I tried kefir once, 10 years ago, when another waitress at the wine bar I worked at brought some in and offered me a sip. I hated it, and for the next decade I never gave it a second thought.
But tastes evolve, or maybe she just had a really gross kind? Because two weeks ago, standing in the dairy aisle of Trader Joe’s, I decided it was time to give kefir another shot. (For the uninitiated, kefir is a thick fermented milk drink akin to yogurt or buttermilk. It’s also a powerful probiotic that is incredibly good for digestion and gut health.)
Now I’m officially obsessed. Kefir and I have been making up for lost time. I’ve been blending kefir smoothies, eating it with granola, and—best of all—baking with it. You can use kefir interchangeably in basically any recipe that calls for buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream.
Case in point: this super healthy cranberry orange kefir cake. It’s moist, tender, and just a little bit tangy. I love it because it works for breakfast, snacking, or dessert. (Hint: it really sings with a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt.)
I always feel a little bit cheated when a cranberry dessert turns out to be made with dried cranberries, don’t you? I love baking with fresh cranberries! The tartness really balances all the sugar. Plus, the little flecks of red just look so pretty and festive.
Because I couldn’t leave well enough alone, I topped this cake with a simple vanilla-orange syrup. Once it dries, the top of each slice has a thin layer of crackly frosting, like a glazed donut.
Have I sold you on this recipe yet? I hope so! This cranberry orange kefir cake would make a great addition to any holiday dessert table. Or serve it up on Thanksgiving morning with plenty of hot coffee.
Healthy Cranberry Orange Kefir Cake
For the cake
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly grated zest from one orange plus 2 tablespoons juice
- 3/4 cup kefir
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 stick, melted and slightly cooled
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the glaze
- 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-x-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray. Line the bottom with a rectangle of parchment. Dust the sides with flour and tap out the excess.
Pulse the cranberries in the food processor until they are coarsely chopped. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest.
In a small bowl, whisk the orange juice, kefir, butter, egg, and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until blended (don't over-mix). Fold in the cranberries.
Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes, then turn it out and cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the glaze, combine the confectioner's sugar, orange juice, and vanilla in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Place the cake, still on the cooling rack, over a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Drizzle the cake with the glaze and let stand until hardened, about 30 minutes.