Cranberry Pound Cake

Happy eve of Christmas Eve everyone. We’ve reached the final day of the 12 Days of Christmas series on the blog. And as with every year, I feel a little blue about it. I’ve said before that the lead up to Christmas Day is actually my favorite part of the season, not the actual day itself. Once the day comes, it’s already almost over and the next one is as far away as it’s ever going to be. Add to that this year has been… a particularly different kind of year and holiday season for most of us.

2020 has been very, very difficult. Unimaginable, really. If you’re reading this and you have experienced particular hardship, tragedy or loss in 2020–also if the holiday season is a typically bleak and sad time of year for you in general– please know that you are in my thoughts. I wish there was a way that I could send/share some warmth, compassion and light in your direction–or at the very least some of my food.

I don’t know what all is going to happen in 2021. After the year we’ve had, it’s rather pointless to try and make predictions. The best that I can do is to remain grateful for all of the blessings I have in my life, and to hang on to the hope that better things and times are on the horizon for myself, and for all of you reading this blog post.

12 Days/recipes of baking a lot of work, but I do it because it never fails to insert a lot of light and cheer into my holiday season. To those who’ve been following along with it, I hope that my little baking series has done the same for you.

I decided to close out the series with pound cake, because why not? It’s something that I think it’s safe to say, most people like, and it gave me another opportunity to work with an ingredient I’ve been particularly obsessed with this season: fresh cranberries. Cranberries are a perfect addition to pound cake because as with many other desserts, they provide a much needed tart and slight bitterness to balance out all the sugar. With six eggs in the batter, this cake is extremely dense and rich, but the cranberries give it a real lift of freshness that almost makes you forget about pesky little things called calories. This is a really delicious cake, you guys. Try it sometime.

I wish everyone a sincere and heartfelt Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Stay safe. Wear a mask. Social distance. Be kind.

 

Day 1: Orange Cranberry Buns

Day 2: Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

Day 3: Sugar & Spice Crackers

Day 4: Cranberry Cookie Tart

Day 5: Spicy Gingerbread Sticks

Day 6: Reindeer Munch

Day 7: Jell-O Butter Cookies

Day 8: Gingerbread Blondies

Day 9: Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle

Day 10: “Berry” Christmas! Scones

Day 11: Chocolate Turtles

Day 12: Cranberry Pound Cake

Cranberry Pound Cake

Recipe Adapted from Southern Living

Ingredients

For Cake

  • 1 lb. unsalted butter (4 sticks), softened
  • 2 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries

For Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • a few tablespoons orange juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 16 cup (10 inch) Bundt or tube pan and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a handheld one) beat the butter at medium speed until creamy and lighter in color. Gradually add the sugar, about 1 cup at a time, beating 5-7 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until the yellow disappears. (Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as you’re doing this to ensure even mixing.)

Add the flour to the butter mixer alternatively with the milk (begin and end with the flour). Beat at a low speed, just until combined after each addition. Add the extracts and the cranberries, stirring just until combined.

Pour the batter into the cake pan. Lift and tap it down on the counter a few times (this will prevent air bubbles from forming).

Place the cake pan on a sheet pan, then bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour and 40 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. (Pound cake is done at an inner temp of 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit.)

Cool in pan on a wire rack 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from pan, and cool completely on a wire rack.

For icing, stir together ingredients in a small bowl, then use a small fork to drizzle on top of cake. Allow icing to set for about 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Chocolate Turtles

A very significant part of the inspiration behind my doing this series every year on the blog in the first place comes from growing up in my grandparents’ house and my memories of the holidays there. 

Food is a personal thing for me, and cooking/baking food is even more personal because you’re providing sustenance and mere satisfaction to someone else, presumably someone else whom you care for. Most people who holiday bake, do so with the intention of giving it away to people they care about; it’s an act of love, which is really what the holidays should be about anyway.

All of that to say, my grandmother baked a lot during the holiday season, and so it always created this increased atmosphere of holiday giving and warmth and nostalgia that I try to recreate myself now every year now that I’m old enough and have discovered how much I love to bake. She pretty much did it all; cake, cookies, pie, peanut brittle, fudge, and another little nifty treat known as chocolate turtles.

For those who may be unfamiliar, chocolate turtles are a candy where pecans are mixed with a soft caramel, then dipped in chocolate. They’re VERY popular back where I come from in the Midwest, so much so that you can buy them much like you can buy a chocolate bar in a grocery store checkout line. Here on the West coast…not so much. So, my solution, as with a lot of things that I can’t find in stores out here is to just make it myself.

It may surprise you to know that the process for making chocolate turtles isn’t too complicated. There’s no need for candy thermometers, tempering, or any other complicated steps. You don’t have to use an oven to make them at all, since technically, you’re not ‘baking’ anything new. This really just comes down to assembly.

The most important things to stay on top of when making chocolate turtles are first of all, make sure you line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Not aluminum foil; parchment paper. Caramel is notoriously sticky, especially when it’s soft, and you will save yourself a lot of mess and frustration if you assemble these on parchment paper so as to ensure that they’ll actually come off when they’re set. Second, be diligent about ensuring that you’re not overheating the caramel in the microwave when softening it; don’t skip the step of pausing at the 30 second intervals to stir. That’s really about it. Enjoy y’all. One more day left in the 12 Days of Christmas. Any predictions on what we’ll close on?

Day 1: Orange Cranberry Buns

Day 2: Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

Day 3: Sugar & Spice Crackers

Day 4: Cranberry Cookie Tart

Day 5: Spicy Gingerbread Sticks

Day 6: Reindeer Munch

Day 7: Jell-O Butter Cookies

Day 8: Gingerbread Blondies

Day 9: Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle

Day 10: “Berry” Christmas! Scones

Day 11: Chocolate Turtles

 

Chocolate Turtles

Recipe Courtesy of Averie Cooks

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces roasted pecan halves
  • 25 soft candy caramel squares (about 1 heaping cup; note, make sure you are not using hard caramel candy, they have to be the soft chewy ones)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half, divided
  • 16 ounces of your favorite chocolate bar (You can mix them up like 8 ounces milk and 8 ounces dark, if that’s your preference; I used Hershey’s milk chocolate bars for the whole thing)
  • Sea salt, optional for sprinkling
  • Nonpareil sprinkles, optional

Directions

Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray.

Arrange pecan halves in small piles on the paper, about 1 inch apart, in bunches of about 4-5 pecan halves per pile. Try to make them overlap so that the caramel doesn’t seep through.

In a glass measuring cup or microwaveable safe bowl, heat the soft caramels with a few tablespoons of the heavy cream or half & half for 3-4 minutes, pausing every thirty seconds to stir it so that they do not burn (This is important). You also may not need to let it go the full 3-4 minutes, you don’t want it to be liquid, you just need the caramel to be soft and loose enough to drizzle off the spoon, but still hold it’s shape around the nuts.

Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of the caramel over each pecan pile and set aside for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt about 8 oz of the chocolate in another glass measuring cup or microwaveable safe bowl. Heat in 15 second increments until it’s smooth. (Melt the additional chocolate as is necessary.)

Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of the melted chocolate over the caramel pecans, trying to ensure it encases the whole thing.

If desired, sprinkle a pinch of sea salt and the nonpareils over the turtles.

Allow the turtles to firm up at room temperature (this will take several hours, I recommend letting them rest overnight).  After an hour at room temp, you can place them in the fridge before serving, and to store.