This is a very easy but festive cake if you need a quick dessert to serve after a meal or as a treat to be enjoyed during holiday rituals. It doesn’t require any fancy ingredients or equipment and can be ready in just over an hour or so.
It’s a basic chocolate cake made with oil for a supremely moist crumb. I’ve added dried cranberries that have been soaked overnight in port and a handful of chopped walnuts for texture. There’s buttermilk for tenderness and cocoa for some earthy richness. A little bit of cinnamon rounds out the edges. Dust with a blanket of snowy powdered sugar and there you have it. A rich dark cake to celebrate the season.
Here's wishing everyone a very, very happy holiday spent filled with the gift of loved ones, laughter, joy and great food prepared and shared together. And my sincerest appreciation for your wonderful readership throughout this year. Very best to you!
- I chose Tawny port for soaking the dried cranberries because I think it has the right nutty, fruity notes to complement the chocolate and other components of the cake. Soak the cranberries overnight to ensure they are fully hydrated.
- Substitute dried cherries for the cranberries if you prefer.
- To toast walnuts, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. They should be slightly fragrant. I chop them into fairly small pieces so they don’t sink to the bottom of the cake.
- I use undutched natural cocoa powder.
- This cake can also be dressed up with chocolate glaze: Place the cooled cake on a cardboard round or removable tart pan bottom. Set it on a cooling rack placed on top of a baking sheet lined with parchment. Finely chop 5 oz bittersweet chocolate into very small pieces and place in a bowl. Bring 3/4 cup heavy cream and 1 tablespoon corn syrup to a simmer. Just as it begins to boil, take off the heat, pour it over the chopped chocolate and let it sit for about a minute or so. Then stir slowly and gently, starting in the middle until thoroughly combined and then working outward in concentric circles until the mixture comes together. To glaze the cake, pour the warm glaze quickly inthe center of the cake and then move out around the edges. Let it run for a few seconds and then gently jiggle and tap the baking sheet on the work surface to encourage the glaze to run down the sides of the cake. Let glaze firm up before serving.
- The Global Pastry Table ecookbook makes a great last minute gift for pastry lovers!
Chocolate Cranberry Walnut Cake
Serves 8 – 10
1/2 cup (2 1/4 oz) dried cranberries
1/4 cup (2 oz) port
1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 oz) flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (53 grams) cocoa powder
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (5 oz) hot water
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (3 oz) canola oil
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) dark brown sugar, packed
2 eggs @ room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup (4 oz) buttermilk @ room temperature
1/2 cup (1 3/4 oz) walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
powdered sugar, for dusting
Combine the dried cranberries and the port in a single layer and soak overnight in a covered container.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9” x 2 1/2” cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment.
Sift the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together.
In a separate bowl, whisk the cocoa and hot water together until smooth.
Whisk the oil, both sugars and eggs and blend well. Add in the cocoa mixture and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with half the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just until well blended. Stir in the soaked cranberries, any residual port and chopped walnuts. Pour into the prepared pan and gently tap the bottom of the pan a few times on the work surface to remove any air bubbles.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center releases with a few moist crumbs attached, about 40 - 42 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Run a thin bladed knife around the edges and invert the cake. Gently peel off the parchment and invert again. Cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar.