An impressive holiday cake recipe shared from our friend and wine club member Yasi + a Q & A with the baker herself
I met Yasi at a Friendsgiving in Los Angeles a few years ago and was immediately impressed by her contribution. While I brought one of my charcuterie boards, she chose dessert - a category I wish I was more skilled at. Scroll through her baking-dedicated Instagram (@yasibakes) and you'll find everything fabulous from custom birthday cakes to flaky croissants. Biting into her cranberry orange cake was a highlight of Friendsgiving that year because it tasted as incredible as it looked; she's a real pro at making pretty things pack a ton of flavor. This cake has all the holiday elements we love - baking spices, orange zest, fresh cranberries, and a cream cheese frosting that's sure to be your new favorite.
Yasi has been kind enough to share the cake recipe, one she found on Food & Wine and has made her own. Right off the bat, she tells me she honestly "eyeballs the spices." If you're looking for an alternative to the classic pumpkin pie this season, look no further! The wreath-like design even translates to Christmas if you'd prefer to bookmark this and try your hand at it in a few weeks. Without further ado, I'll turn things over to my friend Yasi:
For the spice cake:
Food & Wine recipe (click the link)
For the filling:
- 2 c fresh cranberries
- Zest of 1 orange
- Juice of 1 orange
- 3/4 c -1 1/4 c sugar, depending on your preference
Combine the cranberries with sugar and both the zest and juice of the orange in a saucepan. Cover and place over medium-low heat, stirring every couple minutes, until cranberries have popped and jam is starting to thicken. Turn the heat to medium for 1-2 minutes to simmer the jam down more, then scoop into a heat proof bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid, then set in the fridge to cool and firm up more.
For the frosting:
- 12 oz unsalted butter
- 12 oz softened cream cheese (full fat, not whipped)
- Zest of half an orange
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 8-10 c confectioners sugar, sifted
- Pinch of salt
In a stand mixer, whip together butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Add in vanilla, orange zest, and a small pinch of salt and continue to beat until the mixture is fragrant. Add in sifted confectioners' sugar, a little at a time, until mixture is stiff but not overly sweet.
For the sugared cranberries
- 1.5 c granulated sugar
- 1/4 c water
- Juice from 1/2 an orange
- 1 c cranberries
In a saucepan , combine 1/2 cup sugar, orange juice, and water. Stir over medium heat until sugar has dissolved and mixture has become thick and syrupy. Set aside until cool.
Rinse cranberries and set in the freezer for about 10 minutes to chill.
Toss cranberries with cooled sugar syrup and lay out on a wax paper or parchment covered cookie sheet. Sprinkle remaining sugar over the cranberries until coated, then shake and sprinkle again. Allow to sit on the counter for approximately 2 hours, or until sugar has formed a crunchy coating around the cranberry.
Level out each cake layer by cutting off the domed top so it's completely flat (a pro tip for getting flat layers straight out of the oven- dampen strips of rags in cool water and safety pin them tightly around the outside of your cake pan. the heat transger keeps the edge from cooking too quickly so it rises more evenly with the rest of the cake. kitchen science!)
Spread a thin layer of frosting over your cake layers, then create a barrier of frosting around the edge of the cake- this will keep your jam from squishing out. Spoon the jam into the frosting well, then stack your next cake layer on top. Repeat the stacking process, then place in the fridge to chill.
Frost the top of the cake with a generous layer of frosting and then ice the sides just enough to fill in any gaps between the layers and lightly coat the edge of the cake- in my opinion, this establishes the perfect frosting:cake ratio. Decorate the top with a "wreath" of sugared cranberries, pieces of orange peel, and small sprigs of rosemary. Enjoy!
- When did you get into baking? My mom was always making cookies (we have an old family recipe for oatmeal walnut chocolate chip cookies that are a staple in my house), banana bread, muffins, etc. when I was little so I grew up helping her. One day she left her copy of Baking with Julia on the counter which I found and decided to make her brioche sticky buns. I think my parents were skeptical- I must have been about 9- but they turned out great and impressed my whole family! I was hooked after that.
- Who are some bakers that you admire or inspire you? Julia Child is my #1! She grew up very close to where I did in Pasadena and was even a member of my chapter of the Junior League. She was always a proponent of the idea that anyone can cook or bake and that food is a great way to bring people together. So many people are intimidated by baking but there's nothing quite like receiving a batch of homemade baked goods! I also love Ina Garten. Her recipes really show that food doesn't have to be overly complicated to be delicious.
- What is your favorite thing to bake? That's tough, because I love making cakes -they make everything feel like a party- but I also love simple, homey things like homemade breads, cookies, and breakfast pastries. I think I just like making things that are enjoyed at some sort of celebratory meal or that encourage everyone to sit down together for a meal, even if it is just a random weekday morning and there's not a ton of time.
- What is the biggest takeaway from baking? I think it's really taught me that you can't be so afraid of failure that you don't try! I have attempted SO many things that completely flopped, but that's just part of learning something new and is definitely part of recipe development. It may seem silly to say that about something like pastry baking, but it really can be applied to any aspect of life. I highly encourage everyone to bake! There's something really satisfying about going through this whole process and having tangible (and delicious) results at the end. Yes, you probably will have a few kitchen disasters, but it makes it that much more satisfying when you do finally get the results you're looking for.
- Lastly, do you do any custom baking for LA locals or is this simply a fun hobby that you enjoy sharing on Instagram? I occasionally make birthday cakes for friends and family, especially back at the beginning of quarantine when a lot of bakeries were closed. I have a full time corporate job so it's really just something I do for fun when I have time. Maybe one day it'll become more than just a hobby, though!