Chocolate Cake With Cranberry Cream Filling

November 27, 2018
Photo by Rocky Luten
Author Notes

This combination of dark chocolate and tart cranberry is deliciously festive. Both the cake and filling are rich, so the cake is left naked (unfrosted) on the outside. The cake itself is very easy—can be made by hand, and finished simply by just spreading the filling between the layers. Or, to dress it up, try piping the filling when building the layers. To make it extra fancy, you can add the spun sugar topping, which turns it into a total showstopper, but is easier to replicate than it may look. —Erin McDowell

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: 3 Showstopping Holiday Cakes That Taste As Good As They Look. —The Editors

  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Makes one 8-inch, 3-layered cake
  • Chocolate cake
  • 3/4 cup (64 g) cocoa powder, plus more for coating pans
  • 1 3/4 cups (211 g) all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder (optional)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 sticks (226 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 cup (198 g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (159 g) light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs (113 g)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups (280 g) buttermilk
  • Cranberry cream filling
  • 10 ounces (283 g) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3/4 cup (149 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (113 g) fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 16 ounces (453 grams) chilled mascarpone cheese
  • 1 cup (113 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups (288 grams) heavy cream
In This Recipe
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease three 8-inch cake pans with nonstick spray, and dust with cocoa powder to coat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the cocoa powder, flour, espresso powder (if using), baking powder, and salt to combine.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter, sugar, and brown sugar until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk until well combined. Add the vanilla and whisk to combine.
  4. Switch to a silicone spatula for mixing from here on out. Add half of the dry ingredient mixture and mix to combine. Add half of the buttermilk and mix to combine. Add the remaining cocoa mixture and mix until incorporated. Add the remaining buttermilk and mix until incorporated.
  5. Divide the mixture between the prepared cake pans and gently spread into an even layer in each pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean, 24-26 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes inside the pan, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
  6. In a medium pot, stir the cranberries, sugar, orange juice, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and salt to combine. Cook over medium heat until the cranberries are very soft, 15-17 minutes. Use a potato masher or large fork to mash the mixture into a coarse jam texture. Let cool for 15-20 minutes.
  7. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the mascarpone, powdered sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the heavy cream in a slow, steady stream and continue to whip until the mixture is medium peaks. Scrape the bowl well halfway through mixing.
  8. Gently fold the cranberry jam into the mascarpone mixture, folding just until the cream is streaked with cranberry, but the two are not fully combined. (If desired, transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip).
  9. To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a platter or cake stand. Spread ⅓ of the filling (or pipe ⅓ of the filling) onto the first layer. Place another cake layer on top, and repeat. Use the remaining filling on the top layer. Chill for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
  10. For the optional spun sugar topping: Cover the end of a table with a trash bag or newspaper and tape two wooden spoons, about 8 inches apart from one another so that the handles of the spoons hang off the end of the table. Cover the floor below the spoons with trash bags or newspaper. In a medium pot, stir 1 ½ cups (297 grams) granulated sugar, ½ cup (113 grams) cool water, and 2 drops pink or red food coloring to combine. Begin to heat over medium heat. Once the mixture comes to a simmer, stop stirring. If there’s any of the mixture on the sides of the pan, use a pastry brush dipped in water to wash down the sides of the pot. Cook until the mixture reads 300°F on a candy thermometer. Let the mixture cool to 275°F, then dip a fork into the sugar mixture. When the sugar syrup begins to stream from the fork, whip it back and forth over the handles of the wooden spoons—it will form thin ribbons of sugar. Let them collect until there’s a large amount, then gently remove from the wooden spoon and form into a ball. Place it on top of the cake.

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I always carry three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's pie. My first cookbook, The Fearless Baker, is out on October 24, 2017.