I spent this morning sipping on a big cup of coffee (with whole milk and sugar, the only way you can have it at my parent’s house), watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, with a bunny frolicking around my feet. Really, there was no lack of things to be thankful for.
But as though that were not enough to be thankful for, I also got to spend some time leisurely preparing a cranberry upside-down cake to take to Thanksgiving dinner at my brother’s later today. Baking has never been my mother’s forte (though I have yet to encounter a better cook), and I took over the task of baking for the holidays sometime around third grade. Never mind that I could not reach the dial on the oven, I was entrusted with a hand-mixer, and given free reign over the kitchen. I firmly believe being given this responsibility is what started my love of baking. I loved contributing something to the meal. And, hey, people liked it! So, thank you, mom, for not having any baking prowess and getting me into the kitchen to feed the hordes of people that would come over for the holidays.
When I was in third grade, my baking was pretty basic. This year, I wanted to pay homage to my first days of baking in parents’ kitchen. I wanted something basic–an all-American dessert that anyone could make, but that tasted utterly sophisticated. I finally decided on cranberry upside-down cake, inspired by a recipe by Bill Yosses. Yosses is the executive pastry chef at the White House–really, can you get any more American that that? At least, I have not seen any recipes posted by the Obamas…yet. Anyone want to get a petition going for that? I’m sure Michelle has some great recipes up her sleeve. Just kidding, we all know Michelle is all about the sleeveless tops, and I don’t blame her with arms like that.
But I digress. This recipe turned out not to be perfect. It baked too fast, the filling seeped out from the cake pan, some cranberries got dangerously close to all-together exploding out of the pan. It is not exactly the prettiest cake either. Never mind all that though, because it smells so much like Thanksgiving, and its homeliness seems to make it all the more appropriate for this holiday. I’m not sure why, maybe because the pilgrims weren’t exactly the best looking bunch either.
I hope you can make some room at your dinner table for this cake. I know I am posting it a bit late in the day, so please, do tell, what have you prepared for today’s meal? And more importantly, what cooking or baking experiences are you thankful for?
Cranberry Caramel Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from The Perfect Finish by Bill Yosses
13 tablespoons of butter
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1/4 tablespoon unsulphured molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 big pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 small pinch ground cloves
3 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 1/2 cups fresh cranberries (In a pinch, you can use frozen cranberries. But as they are the star of this cake, I highly recommend getting good quality berries.)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Grease a 9-inch cake pan with butter. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the cake pan, and fit the parchment paper into the cake pan.
Wash and dry the cranberries.
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Add the brown sugar, molasses, and water to the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring well. Pour the mixture into the cake pan.
Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices into a medium bowl. Whisk together these dry ingredients.
Using a hand-mixer or an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream together on medium speed. Melt the remaining 9 tablespoons of butter, add to the egg and sour cream mixture, and beat to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the dry ingredients, and beat to combine.
Press the cranberries into an even layer in the molasses in the cake pan. If you have any cranberries left over, make apple and cranberry compote (recipe coming later today)!
Slowly pour the batter on top of the cranberries, being careful not to unsettle the cranberries. Use a rubber spatula to even out the top of the batter. Place the batter in the oven and bake for 30-45 minutes. Check on the cake early and often. The cake is ready when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Make sure to insert the toothpick all the way to the bottom of the pan.
Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan. Place an inverted large plate on top of the cake pan, and invert the whole thing, letting the cake fall out of the cake pan onto the plate. Enjoy the cake warm, with hot coffee and freshly whipped cream.