2 cups (220 grams) fresh cranberries, washed
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated white sugar
3/4 cup (180 ml) water
3 tablespoons (42 grams) hot melted unsalted butter or clarified butter
1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (60 grams) cake flour
1/3 cup (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder(regular or Dutch-processed)
4 large eggs
2/3 cup (130 grams) granulated white sugar
Note: When warming the eggs and sugar, whisk constantly to ensure the the eggs do not overheat and curdle.
Filling and Frosting:
2 1/2 cups (600 ml) heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons Kirsch (cherry brandy)
4 ounces (115 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (30 grams) granulated white sugar
Candied Cranberries: Pick over the cranberries and remove any berries that are soft or rotten and then place 2 cups of cranberries into a 6-8 cup (1.5 - 2 liter) stainless steel (or other heatproof) bowl. The cranberries are going to be 'steamed' so you will need a steamer or pot that is large enough to hold the bowl of cranberries. Fill the large pot or steamer with a few inches (5 cm) of water and bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the boiling syrup over the cranberries and cover the bowl with a plate. (You need to 'weigh' the bowl down so it will not move around once it is in the pot with the water.) Set the covered bowl of cranberries into the pot or steamer. Cover the pot and steam the berries over low to medium heat for about 45 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let the berries sit in the syrup for 3 to 4 days at room temperature. The syrup will become a little jellied. If using right away, drain the berries before using, keeping the syrup for some other use. If storing, place the covered berries, still in their syrup, in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Chocolate Genoise: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C). Butter, or spray with a non stick vegetable spray, a 9 inch (23 cm) round cake pan and then line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, combine the melted unsalted butter with the vanilla extract. Keep this mixture warm. If needed, re-warm for a few seconds just before using.
In a medium bowl sift together the flour and cocoa powder.
In a large heatproof bowl whisk together the eggs and sugar. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, heat the eggs and sugar until lukewarm to the touch (this will take approximately 5 minutes depending on the temperature of the eggs and the simmering water). Remove from heat and transfer the egg mixture to the bowl of your electric mixer. Beat on high speed until the egg mixture has cooled, tripled in volume, and looks like softly whipped cream. This will take approximately 5 minutes and the batter is beaten sufficiently when it falls back into the bowl in a ribbon-like pattern.
Then sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the whipped eggs and fold in using a large rubber spatula or whisk. Fold in half of the remaining flour, and then fold in the rest. Do not over mix or you will deflate the batter. Take about 1 cup (240 ml) of the batter and fold it into the hot butter mixture with a small spatula. (This will lighten the butter mixture and make it easier to incorporate into the egg batter without deflating it.) When completely combined, use a spatula to fold the butter mixture completely into the rest of the egg batter. Pour the batter into your prepared pan, smoothing the top.
Bake until the cake shrinks slightly from the edges of the pan and the top springs back when lightly pressed (about 20 - 25 minutes). Cool on a metal rack. When the cake has cooled completely, run a small knife or spatula around the edges to release the cake. The genoise will keep well-wrapped two days in the refrigerator or three months frozen.
To Assemble the Cake: Drain the candied cranberries, reserving the syrup. Make a liqueur syrup by combining 1/3 cup (80 ml) of the drained cranberry syrup with the 2 tablespoons of Kirsch.
Melt the chocolate and water in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Let cool to room temperature.
Using a serrated knife, cut the chocolate genoise, horizontally, into two layers. Turn over the top layer of the cake (so the top of the cake becomes the bottom) and center it on your serving platter. Brush the layer with about 2 tablespoons of the liqueur syrup.
Beat 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the chilled heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form. With a rubber spatula or whisk quickly fold the cream into the chocolate mixture. Immediately spread the moistened genoise layer with the chocolate cream.
Place enough drained cranberries evenly over the chocolate cream to cover the cream completely. (The remaining cranberries should be placed back into the left over cranberry syrup, refrigerated, and they will be used for decorating the top of the assembled cake.)
Moisten the cut-side of the second genoise layer with 2 tablespoons syrup. Place cut-side down on top of chocolate cream, gently pressing to compact. Brush the top layer with syrup.
Beat remaining whipping cream with the 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons (28 grams) granulated white sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread a thick layer of whipping cream over top and sides of cake. If you like, place any remaining cream in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip (I used a Wilton 1M tip) and pipe large rosettes over the entire top surface of the cake. At this point refrigerate the cake, covered, for 24 to 36 hours before serving (this allows time for the flavors to mingle). Just before serving, drain the reserved candied cranberries and blot with paper towels to remove any remaining moisture, and randomly place on top of cake.
This Cranberry Christmas Cake is remarkably similar to a Black Forest Cake. It consists of a chocolate genoise that is cut in half, brushed with a kirsch flavored syrup, filled with a silky smooth chocolate mousse and ruby red candied cranberries, and then the whole cake is covered with a snowy white frosting. So festive, so beautiful, and so delicious. The perfect party cake.
This Cranberry Christmas Cake is adapted from a recipe I found in Alice Medrich 's excellent book 'Cocolat'. I did change her recipe somewhat as she covers the cake in whipped creme fraiche and I just used regular whipped cream. Now, some people shy away from making party cakes as they seem like too much work. The key to success is to make the chocolate genoise and the candied cranberries ahead of time. So, once the genoise and candied cranberries are made, all that is left to do a day or two before serving is to make the chocolate mousse. whip the heavy cream, and assemble the cake. In fact, the chocolate genoise can be made and frozen for a couple of months. And the candied cranberries, although easy to make, do have to be made several days ahead of time as the cranberries have to be 'steamed' in a sugar syrup and then left to 'steep' in the syrup several days in order for them to become "candied". However, once they are made they can be be refrigerated for about two weeks.
Finally, as I mentioned above, this is very similar to a Black Forest Cake, so if you like you can replace the cranberries with bottled Morello cherries (in syrup). Or you could substitute fresh raspberries for the candied cranberries. If using fresh raspberries you can intensify their flavor by spreading a layer of raspberry puree or even raspberry jam on the genoise before you fill it with the chocolate cream. Then place some fresh raspberries on top of the chocolate cream and decorate the top of the cake with more fresh raspberries.