark metal pans cook things faster, though it usually doesn't present a problem for me. The tip is usually to toss the fruit in a bit of flour to keep it from sinking, but that didn't help this time. I wonder if the more delicate cake flour is to blame -- maybe using all-purpose flour for the batter would help.


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