This cake makes a moist, festive and fresh-tasting treat for November and December when cranberries are in season and oranges are really good. It has a lovely, fine crumb and isn’t icky sweet. The tartness of the cranberries provides a great contrast to the streusel topping and the delicious orange icing made with fresh orange juice. It’s colourful and very pleasing for morning coffee or afternoon tea when you want a bit of an indulgence and pick-me-up. I also fancy it for lazy holiday brunches when I have house guests, to fill the muffin niche. And why not? I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like having a suitable cake on the table for breakfast.
This cake is based on the David Leibovitz recipe I adapted for blackcurrants. It’s a brilliant foundation recipe that you can vary with all kinds of fruits (he uses plums in his original and adds a toffee sauce, which I’ve also used to top an apple version). It’s pretty easy to throw together, and the streusel topping is the nicest I know, with a subtle sweetness and excellent texture from sliced almonds. This is a well-balanced cake, with just the right proportion of foundation to fruit and topping.
I use a little orange flower water in the cake mixture, and a very small amount — literally just a couple of drops — of real orange extract in the icing, to accentuate the orange flavour. Orange flower water is more floral, as you’d expect, as it’s distilled from orange blossom. Orange extract is very strong and more bitter, as it’s the extract of essential oils in the peel of the orange, so a little goes a long way*. You can find both more readily these days in supermarkets or cook shops where you’d find good vanilla extract. I would avoid anything called orange ‘essence’, as essences are usually artificially flavoured. Both orange flower water and orange extract last well.
The proportions work best if you use a 23-cm (9-inch) springform pan at least 7cm deep (2.75 inches). A springform pan — one with a removable bottom — is very helpful, as the topping makes it difficult to invert the cake once it’s baked.
Cranberry and orange streusel cake
Adapted from David Leibovitz
For the streusel topping:
- 85g (scant 1 cup) sliced almonds
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 60g (⅓ cup packed) unrefined Muscovado sugar (or light brown sugar)
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
For the cranberries:
- 300g cranberries (3 level cups), washed and dried
For the cake mixture:
- 115g (8 tablespoons, or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 150g (¾ cup) golden caster sugar (or white sugar)
- the finely grated zest and juice of 1 extra large orange, kept separate (leave all the white pith behind as you grate the orange, and grate it before you juice it)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Optional: 1 teaspoon orange flower water (or ½ teaspoon orange extract)
- 175g (1⅓ cup) plain flour, ideally soft “00” or cake flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 100ml whole milk
- 30ml (2 full tablespoons) freshly squeezed orange juice
For the orange icing:
- 100g icing (confectioners’) sugar
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 drops of orange extract* (see headnote, above)
- Butter and flour a 23-cm (9-inch) springform cake tin and heat the oven to 180C/350F.
- Mix the streusel topping: Combine all streusel ingredients in a medium bowl and mix lightly with a spoon or your fingertips until you have a uniform mixture. Be gentle with the almonds to avoid breakage.
- Mix the cake batter:
- Combine the milk and orange juice in a measuring cup and set aside.
- Cream the butter, sugar and about 1 tablespoon of the orange zest until very light and fluffy, about 5-8 minutes with a mixer. Reserve the remaining zest for decoration if you like.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating just until well combined. Add the vanilla and the orange flower water (or orange extract) if using, and beat again to combine.
- Sift together the flour, salt baking powder and baking soda. Add half the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture, beating at low speed only to combine. Scrape down the sides of the mixer to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.
- Add the milk and orange juice mixture, and again, beat at low speed only to combine. Scrape down the sides of the mixer again.
- Add the remaining dry ingredients and give everything a final mix to ensure it’s well-combined, but don’t over-mix or the cake will be tough.
- Spoon the mix into the prepared cake tin and spread with an offset spatula or a kitchen knife until smooth on top: watch that the centre is not deeper than the sides. (I spread the batter so there is a very slight depression in the centre to compensate for the tendency to rise higher in the middle.)
- Evenly distribute the cranberries on top of the smoothed cake batter; they should cover the surface, and overlap in places. Then evenly distribute the prepared almond streusel mixture on top of the fruit.
- Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes or just until a tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and the top looks golden and set. There will be some juices from the cranberries, which is how it should be, but there should be no wet batter clinging to the tester. The top of the cake will also feel firm (but shouldn’t be hard) when you press it lightly. You can cover the cake with foil if you find the almond topping is getting too brown.
- When it’s done, place the cake, still in its tin, on a cooling rack. After 10-15 minutes, run a knife carefully around the inside edge of the pan to prevent any fruit or streusel from sticking, then release the outer ring and remove it. Let the cake cool almost completely before removing the base of the springform pan: do this by carefully sliding a long metal spatula or the blunt edge of a long knife under the cake and lifting it away from the metal base. Return the cake to the cooling rack to apply the icing.
- While the cake is cooling, prepare the icing: Squeeze the other half of the orange for the 2 tablespoons of fresh juice and stir into the sifted icing sugar until smooth. Carefully add 2 drops of the orange extract, if using, and stir well again. The icing should be of a pouring consistency, easily dropped in one continuous thin stream from a spoon. Drizzle it over the cake when it is mostly or completely cooled — not when too warm, as the icing will melt and disappear into the streusel. Sprinkle over some of the reserved orange zest if you like. Let the cake cool to room temperature and let the icing set.
- Transfer the cake to a serving plate or cutting board. This cake is best served at room temperature, sliced with a serrated knife to get neatly through the almond topping. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Other fruit-based cake recipes on Crumbs on the Table:
- Moist and sticky banana bread
- Blackcurrant streusel cake
- Custardy French-style apple cake
- Strawberry-custard cake (Fraisier cake)