There are so many seasonal flavors that come out to shine during the winter holidays, such as perennial favorites pumpkin, peppermint, and gingerbread. For those of us who like the flavors of fruit, there are cranberries. The tart, bright red berries typically make their way onto our holiday spread in the form of a turkey-loving cranberry sauce. The most common types are the classic canned, jellied version; fresh and crunchy from the deli; or a you can easily put together yourself.
However, a healthy dollop of cranberry sauce atop your Thanksgiving turkey is not the only way to use cranberries in your holiday dishes. The berries give a pop of red, festive color and add a tart, bright flavor to a variety of holiday desserts. This year, consider giving your layer cakes some holiday flair by incorporating these berries into the mix.
Putting this easy, colorful spin on your baked goods starts with considering which flavors pair well with cranberries. In addition to the variety of ways that you can add them to your layer cakes, the crimson orbs work equally well in other types of holiday cakes and baked goods.
Almost every type of cake gets along well with cranberries. Adding a simple cranberry filling between the layers of a spice cake can add a tart freshness that balances and brightens the deep flavors of holiday icons nutmeg and cinnamon. Mixing a cup of chopped, ruby-red cranberries into the batter of a pristine white cake creates a lovely holiday look and gives a fresh lift to the sweet cake.
Citrus fruits are a classic pairing with cranberries because of how the zip of citrus flavors complements the berries' acidity. A cranberry compote slathered between the layers of a citrus cake is a terrific example of how well the two flavors play together. Autumn fruits also are a natural complement to cranberries, as is the case with an apple-cranberry layer cake.
But don't limit the addition of cranberries to only fruit or spice layer cakes. Chocolate and fruit are a classic combo, so it makes perfect sense to use cranberry filling in a chocolate cake. Dark chocolate in particular works well with tart fruit; combining the richness of chocolate with the tartness of cranberries makes for a decadent dessert. Or, sharpen both of those flavors in a chocolate espresso cake with coffee notes for an unexpected and unparalleled cranberry pairing.
There are myriad options for adding cranberries to layer cakes. Easy, no-fuss ways to consider are to make a simple cranberry sauce to spread between cake layers by cooking together cranberries, sugar, orange juice or zest, and cornstarch until the berries burst; or, even easier — just blend a can of whole-berry cranberry sauce into a or frosting. Dotting the top of a Christmas cranberry layer cake or a holiday bundt cake with fresh cranberries rolled in sugar is a festive way to use both whole berries and a sweet cranberry filling.
Cranberries swirled through the batter of a coffee cake add a tart punch to the dense flavors; incorporated into a light cranberry Christmas cake can bring enough sweetness to the confection that frosting isn't even necessary.
Whether whole or cooked to jam, any way you choose to include cranberries in your layer cakes is guaranteed to add a festive pop of color and holiday flavor.