Cranberries are mostly ignored until the holidays, when they take center stage in breads, desserts and even drinks! I love the tart taste of cranberries and I search out every opportunity to use them. When I found this recipe for Cranberry Vanilla Buckle, I had to give it a try. This dessert is a wonderful combination of sweet and tart and it makes a perfect holiday dessert.
A couple of pointers: don’t skip the orange zest, because it gives the cake a bright note. And make sure you use pure vanilla extract, because the buckle has a noticeable vanilla taste, and you’ll want the real stuff for this.
A side benefit is that your house will smell divine while this is baking. And if you have a heavy cast-iron skillet, use it! I pulled out my 8″ cast iron skillet for this and it was the perfect size. Plus, I really like the rustic look this gives the dessert; you could easily serve it at a casual Christmas gathering. It would be incredible with vanilla ice cream.
And if you’re wondering, a buckle is really just a dessert that combines seasonal fruit, a rich cake batter and a streusel topping. They’re often made with blueberries in New England, but they can be made with any fresh seasonal fruit.
This time of year, you can find fresh cranberries in just about every grocery store. My local Kroger is even carrying organic cranberries this year, which I recommend for this dessert. You’ll only need two cups, so an 8 ounce bag or carton is perfect.
To begin, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and butter your skillet. Then, make the streusel topping.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 TBSP light brown sugar
1/8 TSP fine sea salt
1/4 cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 1/2 TSP pure vanilla extract
Combine the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, salt and butter in a medium bowl. Using your hands or a pastry cutter, combine the butter into the dry ingredients until it’s the texture of coarse crumbs. Pour the vanilla extract over the mixture and combine it into the crumbs. Refrigerate.
Next, prepare the cake batter.
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 TSP baking powder
1/2 TSP fine sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Zest of half an orange
1 TBSP pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups fresh cranberries
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir or whisk until combined. Set aside.
Using either a handheld mixer or a stand mixer, cream the room temperature butter, sugar and orange zest together on medium-high speed for three to five minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the sour cream in two additions and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix only until combined; you don’t want to over-mix the batter.
Fold in one cup of the cranberries and spread the mixture evenly into your prepared skillet. The batter will be thick.
Top the cake batter with the remaining cup of fresh cranberries.
Sprinkle the streusel topping over the cranberries.
Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, depending upon the size of your skillet. Check often near the end of cooking time.