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Cranberry Christmas Cake

Candied Cranberries: Place cranberries into a 6-8 cup (1.5 - 2 liter) stainless steel (or heatproof) bowl. The cranberries are going to be 'steamed' so you will need a steamer or pot that is large enough to hold the bowl of cranberries. Fill the large pot with a few inches (5 cm) of water and bring to a simmer. Then combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the boiling syrup over the cranberries and cover the bowl with a plate. (You need to 'weigh' the bowl down so it won't move around in the water.) Set the covered bowl of cranberries into the pot or steamer. Cover the pot and steam the berries over low heat for about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let the berries sit in the syrup for 3 to 4 days at room temp. The syrup will become a little jellied. If using right away, drain the berries before using, keeping the syrup for some other use.

Chocolate Genoise:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Butter, or spray with a non stick spray, a 9 inch (23 cm) round cake pan and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

Sift the flour with the salt and cocoa powder. In a heatproof bowl whisk together the eggs and sugar. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, heat the eggs and sugar until lukewarm to the touch (this will take about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to the bowl of your electric mixer. Beat on high speed (about 3-5 minutes) until the egg mixture has cooled, tripled in volume, and looks like softly whipped cream (the batter will fall back into the bowl in a ribbon-like pattern). Beat in the vanilla extract. Then sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the whipped eggs and gently fold in using a large rubber spatula or whisk. Fold in half of the remaining flour, and then fold in the rest. (Do not over mix or the batter will deflate). Take about 1 cup of the batter and fold it into the hot butter mixture. (This lightens the butter mixture.) Then, with a spatula, gently fold the butter mixture completely into the egg batter. Pour into your prepared pan, smoothing the top. Bake until the cake shrinks slightly from the edges of the pan and the top springs back when lightly pressed (about 20 - 25 minutes). (A toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.) Cool on a metal rack. When the cake has cooled completely, run a small knife around the edges to release the cake. The genoise will keep two days in the refrigerator or it can be frozen for a couple of months.

Drain the cranberries, reserving the syrup. Make a liqueur syrup by combining 1/3 cup (80 ml) of the drained cranberry syrup with the 2 T Kirsch. Melt the chocolate and water in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Let cool to room temperature. Using a serrated knife, cut the chocolate genoise, horizontally, into two layers. Turn over the top layer of the cake (so the top becomes the bottom) and place on your serving platter. Brush the layer with about 2 T of the liqueur syrup. Beat 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the whipping cream until soft peaks form. With a rubber spatula or whisk quickly fold the cream into the chocolate mixture. Immediately spread the genoise layer with the cream. Place enough drained cranberries evenly over the chocolate cream to cover completely. (The remaining cranberries will be used for decorating the top of the assembled cake.) Moisten the cut-side of the second genoise layer with 2 T syrup. Gently place cut-side down on top of chocolate cream. Brush the top layer with syrup. Beat remaining whipping cream with the 1 tsp. vanilla extract and 2 T white sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread a thick layer of whipping cream over entire cake. Use remaining cream to pipe rosettes on top of cake. Can refrigerate overnight. Just before serving, drain the reserved candied cranberries and blot with paper towels and place on top of cake. Serves 10-12.

Candied Cranberries:

2 cups (220 grams) fresh cranberries, washed

1 1/4 cups (250 grams) white sugar

3/4 cup (180 ml) water

Chocolate Genoise:

3 tablespoons (42 grams) hot melted unsalted butter

1/2 cup (65 grams) cake flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup (30 grams) unsweetened regular or Dutch-processed cocoa powder

4 large eggs

2/3 cup (135 grams) granulated white sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Filling and Frosting:

2 1/2 cups (600 ml) heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons Kirsch (cherry brandy)

4 ounces (115 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons (30 grams) granulated white sugar