Oh cranberry, cranberry, how do I love thee? From the brilliant blush of your ruby red cheeks to the puckering, sweet-tart taste of your berries, I love you the breadth of one cake pan and the height of my grammy's tarnished cake server.
Cranberry, you are sweet in granulated sugar and clover honey, but I love you best dressed in maple syrup and pie spices and seated, like the red queen, high atop a tender cake of marzipan and cornmeal.
Cranberry Upside Down Cake
Based on an ancient Martha Stewart recipe
(serves 6 to 8)
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
2 3/4 cups fresh cranberries
9 tbsp. pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. all spice
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. yellow cornmeal, preferably coarse
1/4 cup almond paste
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. pure almond extract
1/2 cup milk
1. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan; set aside. In a large skillet, heat 6 tablespoons butter over medium heat until it sizzles. Add cranberries and cook until shiny, 2 to 3 minutes. Add maple syrup and cinnamon. Cook, stirring frequently, until cranberries soften but still hold their shape, about 5 minutes.
2. Remove cranberries with a slotted spoon and transfer to a baking sheet to cool slightly. Set skillet with syrup aside. Arrange cranberries in the prepared pan.
3. Return skillet with syrup to medium heat and cook until syrup boils, 3 to 4 minutes; do not overcook. Immediately pour syrup over cranberries and let cool, about 10 minutes.
4. Place rack in center of oven and heat to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Mix in cornmeal with a fork. Set aside.
5. Place remaining 6 tablespoons butter in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Crumble in almond paste and, using the paddle, beat on medium speed until well combined, about 30 seconds. Gradually add 3/4 cup sugar and beat until creamy. Add egg yolks and beat until well combined. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts. Add flour mixture alternately with milk in two batches. Set aside.
6. In a clean bowl, use the whisk attachment to beat egg whites until foamy. Slowly add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until soft peaks form. Whisk a third of the whites into batter, then fold in remaining whites.
7. Spread batter over cranberries and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 2 hours before inverting onto a serving plate.