Cranberry-yuzu layer cake

When I did the Masterchef recipe swap with my friends, I wound up with a lot of leftover cranberry sauce and dried cranberries. So this recipe was sort of my solution to that. Actually, it was my solution to that, as I was able to get rid of the entire can of jellied cranberry sauce that I had purchased for the recipe I was given! For the cake itself, I went with a yuzu buttermilk batter, while I filled the cake with a yuzu-cranberry compote, a cranberry French buttercream, and finished it with yuzu-cranberry gelees. I wanted to embrace wintery fruit and use the cranberry sauce and dried cranberries for sweetness, and the yuzu to add back in that brightness and tartness. For the batter, I went with a more Southern style cake, alternating stirring in my wet and dry ingredients into a creamed butter mixture to form an airy but sturdy crumb. The buttercream is essentially a French buttercream, made with egg yolks. I heated up sugar and the cranberry jelly first, until those were melted, then whisked in the egg yolks, and finally the butter, which creates this ultra-silky buttercream that is almost mousse-like in consistency. The compote and the gelees are meant to contrast the richness of the cake, just to make sure it all stays in balance.

The entire cake was quite fun to make, just because it was straight-forward flavor-wise: everything is either yuzu, cranberry, or both. The exterior contrasts the interior hilariously well, as you would assume the cake to be really simple and basic, almost Mary Sue-like if you will. Then you cut into it and see the cranberry compote inside, which kind of looks like you just cut into a body. I wish it did not look that way, but unfortunately it just does thanks to the compote just dripping out like entrails and blood. Whoops. Probably should not have given that visual, but at the same time, I know I’m not lying here. I’ll just say this cake works as well with Christmas or Thanksgiving as it does with Halloween, since it totally does:

For the cake:
1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups milk
3 tbsp yuzu juice
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Cream together your butter and sugar. Mix the milk with yuzu juice first and allow that to sit for 5 minutes to form your buttermilk, then mix into the buttermilk the canola oil and vanilla. Sift the flour and baking soda together in another container. Alternate between mixing in the buttermilk and the flour to your creamed butter, until everything is combined. Pour onto a lined sheet tray and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Cool slightly before cutting out 2 6-inch rounds and making a 3rd round out of the scraps.

For the compote:
1 cup dried cranberries
2 tbsp yuzu juice
a pinch of salt
2 cups water

Bring everything to a simmer on low heat until the liquid is completely reduced into the cranberries, and the berries themselves are plump and soft. Cool down before using.

For the buttercream:
6oz jellied cranberry sauce
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
3 sticks unsalted butter
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Over a double boiler, heat up the cranberry sauce with sugar until dissolved. Then whisk the egg yolks in on low heat for 2 minutes. Take off heat and then whisk in the remaining ingredients until combined to form your buttercream.

For the gelees:
6oz jellied cranberry sauce
2 tbsp yuzu juice
2 tbsp water
a pinch of salt
2 tsp agar agar

Bring everything to a simmer. Once everything is dissolved, pour into silicone molds and freeze solid before unmolding.

For assembly:
On either an icing table or a transferrable surface, start with a small border of buttercream around the edges of your scrappy layer of cake. Fill in the rest of that layer with half the compote. Place on the next cake layer and repeat. Then place on the last cake layer. Using about 1/2 of your buttercream, spread around the cake to form your crumb coat. Freeze for 20-30 minutes. Then spread on about 2/3 of your remaining buttercream around the cake using an offset spatula and bench scraper to form a smooth surface. Pipe on the remaining buttercream on top and garnish with the gelees to finish.

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