It doesn’t take much to make me happy. I believe wholeheartedly in simple pleasures and enjoying the little moments that, in the end, make for big, memorable moments. The thoughtful cards, smiling eyes, the company of good friends, and robust laughter that brings about snorts and squeals and ends in gasps for breath with tears streaming down cheeks. Last Friday night some dear friends and I gathered around for just the occasion of getting together, story telling, memory making, lots of laughter, drinks and eats. Given the seasonal festivities, I thought it made the perfect time to try out this cake with strict instructions to the girls that I was not going to be taking but a piece of it home. It’s good to have friends who know how to help a girl out and they eagerly obliged. Of course it didn’t hurt that this cake was g-o-o-d good!
for the sparkling cranberries:
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup sugar to roll cranberries in
for the cake:
- 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
- 3 eggs
- 2 tbsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup milk
- 3 cups fresh cranberries
for the white chocolate frosting:
- 1 12 oz. bag of white chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
- 8-9 cups powdered sugar
This is one of those cakes that is started the night before and finished the following day because the cranberries need to sit in a simple syrup overnight to achieve the sparkling effect.
For the sparkling cranberries:
Bring 1 cup sugar and water to a simmer in a saucepan. Simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved. Transfer simple syrup to a heatproof bowl and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Stir in the cranberries to coat and refrigerate overnight, stirring a few times throughout until ready to use. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cranberries and roll in 1/2 cup of sugar. Toss them a few times to get a couple of layers of sugar on them; set aside to dry.
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare three 8 or 9 inch (I used 9 inch) round cake pans by greasing the bottoms and sides of the pans and the parchment paper as well; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder; set aside. In the bowl of a stand up mixer, cream together the butter and sugar then add the eggs, vanilla extract, sour cream and milk. Add in the flour and baking powder mixture and stir until just combined. Gently stir in the cranberries. Spread the batter evenly amongst the three prepared cake pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with a few crumbs. Allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cooling racks to cool completely. Level cakes if needed prior to frosting.
For the frosting:
Place the white chocolate chips in a metal bowl. In a heat proof liquid measuring cup, microwave the cream until it starts to boil and pour over the white chocolate chips. Cover bowl with saran wrap and wait for 5-7 minutes. Remove the saran wrap and whisk until smooth. Allow ganache to sit until mostly cool. It will be thick. Beat the ganache for 2-3 minutes, until smooth and fluffy. Add the butter and beat until combined. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time and beat until it is light and fluffy. Add additional cream, as needed, for desired consistency.
To assemble the cake:
Level the cakes and spread one cup of frosting on top of each layer then frost the sides of the cake. Top with sparkling cranberries and along the bottom perimeter of the cake. Add the sugar crumbs to the top of the cake. It looks so pretty.
NOTE: I found that the frosting dried faster than usual, so either add extra cream when preparing or work quickly when applying the frosting to the outside and top of the cake. UPDATED NOTE 12/25/16 – I had an order for this cake for a friend who’s mom turned 75 Christmas Eve. Seeing this note from last year, I added more cream to the frosting without any luck. I think it’s the white chocolate that doesn’t tolerate working with it for long periods of time, but this is purely speculation. I’m certainly no food scientist.
12/25/16 NOTE TO MYSELF: Move the bottom oven rack up one higher and check the cakes at 27 minutes; otherwise, you’ll have to start over since no one likes the bottom of their cakes burned. Sheesh.