A Special Cranberry Lemon Holiday Cake

  Chef Stephen Mallina adjusting the croquembouch at the Christmas dessert buffet

Chef Stephen Mallina adjusting the croquembouch at the Christmas dessert buffet

It has become a cherished tradition to go into New York in the month of December to join my dear long-time friend Holly Arnold Kinney, her family, and women friends, for a delightful holiday luncheon at the Doubles Club (hidden within the Sherry Netherland Hotel on Fifth Avenue and 59th Street).

Holly owns the Fort Restaurant in the foothills of Denver CO and her husband Jeremy was one of the early members during the construction of the Club. Doubles was opened by Joe Norban in 1976 and continues to be run by his daughter Wendy Carduner.

The special Christmas lunch is served by impeccably formal but friendly wait staff but the lavish array of desserts is served buffet style by executive chef Stephen Mellina and his staff.

This December, when Holly introduced me to the chef, I was blown away to discover that he already knew me from my books. I was also amazed at how wonderful the desserts were—the croquembouche with hairline crisp cream puffs, the silkiest of chocolate mousses, the raspberry dacquoise, but it was the deceptively simple cranberry lemon pound cake that so intrigued me that I called Mrs. Carduner, who put me in touch with chef Mellina, who then introduced me to the pastry chef Fannie Agri. Inevitably we had a million things in common and couldn’t stop talking. To my astonishment, the cake was my very own favorite Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake from The Cake Bible, with dried cranberries replacing the poppy seeds.

Of course chef Fannie makes this cake in large quantity so I tried three different variations for a single loaf. The challenge was getting the deliciously zingy cranberries to suspend evenly in the batter without sinking to the bottom. Trial one, I ground the cranberries with the sugar and they dispersed evenly but lost their character. Trial two I soaked the quartered cranberries for 30 minutes, using the soaking water to replace the milk. All the cranberries sank resolutely to the bottom. Trial 3 was the winner. I tried processing the cranberries with some of the flour to help them suspend, but though a few ground up into cranberry dust, most eluded the sharp blades so I ended up chopping them with a chef’s knife.

 The two test samples with Fannie's original on the buffet table.

The two test samples with Fannie's original on the buffet table.

Both chefs tasted the two samples. And Chef Fannie brought her Cake Bible for me to sign. I was delighted to see it had experienced years of good use1

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Woody and I also enjoyed a glorious buffet lunch, complements of chef Mallina.

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  The Holiday Dessert Buffet

The Holiday Dessert Buffet

I have found a new home at Doubles thanks to the exquisite ambiance and extraordinarily warm welcome from all.

Here’s the recipe just in time for New Year’s Eve!

Cranberry Lemon Pound Cake

Oven Temperature: 350˚F/175˚C
Baking Time: 60 to 70 minutes

Special Equipment One 8-1/2 by 4-1/2 inch 6 cup loaf pan, lightly coated with baking spray with flour, preferably Baker’s Joy

Preheat the Oven
* Thirty minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven.
*Set the oven at 350˚F/175˚C.

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In a 2 cup or larger glass measure with a spout, lightly whisk together the milk, eggs, and vanilla.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add all but 2 tablespoons of the flour, the sugar, baking powder and salt.

With a large chefs knife, chop together the flour and dried cranberries until none of the pieces is larger than 1/4 inch.

Attached the flat beater and mix the flour mixture on low speed for 30 seconds.

Add the softened butter and half the egg mixture. Start on low speed until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Then raise the speed to medium and beat for 1 minute.

Add the remaining egg mixture in two parts, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure.

Add the chopped cranberries and any remaining loose flour and with a silicone spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir in the cranberries, reaching to the bottom of the bowl.

Scrape the mixture into the loaf pan and bake for 30 minutes. Tent it loosely with aluminum foil and continue baking for 30 to 40 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean with only a few dry crumbs sticking to it.

While the cake is baking, prepare the lemon syrup.

Lemon Syrup

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In a 1 cup glass measure with a spout stir together all the ingredients and microwave for about 40 seconds, stirring once or twice, until the sugar is dissolved.

Cover it with plastic wrap and set it aside.

When the cake is baked, set the pan on a wire rack and use a wooden skewer to poke holes all over the top.

Brush the top of the cake with half the syrup. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes and unmold it onto a second rack that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray.

Brush all sides and bottom with the remaining syrup. Then reinvert the cake onto a wire rack that is topped with a large piece of plastic wrap. Allow the cake to cool completely. Then wrap it with the plastic wrap and allow it to sit for a minimum of 6 hours preferably overnight.

Store Airtight: room temperature, 3 days; refrigerated, 1 week; frozen, 3 months.