That’s a provocative statement, I know, but what else are you going to call a buttery coffee cake pierced by a bright red layer of cranberries and sprinkled with a cinnamony walnut streusel? It practically screams “Ho ho ho!” at you, and on top of being so blatantly festive visually, it’s also pretty quick and easy to put together and feeds an entire phalanx of revelers.
As a bonus, the cranberry filling drains off about a cup or so of a stunningly crimson, sweet-tart syrup that can be mixed into your favorite punch or cranberry cocktail recipe, or mixed with iced tea if your occasion isn’t quite so adult.
Cake and drinks should get you all through First Night and whatever lentil recipe I come up with for 2013, right?
Cranberry-Walnut Coffee Cake
Serves an entire party (16-24 depending on slicing)
For filling and topping:
1 bag fresh or frozen cranberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup walnuts, chopped medium-fine
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
¾ cups buttermilk
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup walnut oil
Pulse the cranberries and 1/3 cup sugar in a food processor just until finely chopped, being careful not to carry it over into a puree. Set a fine-meshed strainer over a large liquid measuring cup and scrape in the cranberries, and allow them to drain for 15 minutes.
In a medium bowl, stir together the walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and melted butter. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a 9 x 13 rectangular cake pan with parchment paper, leaving a slight overhang to help you lift the cake out later.
Whisk together the dry ingredients for the cake in a medium bowl. Do the same in a glass measuring cup with the buttermilk, melted butter, walnut oil and vanilla extract. In a large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs together until frothy. Add the dry and wet mixtures in two additions each, starting with the flour, and stirring just until mixed before the next addition.
Stir a third of the walnut streusel mixture into the drained cranberries, reserving the cranberry syrup for later use. Spread half the cake batter into the prepared pan, then sprinkle in the cranberry filling, leaving a clean ½ inch border of batter all around the edge. Smooth the remaining batter over the top, and sprinkle the top with the rest of the walnut streusel.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is golden and springy to the touch and a tester inserted through the cake comes out clean except for any clinging bits of cranberry filling. Cool the cake completely in its pan on a wire rack, then lift it out using the parchment overhang. Use a serrated knife to divide into slices 1 to 1 ½ inch thick or slightly bigger squares.
If you don’t have a party to take this to, you can halve the recipe, although in my opinion you might as well make the whole thing and freeze the leftover slices, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap in bundles of two slices and then placed in a zip-top bag. They defrost with just a quick 30-second zap in the microwave, supplying you with instant cake straight through the post-holiday doldrums.
If you don’t have walnut oil, you can just substitute an additional ½ stick of melted butter. In that case, you could swap out the walnuts for pecans, if you prefer.