Cranberry Orange Cake
What flavors speak Christmas to you? For me, nothing says “Christmas” like cranberry and orange. The aroma of tart cranberry and sweet orange bring back all the childhood memories of Christmas Day. My mom cooking down fresh cranberries in orange juice for her “secret” homemade cranberry sauce. We would fight over who got to lick the spatula when she was done. I’ve whipped up a Cranberry Orange cake that will have your house smelling, looking, and sounding like Christmas before you know it.
Cake mixes get a bad wrap but honestly, nothing can produce a fluffier cake like a box of Duncan Hines white cake mix and a few extra ingredients. First, give the cake mix a good sift. This will get rid of any lumps and bumps before you mix up the batter. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the eggs, orange juice, and melted butter. Mix until fully incorporated. Next, add in the sifted cake mix and mix on medium speed until well blended (approximately 2 minutes.) Stir in the cranberries until just mixed and divide evenly into 2 6-inch round cake pans that have been prepared with cake release (I personally like Baker’s Joy.) Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the pan edges. This is when your house will start to smell like Christmas.
There’s nothing tastier than swiss meringue buttercream. It’s silky, smooth, and not too sweet. Don’t get intimidated though with all the steps as I’m going to walk you through it. First things first, with a paper towel dipped in a bit of either vinegar or lemon juice give the stand mixing bowl, wire whip, and paddle attachment a quick wipe down. Fill a medium put with water and bring it to a gentle boil over medium heat. When the water is boiling, put the eggs whites and granulated sugar into your stand mixer bowl and place that bowl on top of the pot. While constantly stirring bring this mixture up to 160 degrees or until the sugar completely dissolves which will take about 5 minutes. Remove the mixing bowl from the pot (go ahead and turn the pot off as well) and whip on high for 5 minutes until stiff peaks form. Switch the wire whip attachment out and put on the paddle one. Add in the powdered sugar and extracts at this timer and begin to beat. Add in the butter one stick at a time. Beat this mixture until it becomes silky smooth and glossy which generally takes about 5 minutes. A few hints for this stage as its typically where things can possibly go wrong: if the buttercream starts to look curdled do not throw it out. Have faith and continue to mix. It will come together. If the mixture looks soupy, stop mixing and place in the refrigerator for an hour and then mix again after it has cooled. Once you have achieved a silky smooth swiss meringue buttercream color it as you please. I coloured approximately half the buttercream a brilliant green for that festive touch.
After your cake layers have cooled slice each layer in half…this is called torting if you want to get fancy and impress your friends with cake lingo. Assemble the cake layers (cake, buttercream, cake, buttercream…you get the gist) and give it a once over crumb coat and place in the refrigerator to chill for 20 minutes. Coat the chilled cake with a final layer of that delicious buttercream and give it a smooth. Turn on your Mariah Carey “Merry Christmas” album and get all sorts of winter wonderland on your cake. I piped a green top border and the most adorable little Christmas tree around the bottom edge using a Wilton 1M piping tip. What’s a Christmas cake without some snow? The “Winter Wonderland” Sprinkle Pop sprinkle mix is all you’re going to need to give this cake those monochromatic white wintery feels. Now your house 1) smells like Christmas 2) looks like Christmas and 3) sounds like Christmas. You’re welcome.
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