Last year, I bought quite a few bags of fresh cranberries over the course of the season. Some became cranberry sauce, but I also hoped to find some interesting, new-to-me takes on the seasonal berry. I experimented with candying and a maple-sweetened pie. They weren’t bad, but I when I picked up my first bag of the year a few weeks ago, I was still looking for something different.
Cranberries had been on my mind since I found an opened nine-month-old bag of berries in my freezer last month. Oops. I heard something on NPR last year about a cranberry shortage and decided to stock up. Or at least that’s my excuse.
Luckily, this cake is among the best and easiest uses of cranberries I’ve tried, so I shouldn’t have a problem using up the rest of them. This isn’t a super decadent chocolate cake, but that’s part of the charm. It’s a simple, two-bowl cake batter with a healthy dose of cocoa powder. It’s light but still chocolaty, perfect for a snack or everyday dessert, though it could be dressed up with some freshly whipped cream. The cranberries are a tart counterpoint to the soft chocolate cake, almost like chocolate dipped strawberries or raspberries. Cinnamon adds a warm note, which makes it more perfect for fall and provides a further check on the sourness of the berries. A final sprinkle of cinnamon sugar on top gives the cake a crackly crust.
- ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)
- ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ½ teaspoons cinnamon, divided
- ¾ cups natural cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1¼ cups fresh cranberries
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square pan and line with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and ½ cup of granulated sugar together until fluffy. Add the egg and beat well. Mix in the buttermilk and vanilla. Stir the flour, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together in a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir well.
- Toss the cranberries with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and fold into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Stir the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon together and sprinkle evenly over the batter. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.