Elegant Rustic Winter Cake with Sparkling Cranberries

Rustic woodland cranberry cake with homemade edible pine cones.

I've always wanted to do one of those rustic woodland cakes decorated with fresh fruit and elements taken from nature outside. When I came across a cranberry cake on Instagram, it reminded me of the frosted berry bushes on the trail we always run on in the winter. For new year's eve, I decided to make a cake that incorporated all the elements that I loved on the rustic cakes I saw online. And I had the perfect cake holder for it to sit on as well! I love creating new cakes and this turned out to be a fun craft too.

The cake was very wedding cake-like because it was so festive, romantic and elegant. I love all things vintage and bohemian so I absolutely loved the look of this cake. It was sort of woodland and wintery fun altogether. I was happy!

The decorations on top of the cake consisted of homemade edible pine cones, fresh cranberries and blueberries coated in sugar (or sparkling cranberries and sparkling blueberries), fresh cranberries and blueberries, rosemary branches, chocolate branches made from molding chocolate, and a bit of icing sugar to dust the elements. The sparkling cranberries were prepared the night before since the fresh cranberries had to be soaked in sugar syrup overnight and then rolled in sugar for them to stick well. I made the pine cones the day before too. Just to save myself some time. The cake was not the only thing I was planning to make on new year's eve. I had a full 3 course meal to prepare and delivery as well.

I wanted to create dark pine cones but the cereal I bought turned out to be a lot lighter in shade than I expected from the box cover. Go figure. However, I used them anyway since pine cones, fir cones or whatever cones do come in a variety of different shades of beige, brown and dark brown. I more or less followed this recipe idea I found online for making pine cones out of cereal and pretzel sticks. I used thick dark pumpernickel pretzel sticks and dark flaky cereal from Trader Joe's. I made my own molding chocolate combined with some leftover peanut butter white chocolate molding chocolate I made before. I didn't want the pine cones to be very big so I actually broke off parts of the pretzel tips to shorten them a bit before wrapping molding chocolate around them. Then I chilled them by leaving them in a container in our car garage. Our garage is a bit of a second fridge for us in the winter :)

The cake batter was really thick and it reminded me more of pound cake than vanilla sponge cake. While I was making my cake and icing, I just knew it would be way too sweet. Even with all the cranberries inside. So I cut back on the sugar a lot. I knew it was risky but I did it anyway. We have a bunch of pre-diabetics in our family and I'm pretty much pre-diabetic too. Plus, since I grew up eating Chinese sponge cakes with whipping cream, every other cake out there is insanely sweet. But it still turned out too sweet and that was all my parents commented on. Ugh.

Taken with a digital camera.

Taken with an iPhone.

The icing was a bit of sloppy so it was not a perfect looking cake but this was my first attempt and I'm more than satisfied with how it turned out. I really should get a turntable one day. I ran into unexpected trouble with the icing since I absolutely refused to add that much powdered sugar to it. It was way too runny and I really had to troubleshoot to fix it. I think I only added half the sugar it required. I ended up serving it with extra fresh cranberries. I love the idea of including fresh cranberries because I love desserts that are tart but this cake and icing combo was way too sweet for me and my family. My niece was the only one that thought the cake was fine and it was not too sweet for her. Have a small slice with extra fresh cranberries and it's not bad :) But hey, it was gorgeous to look at anyway. Next time, I would just use one of my favourite dense vanilla cake recipes, add cranberries and then use my trusted Swiss meringue buttercream. A cream cheese frosting would be excellent with it too. Then I think it would be spectacular. Next time.

My 10yo, who ran a marathon (42km) over 8 days in the winter. Yes, I ran with him.


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