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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cranberry Orange Pound Cake

As anyone who watches the news can tell you, we're having a bit of a rough go of it in terms of the economy.  Christmas, although a wonderful time for celebration with family, can be very stressful for those trying to find a way to give gifts to the people that they care about without breaking the bank.  My solution?  Baking!  This is a delicious cake that is rich while remaining brightly flavored, and it has the decadently small crumb characteristic of pound cakes.  I gave them out this year in cute, ceramic holiday loaf pans for the recipients to keep.  You can't go wrong with this.

Cranberry Orange Pound Cake

3/4 C. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 C. plus 1 T. granulated sugar
1 1/2 C. ricotta cheese (don't use fat free--light works fine, but whole milk is best)
1 1/2 C. cake flour (yes, this is important--don't use all-purpose flour)
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
3 large eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. almond extract
1 orange, zested
1/4 C. dried cranberries

In a large bowl, beat the butter, ricotta, and sugar together until light and fluffy.  As that mixes, combine the dry ingredients--the cake flour, baking powder, and salt--in another bowl with a whisk..  Set aside.  One at a time, add the eggs to the wet mixture with the mixer running constantly.  Once all of the eggs are well incorporated into the batter, add in the vanilla and almond extracts and the orange zest.  Slowly, working in small batches, introduce the dry ingredients to the wet in the mixer.  As soon as the dry ingredients are incorporated into the mix, add in the cranberries and mix until blended.

Generously grease the bottom and sides of a loaf pan.  Pour the batter into the pan and bake in a 325 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes.  Keep an eye on the cakes after 45 minutes have passed, as the top can over-brown while the interior continues to cook.  The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Let the cake rest for 10 minutes after removing it from the oven, then turn it out onto a rack to cool.  If giving as a gift, return to the loaf pan or wrap in aluminum foil and tie a festive holiday bow on top.  Voila!

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