Clearing Cobwebs + Cranberry Orange Cake

*door creaks open with a loud horror-movie sound*

*cobwebs fall from the door*

*something alive and assuredly wild-animal-like skitters in the corner*

Hello?

Well, it has been a *cough* minute, hasn’t it? In short order, my excuses are: we got busy last summer, I applied for / interviewed for / was hired for a new job in August, which took over my life until January when I resigned because stress, y’all. Yikes. Somewhere in the midst of all of this we took a friend trip to Omaha, I went vegetarian for six months, we bought a new mattress and moved our old mattress into the guest room to replace the pull-out couch because we are hardcore adults now, I’ve had some poems published, aaaand some other stuff! Who even knows? Eight months is a long time.

There has been a lot of foodstuffs goings-on as well. Here is some stuff I’ve been baking most recently: zucchini banana walnut bread, amazing biscuits, and some blueberry muffins with oat streusel.

Here is some stuff that, though I did not make, I’ve eaten in recent memory (and found photograph-worthy):

Look at that saltine cracker! That donut! If you’re ever in Madison, WI, go to Greenbush Bakery. Wonderful and amazing–and kosher!–donuts. Bryce and I devoured an undisclosed amount of these on our road trip back home from a quick Valentine’s Day trip to Madison.

Eggs and crunchy hash browns! Side note: the waiter tried to take away my deliciously crispy hash browns because of a worry they were overdone and I was like OVER MY DEAD BODY. Confession: I was nearing a hangry state of mind. I also like crispy hash browns.

We are nearing the end of winter here (fingers/toes/arms/legs/eyes crossed) with nowhere near the insane, record-setting amount of snow as we got last year, and it’s been slowly melting meaning it won’t rain and melt something like six feet of snow in one day, creating a doozy of an underground river which will have no other choice but to heed gravity’s call and flood our basement on my birthday. Not that I speak from experience.

But I’m still going to share a cozy cold-weather recipe today, because if I don’t do it today I will definitely forget, and this is really one you’re going to want for next fall/winter. So make it now or return back in November, where a delicious cake will be waiting for you.img_20191125_085334906

This is a sincerely amazing cranberry cake. Every year we make a few batches of cranberry cider, and we’re left with a bowl of mushy cranberry pulp. In the past I’ve just composted it, but this year I was looking at it and I thought to myself… that looks like a cranberry version of applesauce. Not to be confused with cranberry sauce, with which this bears no resemblance. No jiggle here. Well, maybe a little extra jiggle if you can’t help yourself and eat half the cake in one sitting. No judgment.

Not wanting to waste perfectly good cranberry pulp, I tinkered with an applesauce cake recipe, and before you know it I had this delicious cranberry orange cake. It’s really moist, gets a nice orange flavor from some extract, and has a lovely fall spice vibe going on. Because the cranberries are cooked down, they give a very mild flavor and are not tart at all.

Perfect for February and for poorly-timed blog posts.

First, the cranberry cider. I wouldn’t recommend just cooking down raw cranberries — I think the flavor would be significantly different since the tartness of the cranberries goes into the cider.

Cranberry Cider

Ingredients
1 12-oz package cranberries
1 apple, cored and chopped (peel on is fine)
3 cups water
juice from 1 orange
3-4 cinnamon sticks
12 cloves
1/2 cup sugar (or more to taste)

Instructions
Zest and juice the orange. Set zest aside if you plan on making cake — I use it for garnish on top of the icing! Strain the orange juice to capture any seeds.

Combine ingredients in a pot on the stove or in a Crock-Pot. For best results, wrap cinnamon sticks and cloves in cheesecloth for easy removal. On the stove, bring to a boil and then simmer covered for two hours. In a Crock-Pot, combine all ingredients and cook on high for about six hours.

Remove the spices. Strain the mix through a mesh sieve to capture all the fruit. While the cider is still hot, mix in sugar to taste. I’ve also used honey and agave syrup to sweeten this. The cider is very tart at first, so sweeten as much as you prefer!

Cranberry Orange Cake

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups cooked cranberry/apple pulp (approximate yield from cider recipe)
2 eggs
2/3 cup cane sugar
scant 1/2 cup vegetable oil
scant 1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange extract (not flavoring)
2 cups all-purpose flour, measured properly and sifted
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp baking soda

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a Bundt pan and set aside.

Sift together dry ingredients in a bowl. Make sure flour is measured correctly (preferably by weight. 1 cups of AP flour = 120, 128, or 130 grams, depending on who you ask. For what it’s worth I go 1 cup = 120 grams).

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, combine cranberries and sugar, then add eggs one at a time. On low speed, add oil, water, and vanilla and orange extracts.

Beat dry ingredients into wet until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Remove cake from oven and cool on a wire rack. Once completely cool, turn out from Bundt pan. If desired, top with frosting of choice and orange zest.

A Note on Baking Time: Mine baked right around the 40 minute mark, but in another oven this was a bit too long. If your oven tends to run hot or if, like me, you keep procrastinating the purchase of an oven thermometer, try and adjust as you know best.

For a vegan option: I did successfully try a vegan option of this cake once substituting flax eggs. To do this, simply replace the eggs with two flax eggs. 2 Tbs flax meal + 6 Tbs hot water. Mix and let set up.