Fresh Cranberry Pound Cake and a Finch

img_7003There’s a bit of a story that goes along with this delicious cake.

A long time ago, Santa was waiting in a dark, snow-covered pine forest for his team of tiny reindeer. (There were some things to go over before Christmas Eve.) But instead of the reindeer, an enormous Fresh Cranberry Pound Cake appeared, dusted with snow!

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Santa was astounded, as well he might be! But before the Pound Cake left as quickly as it had come, he tried a slice and was delighted with the delicately crunchy crust, buttery crumb, and tart cranberries. “By Dancer and Blixen, this is delicious!” Suddenly the Fresh Cranberry Pound Cake vanished, and, in its place, a ghost deer with golden antlers appeared. “What next!” cried Santa. But the mysterious ghost deer vanished, and, to his relief, he heard the jingling bells of his reindeer as they flew across the dark starry sky. Christmas was almost here! The End

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Santa was right, this is a delicious pound cake, perfect for the holidays. The recipe is from “The Best of Gourmet 2004.” I like it because it’s festive without being overly rich and gooey, and it’s so dramatic when it’s sliced. Here is the recipe:

Fresh Cranberry Pound Cake

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Picture of the pound cake in Gourmet. It was featured as part of a brunch, but it said “Christmas!” to me.

2 cups fresh cranberries
1-3/4 cups sugar, divided
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5″ loaf pan; line with parchment paper, and grease again.

Place about half of the cranberries with a 1/4 cup sugar into a blender, and grind until finely chopped. Repeat with the other half of the cranberries with an additional 1/4 cup sugar. (A half cup of sugar is used in this process.) Transfer the chopped cranberries into a strainer over a bowl to let the cranberries drain. (Note: I cut each cranberry in half before grinding. It’s a bit tedious, but it makes the chopping in the blender much easier, and if there are any mushy cranberries, you will find them.)

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat the softened butter and remaining 1-1/4 cups sugar until light. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until very light, pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla.

Reducing the speed of the mixer, add flour mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour, and mix just until incorporated.

Spread one-third of batter in prepared loaf pan, then spoon half the ground cranberries evenly over batter, leaving a 1/2-inch border along sides. Top with another third of batter, and then remaining cranberries. Cover with remaining batter.

Bake until golden brown–about one hour. Cool on rack for 30 minutes, before removing cake from pan.

Baking notes: Gourmet says you can make this with frozen berries, but I haven’t tried it. Just be sure to drain them!

Seen below, fresh washed cranberries, sliced cranberries, ground cranberries, an old flour sifter, the beaten batter, the pan with layered cranberries, the finished loaf, and a closeup of the cut loaf.

Looking a bit Christmas-y, here is a house finch, his feathers gleaming.
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In the coming days, keeping a sense of what’s right and wrong, good and bad, and what it true and untrue, will be hard as we are buried under an avalanche of chaotic events. For some reason, the following hymn of St. Francis of Assisi flew to my mind today–it’s “The Canticle of the Creatures.” Its simplicity calms me as I read it, and I hope it might add to your day, as well. (A canticle is a hymn or chant. This is not the whole song, which can be found at the above link.) Peace to you. Fran

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and stars,
in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and
every kind of weather, through which you give substance to your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble, and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night,
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit
with colored flowers and herbs.

Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.

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