- Whenever I use citrus zest in a recipe, I pulse it with sugar in a food processor to get rid of the shaggy bits, but more importantly, to release the zest's oils. This is completely optional—if you don't feel like using your food processor, skip Step 2 and add the zest in Step 4.
- About the buttercream: The meringue has to be cool before you can start adding the butter, one piece at a time. If the butter melts upon contact, keep whipping the meringue until it's cooled further before adding more. As an extra precaution, have a large ice bath ready—should the buttercream turn soupy, simply dip the bottom of the mixing bowl in the ice bath for 30 to 60 seconds, then continue beating in butter.
- Be careful when moving the cake layers during assembly—they are a bit delicate.
- For the Cake:
- Baking spray
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup milk, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup orange juice, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
- 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- For the Cranberry Jam:
- 2 cups White Zinfandel or other off-dry wine
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 (5-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch-thick slices
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon whole allspice
- Peel of 1 orange
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- For the Buttercream Frosting:
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup White Zinfandel or other off-dry wine
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 sticks unsalted butter (12 ounces) cut into 24 pieces, at room temperature
For the Cake: Lightly coat two 9-inch round cake pans with baking spray. Line bottoms with parchment paper rounds and coat once again with baking spray. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
In food processor, pulse orange zest and 1 1/2 cups sugar until no zest strands remain. (See notes).
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl; reserve. Combine milk, orange juice, and vanilla in glass measuring cup; reserve.
In large bowl, whip egg whites with whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes longer. If you used the stand mixer bowl, transfer whites to separate bowl.
Beat butter and lemon sugar with paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with milk mixture.
Fold in egg whites and divide batter equally between prepared pans.
Bake until tester inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer cakes to cooling racks and cool 10 minutes in pans. Turn cakes out directly onto racks, peel off and discard parchment, then invert so the tops are facing up. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
For the Cranberry Jam: While the cake is baking and cooling, combine wine, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, allspice, orange peel, and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until mixture is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let syrup infuse for 20 minutes. Strain syrup, discard solids, and return syrup to saucepan.
Stir in cranberries and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until berries pop, turn jam-like, and reduce to about 1 3/4 cup, about 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl and cool completely.
For the Buttercream Frosting: Stir sugar, wine, and corn syrup in heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and boil syrup until it registers 238°F on candy thermometer, 7 to 10 minutes.
While syrup boils, whip egg whites and salt with whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. When syrup reaches temperature, with mixer running on medium-high speed, slowly and carefully pour it into the egg whites. Beat until outside of bowl is cool to the touch and whites are thick and glossy, about 7 to 10 minutes.
With mixer on medium speed, add butter, one piece at a time (See Notes). Continue beating until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.
To assemble: With a serrated knife, cut each cake in half to create 4 equal layers. Place one layer on a serving dish or cake stand and spread with one third of cooled cranberry jam. Repeat with remaining cake layers and jam.
With an offset spatula, frost the sides and top of cake. Serve.
Two 9-inch round cake pans, parchment paper, food processor (optional), electric mixer, two cooling racks, fine-mesh strainer, small saucepan, large heavy-bottomed saucepan, serrated knife, offset spatula