This cake has all the holiday scents and spices wrapped in a nutty brown butter cake and finished with a splash of tart cranberries and evened out with some chopped pears.
Too bad it was 80-plus degrees this weekend. So while my cake may have smelled like Christmas, as Matt describes it, we both bemoaned the fact that it felt like summer. I couldn’t help it though, I’m one of those annoying people when Halloween is over I’m ready for the Christmas decorations to come out and play. Well since Halloween isn’t until tomorrow, I was itching to get started with some Christmas, so I baked a cake.
Makes perfect sense.
I should warn you, not only is this post long with pictures, but it’s long in text. I did some recipe testing this weekend on buttermilk vs. cottage cheese in this cake and I wanted share and chronicle the results, so grab a cup of coffee.
I’m sure some of you are wondering, cottage cheese? Yes-cottage cheese. If you are a regular reader than you know last year I made a Fat Cinnamon Roll with a Vanilla Glaze. I was skeptical at first, but it was a recipe from Fine Cooking magazine, so I knew it couldn’t be off base. Sure enough the recipe delivered-big time. My family loved it.
Fast forward to this weekend and as I was writing up this recipe I thought why not give the cottage cheese another shot, but in a cake this time.
First run with the cottage cheese yielded an unbaked cake center after 90 minutes while everything was turning a dark brown. Second run, I decided to place it in a pan that would conduct heat at the center from the get go. Enter the angel food cake pan-bingo that fixed the center.
Having fixed that portion of the recipe I moved on to tackle the flavor. I had mixed opinions on the cake being spiced just right and it being a tad too spiced. With that, instead of dropping the spice measurements, I tired off-setting the spice with another flavor: almonds.
If you’ve been reading you know, I’ve been on a kick of using Blue Diamond’s Roasted Salted Almonds in my baked goods. I love eating them straight out of the bag, but I especially love them in baked goods. They give everything a nice sweet and salty combo and using them in this cake was no exception. I took the almonds and finely ground them to make almond flour and then dropped the flour measurement to accommodate it. This minor tweak took care of the spicing and now I was ready to move on to the last part of the recipe testing . . . buttermilk.
Since buttermilk is more traditional in cakes. I wanted to test and see how using an all buttermilk would hold up against the cottage cheese and buttermilk blend.
Here’s the verdict. While the cake was still really good and moist made with all buttermilk, the cake made with the cottage cheese and buttermilk blend was hands down the winner by everyone who tried both cake versions.
The cottage cheese gave the cake not only a more tender crumb but a weighted crumb. The added density gives the fruit something to merry itself onto, so that each bite is balanced without any one texture dominating and it kept the tartness of the cranberries from racing to the front in flavor.
A few notes:
- If you don’t have Blue Diamond Roasted Salted Almonds, you can replace it with regular finely ground almonds or ready-made almond meal.
- If you don’t have cottage cheese, replace that portion with buttermilk. Albeit the cake won’t be quite as moist, you will probably not notice too much of a difference since you won’t be doing a head-to-head taste like I did.
- Make sure the buttermilk is room temperature before mixing it in with the melted butter or else the cold buttermilk will cause the butter to congeal. And yes, I made this mistake, so don’t do it! However, if you do, place the mixture in the microwave on medium for about 30 seconds and everything will blend after a few whiskings.
- Make sure to puree the cottage cheese with a food processor or blender until smooth. DO NOT just throw it in the cake mix, or you will have chunks of cottage cheese in your cake. Pureed cottage cheese will have the texture of thick sour cream.
- The recipe can be made in one large angel food cake pan or you can make minis like the picture. If you go the mini route, the recipe will yield approximately 8-10 mini angel food cakes and approximately 18-20 cupcake size mini portions.
- And if you are a regular reader, than you know I love photography almost as much as I love baking. As a result, I sort of love taking pictures, especially of cupcake liners, clean or dirty-I just love shooting them. My apologies if this post is a bit photo heavy, but along with baking I’m chronicling my photography journey on the blog.
Cranberry & Pear Brown Butter Almond Cake
Preparation: For large angel food cake pan heat oven to 375 degrees F. For mini angel food cake pans and cupcake pans heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and lightly flour sides of pan(s). If using cupcake pan, fill wells with cupcake liners.
- ½ cup of butter plus 3 tablespoons of butter, for divided use
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- 12 oz cranberries
- 7 oz. pear, chopped (about one large pear, skinned and seeded)
- ¼ cup of water
- 1 ½ cups flour
- ½ cup Blue Diamond Roasted Salted Almonds, finely ground
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoonnutmeg
- ¾ cup cottage cheese, pureed
- ½ cup buttermilk
- Place 1/2 cup of butter in pan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally until butter becomes brown in color and has a nutty aroma. Set aside.
- In a 10 inch skillet melt remaining 3 tablespoon of butter and dark brown sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add in cranberries and pear, stir until both are evenly coated. Add water and cover the pan and cook until the cranberry juices are released, about 3 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook and stir over medium heat until cranberry mixture is thick and gooey like jam, about 5 minutes. Pour cranberry mixture into bottom of pan and spread evenly to edges of pan; set aside.
- Place flour and finely ground almonds in a food processor or blender and mix until well combined. Add flour and almond mixture into a large bowl with the sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, all spice and nutmeg.
- In separate bowl, whisk together cottage cheese, buttermilk and remaining ½ cup of butter until blended.
- Add in one third of dry mixture to the wet mixture and fold to combine. Continue working in thirds two more times until all dry and wet ingredients are combined.
- Pour cake batter into pan over cranberry mixture. Batter will be thick, so use a spatula to spread batter to edge of pan and to smooth out batter on top. Bake large angel food cake pan for approximately 80-90 minutes, for mini angel food cake pans bake for approximately 16-20 minutes, for cupcake pan bake for approximatley 14-16 minutes or until cake turns dark golden and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.