Prepare Filling: Bring first 3 ingredients and 3 cups cranberries to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Boil, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes or until cranberries begin to pop. Transfer 1 cup cranberry mixture to a small bowl, and stir in remaining 1/2 cup whole cranberries. (This will be the Cranberry Topping.) Transfer remaining hot Cranberry Filling mixture to another small bowl. Cool both mixtures completely (1 hour). Cover; chill 8 hours.
Prepare Buttercream: Beat butter and next 2 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer 1 to 2 minutes or until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar alternately with orange juice. Beat at low speed until blended and smooth after each addition. Stir in vanilla. If desired, add 1 to 2 Tbsp. milk, 1 tsp. at a time, beating until frosting reaches desired consistency.
Place 1 Basic White Cake layer on a serving platter. Spoon 1 1/2 cups buttercream into a zip-top plastic freezer bag. Snip 1 corner of bag to make a small hole. Pipe a ring of frosting around cake layer just inside the top edge. Spread cake layer with half of chilled Cranberry Filling (without whole berries), spreading to edge of piped frosting. Top with second cake layer. Repeat procedure with frosting and remaining Cranberry Filling (without whole berries). Top with third layer. Spread remaining buttercream over top and sides of cake. Pipe a ring of frosting around top cake layer just inside the top edge. Spread Cranberry Topping (with whole berries) over top cake layer, spreading to edge of piped frosting.
This cake is incredible. Not only is it delicious, it makes an awesome presentation. I used a different recipe for the white cake and came out with 4 thick 8" layers. I only used 3 and it was still a very tall cake. I couldn't fit it in any of my cake carriers. I took it to a Christmas party and it was a huge hit. No one said, "who made it?" They said, "where did it come from?" It looked like it had to come from a bakery. I love the combination of cranberry and orange and this was perfect. I didn't leave any of the cranberries raw for the top. I thought it might be too tart so I cooked them all. The recipe makes too much frosting but I didn't try to adjust it. I also added orange zest to the frosting. When I make it again, I will make three 9" layers. And I will definitely make it again!
This cake was the hit of our Christmas party, it looked beautiful on the table and tasted even better. Highly recommend this, we were hesitant to have the raw cranberries on top, but glad we did as it offered a wonderful texture change and delicious tartness. We will be making this every year now as our go-to Christmas dessert.
The icing and cranberry filling were delicious. The cake was okay. This may have been our fault but it was rather dry. The finished product looked like it came from a bakery. Lots of compliments but the gingerbread cake (Dec.2014) tasted a lot better.