Cranberry Orange Pecan Cake (vegan)

by Julie Ruble on December 22, 2011 · 22 comments

I’m sitting in my living room like a lump, listening to a Brazilian rock band and watching Mike exercise (I’m pretty sure I’m getting healthier by proxy). Byrd is snuggled beside me, a tiny fellow lump. I’m about to grade papers (I promise), but the sum total of my work today has been coining a new nickname for Byrd: Sweet Potato. It’s a cross between sweetheart and couch potato. Get it?

So it’s been a lazy day. I ate oatmeal on toast and then some sausages, caramelized onions, and sauerkraut for dinner. Mike and I discussed Jean Luc Picard. We finished watching Miracle on 34th Street. Byrd chewed on her toy for awhile. That’s about the sum total of our productivity.

It’s about time for some relaxation, though. I like to say that teachers don’t really get a “weekend” for 10 months out of the year; we’re hard at work or on call 24/7. Work and home start to blend together — you lesson plan at school and grade papers at home or vice versa, answering student and parent queries all the while. You squeeze in the other bits and pieces of your life wherever they fit (and sometimes leave them by the wayside altogether — I won’t mention how long my carpet sometimes goes unvacuumed).

Also, I work at a project based school, which means students learn through authentic application projects. I’m wholeheartedly invested in this model, but it does mean that I’m always knee-deep in projects to grade.

I would never complain — I have the best job in the world (did I tell you about the lamb that was at school last week? Did I mention the Winter Wonderland where students caroled and drank hot chocolate? Did I tell you about how my students are actually excited to receive new projects?) But I definitely appreciate a break now and then.

This break has been appreciated to the fullest. Honestly, this is my first day of lounging around in an otherwise caffeinated week. I’ve been getting housework done and prepping for the holidays. And Monday, I attended a baked goods swap (my first ever, if you can believe it) with the Charlotte Food Bloggers.

The Charlotte Food Bloggers are an incredibly varied group of people. We have mommy bloggers, vegan bloggers, healthy living bloggers, restaurant reviewers, and straight up food bloggers. I decided I wanted to make a dessert everyone could enjoy and that meant (gulp) baking vegan.

Vegan baking may conjure up ideas of dry or oily frankendesserts, but it really shouldn’t. This cake, for instance, was as delicious as any non-vegan cake I’ve ever tasted. It was, if I do say so myself (and I did already, on Willow Bird Baking’s Facebook page), pretty slammin’! It even passed the Mike test, and he’s quite the carnivore.

The festive combination of orange zest and cranberries brightened up the moist cake, which was generously slathered with some dairy-free “cream cheese” frosting. Whether you’re vegan or not, give this one a try.


fun with the charlotte food bloggers (instagram courtesy of taylor mathis)

Vegan Cranberry Orange Pecan Cake



Recipe by: Adapted from the veganized version by The Tolerant Vegan, originally from Midwest Living
Yield: 9 servings

This cake is fantastic! It’s a moist, delicious “butter” cake full of festive cranberries, orange zest, and toasted pecans. The whole thing is slathered with dairy-free cream cheese frosting that, unlike some other vegan frostings I’ve tried, is a great consistency for spreading. Whether you’re a vegan or not, you’ll love every bite of this cake.

Cake Ingredients:
3/8 cup Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
5/8 cup vanilla almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen, chopped
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped (plus more for sprinkling)
1 tablespoon orange zest

Frosting Ingredients:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons dairy-free cream cheese, softened (I used Trader Joe’s This is Not a Tub of Cream Cheese)
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread, softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare an 8-inch square baking pan by greasing it with Earth Balance and flouring it. Place a parchment paper square in the bottom, and grease and flour the paper as well. (Note: You can double this recipe and make it in a 9 x 13-inch pan).

In a large bowl, cream together the Earth Balance and sugar for 2-3 minutes until fluffy. Mix in the applesauce, almond milk, and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the baking powder, baking soda, sea salt and flour. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until fully combined.

Mix in the vinegar. Fold in the cranberries, pecans, and orange zest. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Allow the cake to cool completely before you frost it.

To make the frosting, place confectioners’ sugar, dairy-free cream cheese, Earth Balance, and vanilla extract in a bowl and mix until combined and fluffy. Spread the frosting on the cake, sprinkle with toasted pecans, and serve.

P.S. I just learned about orange pomanders this year and have enjoyed making them. Just poke some whole cloves into a few oranges. You can make any design you like. They smell lovely and are a fun little Christmas craft.

P.S. 2 – See Taylor’s visual recap of the CFB baked goods swap here. Lots of pretty food!

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

kokoronagomu December 22, 2011 at 4:51 am

i would love to post the picture of this on ‘pinterest’, it would link to here.

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking December 22, 2011 at 4:55 am

Sure, feel free! There’s actually a link to pin it at the bottom of the post, but you can pin any photo you like.

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SWF December 22, 2011 at 5:14 am

This looks fantastic! I think I know what I’m bringing to Christmas dinner dessert :)

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking December 22, 2011 at 5:34 am

Thanks :) Hope you love it! Merry Christmas!

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Christine December 22, 2011 at 8:11 am

Calling vegan sweets “frankendesserts” is usually pretty bang-on, but this cake looks lovely! Its delicate texture is apparent from just looking at the cut slice — I’m definitely going to pass this link along to all my (delicious cake deprived) vegan friends. :)

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking December 23, 2011 at 4:05 am

Oh, do! No one should be cake deprived! Ship ‘em over to Sweet Tater Blog — it’s one of my faves, and she’s always posting yummy looking vegan desserts!

Thanks, Christine :)

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Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar December 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm

This cake is so yummy looking! Love it!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking December 23, 2011 at 4:05 am

Thanks, Katrina!

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Nikki @ The Tolerant Vegan December 22, 2011 at 3:06 pm

I’m so excited that you made this cake!!! Your photos are GORGEOUS! Happy Holidays :)

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking December 23, 2011 at 4:05 am

Thanks so much for the recipe, Nikki! It was a huge hit.

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Joanne December 22, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Yay for vacation and finally getting a rest! Given how much time and energy I know you put into your kids, you deserve it love! This cake sounds delicious. Some of my friends favorites of my desserts are vegan…so moist. I know they’d love this!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking December 23, 2011 at 4:06 am

Thanks, Joanne! :)

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Mackenzie@The Caramel Cookie December 23, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Yay for vegan desserts! Looks great :)

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking December 23, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Thanks, Mackenzie!

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Mar December 27, 2011 at 2:17 am

Gorgeous dessert, looks super yummy ! Thanks for the recipe. :)

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Viper August 13, 2012 at 12:34 am

Just made a nonvegan version of this and loved it! Thanks so much :)

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Efie December 25, 2013 at 4:38 am

What can I use instead of Earth Balance spread? I live in Israel and we don’t have it here…what does it taste like? what the consistency? the texture?
TIA!

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Julie Ruble December 27, 2013 at 12:39 am

Hi Efie! Earth Balance is a butter alternative, so any butter (if you’re not vegan) or butter substitute like margarine is what I’d recommend. Hope that helps!

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Efie December 30, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Thanks a lot and have a happy new year!

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