Cranberry Cocoa Cream Tart

Cranberry Cocoa Cream Tart

Here’s my take on a little-black-dress dessert, one you can pull off throughout the holiday season from now to Valentine’s day.

The crust is a basic chocolate wafer crumble pressed into a tart pan, and the filling is cocoa-flavored mascarpone topped with glistening cranberries. It manages to be glamorous, festive, and simple all at the same time.

Cranberry Cocoa Cream Tart

Cranberry Cocoa Cream Tart

Yield: 1 9-inch tart


1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

1 12-ounce bag fresh or frozen cranberries

¾ cup sugar

30 chocolate wafer cookies

6 tablespoons melted butter

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup sugar

1 pound mascarpone cheese

1 cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 tablespoon heavy cream


  1. For the topping: Sprinkle the gelatin over ¼ cup water in a small bowl and let soften 10 minutes. Put the cranberries in a saucepan with the sugar and ¼ cup water. Bring to a boil; stir to dissolve sugar. Lower heat to a simmer and cook an additional 5 minutes or so; you want to soften the cranberries but retain their plump shape.
  2. Drain the cranberries over a bowl. Add the gelatin to the juice in the bowl, stirring to dissolve. Add the cranberries to the juice, stirring gently. Cover and chill until the mixture thickens, about 8 hours or overnight.
  3. For the crust: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pulse the cookies, sugar and salt in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is moistened and holds together when you pinch it. Press the crumbs on to the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Bake the crust 10 -12 minutes; cool completely on a rack.
  4. For the filling: Beat the mascarpone, sugar, cocoa and cream together just until spreadable. Spread the filling over the cooled crust and top with the cranberries. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Cranberry Orange Buckle


I like to hoard cranberries in the fall, since it seems like they totally disappear after the holidays. I’m not sure why more grocers don’t stock them in the freezer section, but I can never seem to find them there.

Cranberries freeze perfectly so I try to put a few pounds away in the freezer. Every now and then I throw a handful into a strawberry-raspberry smoothie and bake some into muffins and quick breads.

This recipe comes from Rustic Fruit Desserts,  a cute little book that I first saw at my sister-in-law L’s house last summer. She lives in Portland – lucky duck!- and we celebrated her birthday in July with a beautiful handmade cake from Baker & Spice, owned by co-author Julie Richardson.

It’s the kind of bakery that you want to live around the corner from, where they make everything in small batches using  great ingredients and local, seasonal produce. How sweet is that!

I’m not much of a dessert eater and even less of a fussy dessert maker, so this cookbook is just my style. The recipes are all simple to make and rely on whatever fruit happens to be in season.


I think my favorite part of this cake is the crunchy top; some of the berries burst open and blend with the sugary vanilla crumbs to make a nice, sweet-tart pop when you take a bite.

Cranberry Orange Buckle

Yield: 1 9-inch square cake


2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

5 teaspoons pure vanila extract

2 teaspoons baking powder

Grated zest of one orange

2 eggs

1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream

2 cups (8 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9-inch square baking pan.
  2. Pulse the brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of the butter, 1/2 cup of the flour, 3 tablespoons of the granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 2 teaspoons vanilla in a food processor (or in a bowl using a fork or pastry blender) until coarse crumbs form; set aside for topping.
  3. Sift the remaining flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl.
  4. Cream the remaining butter, remaining sugar and orange zest in a bowl with a handheld mixer or in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and reduce mixer speed to low; stir in 1/3 of the flour mixture and half the yogurt. Repeat, ending with the last third of flour. Stir in 1 cup of the cranberries.
  5. Scrape the batter into the pan, spreading it evenly and distribute the remaining cranberries over the top. Sprinkle the reserved topping over the cranberries.
  6. Bake 45 - 50 minutes on the middle rack, or until light golden brown and top is firm.