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My Thanksgiving table isn't complete without an assortment of cranberry sauces. I like to have a basic back-of-the-bag recipe flanked by versions spiked with wine, studded with different fruits, punched up with spices and zest. The sauces are usually only perfunctorily spooned on plates, given the limited real estate, but that translates into ample leftovers that I use on sandwiches, yogurt, and as a base for fruit tarts.
I love leftovers, but this year, I wanted to showcase the ruby red, tart cranberry sauce and give it its due by putting it on a pedestal (or cake stand). This recipe has, in the course of its testing, become one of my favorites and will surely be a staple in my Thanksgiving menu year after year.
It begins with layers of feather-light cake bursting with the zest of bright orange. The cake stays moist for days on end, and its vibrant flavor is the perfect complement to the thick cranberry jam that's spread between its layers.
The jam is mulled wine and cranberry; the berries are simmered until thick and reduced in a mixture of wine, ginger, peppercorns, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon—heady, intoxicating, and intense. A delicately wine-scented buttercream frosting is literally, the icing on the cake. Smooth, rich, and liberally applied, its buttery quality cuts through the acidity of the cranberry jam and blends it seamlessly into the orange cake.
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