(100 grams) sifted (before measuring) unbleached cake flour (I use King Arthur)
large eggs, at room temperature
large egg yolks, at room temperature
pure vanilla extract
(150 grams) sugar
(30 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
For Cranberry Cream Filling
plus 1 tablespoon sugar
raspberry or cherry preserves
powdered sugar, for sprinkling
In This Recipe
For the Sponge Cake:
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour the sides of the pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Whisk the flour with the baking powder. Sift the mixture three times and return it to the strainer set over a bowl.
Whip the eggs, yolks, sugar, and vanilla in the stand mixer at high speed for 2-4 minutes until the batter is light-colored, tripled in volume, and when the whisk is lifted the mixture falls in a thick fluffy rope that dissolves slowly on the surface of the remaining batter foam.
While the eggs are beating, heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan until it the butter is melted and the mixture is extremely hot to the touch. (It must be very hot when you add it to the batter.)
Remove the bowl from the mixer. With the strainer or sifter, sift one-third of the flour over the eggs. Fold with a large rubber spatula until the flour is almost blended into the batter. Repeat with half of the remaining flour. Repeat with the rest of the flour. Pour all of the hot milk mixture over the batter and fold gently but authoritatively, scraping batter up from the bottom of the bowl and rotating the bowl until the milk and butter are incorporated. Scrape the batter into the pan.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes until the cake is a deep golden brown on top and springs back when gently pressed with fingers, or toothpick comes out clean. Set the pan on a rack to cool.
At your convenience, when the cake is warm or completely cool, run a small spatula (I use a small plastic spreader with very thin flexible “blade”) around the inside of the pan, pressing against the sides of the pan to avoid tearing the cake. Invert the round the cake and peel off the parchment liner. Turn the cake right side up to finish cooling. The cake should be completely cool before filling, frosting or storing. The cake may be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature for 2 days, or frozen up to 3 months.
For Cranberry Cream Filling
Chop 1/4 cup pistachios medium-fine and set aside.
Make cranberry spread by putting the rinsed and picked over cranberries in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar. Cover and cook until about 2/3 of the berries are burst (4-5 minutes). Scrape the mixture into a medium coarse strainer with the raspberry or cherry preserves. Mash and press as much of the mixture through the strainer as possible, using a rubber spatula. This will take some effort—keep on mashing and rubbing into the strainer. Scrape the strained mixture from the underside of the strainer into the bowl. Continue to press the mixture, even with your fingers, until there’s only 2-3 tablespoons of dry cranberry skins and raspberry seeds left behind to discard. You should have about 2/3 cup strained cranberry spread. Set aside.
Whip the heavy cream with 1 teaspoon vanilla until the cream starts to thicken. Add 1 tablespoon sugar (or more to taste) and beat until almost stiff. Refrigerate.
Use a serrated knife to split the cake in half horizontally. Spread about 1/2 cup of the cranberry spread evenly over the bottom layer—you should have a little left over. Spread all of the whipped cream over the cranberry spread. Top with the second cake layer and press gently to level. Use a metal spatula to smooth any cream that has oozed from the layers around the sides of the cake. Then spread the remaining cranberry spread around the sides of the cake in the thinnest possible layer—just enough make the cake sides sticky enough to adhere the pistachios (but if you run short, use a little extra jam). Press chopped pistachios around the sides of the cake. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day. Sieve a little powdered sugar over the top before serving.
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).