Okay, I swear that this is the last cranberry recipe for this year. I can't help it, I really got into it this year! I think, maybe (!?) I am slowly converting my husband into a cranberry liker. At least, not a hater. It's been hard work people! I have recently declared myself a cranberry lover of all kinds. I guess I just never took advantage of those cute little red crunchy berries that are so easy to bake with. They aren't like soft berries that can make baked goods a liquid mess. They will hold their shape, and not release a lot of liquid. Perfect for baking with!
So, let's just pretend for a moment that I can actually make a cake that is level. Just ignore the fact that I can't cut a cake evenly in half, or bake one that isn't funny shaped. There. Now that we are overlooking my cake baking flaws, we can move on to how delicious this cake is. Who would have thought that cooking cranberries with pears and making a purée with them would make such a killer cake filling? This cake is incredibly simple, but just amazing. The cranberries are only slightly tart, but balanced with the sweetness of the whipped cream topping, and the cake, of course. All the flavors in this cake are screaming perfection. This would make a beautiful Christmas dinner cake.
Cranberry-Pear Stack Cake
For the filling
- 10 oz. (2 1/2 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 pounds Bosc pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
For the cake
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
For the whipped cream
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2-3 Tablespoons confectioners' sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To make the filling, place the cranberries, sugar and water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries are just starting burst, about 5 minutes. Remove 2 tablespoons cranberries (for topping) and place in a small bowl in the refrigerator. Stir in the pears, orange zest, cinnamon and salt into the saucepan. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the pears are soft and almost all of the liquid has evaporated, about 30 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary to make sure the bottom isn't burning. Transfer to a food processor or blender and purée until completely smooth, about 45 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing onto the contents. Place in the refrigerator and let cool completely, about 4 hours (or over night).
To make the cake, grease three 9-inch cake pans and dust with flour, knocking out any excess. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Alternately add the flour and buttermilk mixture, starting and ending with the flour. Beat just until completely combined. Pour evenly into the prepared pans, smoothing the tops. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans on to cooling racks. Let cool completely before slicing.
To make the whipped cream frosting, place all the ingredients in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Taste, and add more confectioners' sugar if desired. Set aside until ready to use.
Once the cakes are completely cool and you are ready to assemble, slice each cake in half horizontally. You should now have 6 layers. Place a bottom layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Spread a small amount of the chilled, pureed cranberry/pear mixture over the top. Then place a top piece of cake over the now filled cake layer. Spread more filling over that top. Repeat process with remaining cake layers, leaving the very top plain. Spread the whipped cream over the top layer evenly. Garnish with the reserved cranberries. Serve.
Source: filling from Cook's Country, cake from Lily's Café Cookbook Revised Edition by Kyra Alex