Now that we’ve recovered from Thanksgiving, it’s time to start planning for the month ahead. Sometime soon, you’ll probably be hosting company or going to a party or having a holiday get-together. I’d like to suggest a perfect holiday dessert for any of those occasions: Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake. I’ve been making this cake for several years and every year it is just as good as I remember. This cake is so versatile, it can be served for dessert or breakfast and it keeps well for days. What I love the most about this cake is the flavor combination of fresh cranberries and vanilla. So often cranberries are paired with orange in baked goods, but this cake goes without any orange and is loaded with sweet, fragrant, fresh vanilla. It seems as though it would be easy for the bold flavor of fresh cranberries to overpower the delicate vanilla flavor, but it doesn’t. There is vanilla in every single layer of this cake and in every single bite. I love slicing this cake to reveal the bright red, fresh cranberry layer that is sandwiched between two soft layers of vanilla cake. This cake is a beauty and it’s equally delicious.
Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake
Makes one 9 inch cake
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 cups fresh cranberries
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon softened butter, divided
1/2 cup whole milk
Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
Preheat oven to 375. Butter a 9 inch cake pan and place a piece of parchment on the bottom. Butter the parchment also.
Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean and place the seeds in a food processor with the granulated sugar. Pulse several times until the vanilla bean specks are evenly distributed throughout the sugar. Pour the vanilla sugar into a bowl and set it aside.
Put the fresh cranberries in the food processor along with half a cup of the vanilla sugar. Pulse several times until the cranberries are coarsely chopped but not pureed.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
Beat 1 stick of butter with 1 cup of vanilla sugar for several minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract, beating until combined. Alternate adding in the flour mixture along with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Do not overmix, stop as soon as the ingredients are incorporated.
Pour approximately half the batter into the prepared cake pan (batter will be thick). Spoon all of the cranberries on top, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edge. Top the cranberries with the remaining cake batter, being sure to cover the cranberries completely. Because this batter is so thick, I find it easiest to add the second layer of batter by dolloping spoonfuls on top of the cranberries and then smearing them together with my fingertips. It’s messy but it works!
For the topping: combine the remaining 1/4 cup of vanilla sugar with 1 tablespoon of flour and 1 tablespoon of softened butter. Mix with your fingertips, until crumbly. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the cake.
Bake the cake for approximately 30-35 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out without cake batter on it. Cool the cake completely and then carefully turn it out onto a serving platter. Dust the top with powdered sugar if desired.
Recipe adapted from Epicurious