Have you ever heard of a "New England Duff"? Nope? Well, neither had I. I have tried to find more information about it on Wikipedia, but the closest I came were references to fruit pudding, which this definitely is not. What it is happens to be the product of an online recipe treasure trove discovery. It is actually thanks to the seasonal recipes section of the Martha Stewart website that this cake came into being. I've been hooked on the BBC International Cuisine website for months, but it turns out cranberries aren't a big "thing" in the regions covered by that site, so I had to branch out when we came home from the farmers market with 20lbs of cranberries.And I had to do some research, because cranberries aren't a "thing" back in Montana, either. I shared some options with Sweet Tooth, and he settled on the picture of the New England Cranberry Duff. Go ahead and make it, if you'd like. But, I suggest you pay heed to the comments, because I am quite glad I did. If you want the puffy, plenty-of-cake version pictured above, try the adaptation posted below instead. It's what I call a Gâteau coronée aux canneberges, and it is decadent. I made it twice in a one-week period, and the second time was better than the first. This is how it went:
Note: In the recipe below, the cake portions are already doubled compared to the original recipe! If you really like cake, you could triple the recipe (divide "cake" section by 2, and add another portion based on those measurements). However, you won't likely want to adjust the amounts in "The rest" section. The original MS recipe yields a very thin layer of cake, compared to the amount of fruit.
12 T butter, softened (2 T less than 1/2 cup, which is 1 stick)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
A pinch or two of baking soda & baking powder - This is not scientific. I tried it in the second cake and got more lift. It is not included in the original recipe.
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries. Better yet, just cover the bottom of the pan you are using, regardless of the volume. I have since made this a 3rd time, with frozen cranberries, and had okay results. It would probably be best to thaw the fruit before baking.
2/3 cup sugar
EITHER 1/3 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped. I did this in the first cake; it was fine, but the nuts became so soft, it was hardly worth it. I suggest skipping the pecans all together.
OR A couple of handfuls of sliced almonds, with the brown skins still around the edges.
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut a round of parchment paper to ft the bottom of a spring-form pan*. Butter this layer and the sides of the pan.
*If you don't have a spring-form pan, go get one. It will make your dessert-baking life SO MUCH LESS stressful - I can't believe I waited as long as I did to get one. Still not convinced? The original recipe called for an 8-inch square baking pan, and almost every comment lamented the difficulty of removing the cake from the pan. "With a spring-form", I thought, "there's no such concern." I used one instead, and this proved to be true. So, go get one already! Ask for it as a Christmas gift, if necessary.
2. Spread cranberries evenly over bottom of dish, sprinkle with 2/3 cup sugar and set aside. If using pecans, layer them over the cranberries before sprinkling the sugar.
3. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat; set aside. Put eggs and the remaining sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until pale and thick, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium-low; gradually beat in flour, and then salt. Pour in melted butter in a slow, steady stream, beating until smooth.
4. Slowly pour batter into pan to cover cranberries. This will be a little tricky, because the batter is dense and sticky. Just try to spread it out enough to cover the cranberries. It will "melt" and spread as it bakes.
5. Sprinkle slivered almonds on top of batter, and sprinkle with a bit more sugar. DO THIS! I added this to the recipe on the second round, and it was stunning! A far superior nut for this cake (vs. the pecans), in my opinion.
6. Bake until golden brown and a cake tester (knife or toothpick) inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Depending on how many cranberries you used, this might take a little longer.
7. Let cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan by unlatching the hinge on the pan, and lifting the pan off the cake. Now, thanks to the round of parchment paper, you can slide the whole cake off the bottom of the pan, and onto the cooling rack.
8. At this point, you have two options. If you used pecans, not almonds on top, you should invert the cake to serve. If you garnished with almonds and sugar on top, do not flip the cake!
Serve warm or at room temperature. If you like a little bit of tang, serve it with this cranberry-apple dessert sauce. If you're like Sweet Tooth, serve it with vanilla ice cream. Don't be afraid to let it sit for a couple of days, if you have that much self control. It seems to get better with age. Just store in a plastic container at room temperature until you are ready to polish it off.
- Cranberries - St. Foy farmers market (Marché public de Saint-Foy)
- Baking supplies (flour, sugar, nuts, etc.) - Le Crac/La Carrotte Joyeuse