just about 10 years ago my mom resigned from her post as minister at our church in order to get a Ph.D. in biblical studies. just about a month from now we are throwing her a party to celebrate the completion of her dissertation and Ph.D. graduation!

The party will be at the pizzeria that is our alley neighbor (you can see it from our back deck). Our family has ordered pizza from there probably an avergae of once a week for many many years. I am taking responsibility for providing the dessert.

I’ve decided that a cake table with several varieties of cakes on stands with nice printed labels is the way to go. We will have about 80 guests so i feel i have to provide at least 120 servings of cake.

 The first cake I knew i would definitely be making is Zoe Nathan’s Cranberry Orange Cornmeal Cake. I got this recipe via The Wednesday Chef by Luisa on 1/3/09 (thanks for saving that info for me google reader!).

isn’t it beautiful? i made this for my mom and my niece’s birthdays back in january of 2009 and it was wonderful, especially with homemade sweetened whipped cream. actually it was so good that i made it again for another birthday party for my niece the next week.

except the next time i replaced the cranberries with blueberries and the orange zest with grapefruit zest. And once again it was delicious!

Its a great cake because the crumb is perfect, its not too sweet, you don’t have to frost it and it still looks good. I am very excited to make it again (actually i’ll probably make 3!)

Cranberry Orange Cornmeal Cake
Serves 18
2 cups flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsps vegetable oil
1 1/2 tbsps vanilla
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsps butter
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tbsps sugar, divided                                                                                                                                                                                             2 1/4 tsps salt
Zest of 1 orange
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 1/2 cups cranberries, divided

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round by 3-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, oil and vanilla. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the butter, 1.5 cups sugar, salt and zest. Mix just until thoroughly combined; do not overmix.
4. With the mixer running, slowly incorporate the egg mixture into the butter just until combined.
5. With the mixer on low speed, add one-half of the flour mixture to the batter and quickly mix for 5 seconds. Turn off the mixer and add the rest of the flour, the ricotta and one-half of the cranberries. Mix the remaining ingredients into the batter over low speed just until combined, being careful not to overmix.
6. Gently pour the batter into the cake pan and smooth the top. Scatter the remaining cranberries over the top of the cake, and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.
7. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes
(I had to bake mine a lot longer, just keep adding 5 more minutes and check often). Place a loose piece of foil over the top of the cake if it starts to darken. Cool the cake on a wire rack before removing it from the pan