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Cranberry Christmas Cake, with the perfect balance of sweet and tart, is a rich scratch-made butter cake studded with fresh cranberries and topped with a vanilla powdered sugar glaze. This tasty dessert recipe is so simple to put together, it’s what every busy hostess needs!
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Why you’ll love this Cranberry Christmas Cake Recipe!
Not only is this cake delicious, but it’s also a beautifully festive ending for any holiday dinner and makes a lovely coffee cake for Christmas morning with a steamy mug of Christmas Hot Chocolate.
In fact, this beautiful cake is a sweet addition to any gathering during the holiday season!
- Cranberries — When in season, stock up on bags of fresh cranberries (freeze some to use later) to make this cranberry cake recipe. While fresh cranberries are preferred, you may substitute frozen cranberries.
- All-purpose flour — No baking powder or baking soda is required in this recipe!
- Eggs — Beating the eggs with sugar until doubled in volume acts as the leavening agent in this recipe.
- Sugar — Use white granulated sugar as the sweetener in this recipe.
- Unsalted butter — A whole cup of butter makes this cake rich and delicious!
- Flavorings — Both vanilla extract and almond extract go into the batter.
How to make Cranberry Coffee Cake
You’ll love this simple made-from-scratch cake! Best part? There’s no need for frosting. Instead, whisk up a powdered sugar glaze as the finishing touch for this delicious cranberry cake in just a few minutes!
STEP 1 | Preheat the oven and prepare the pan
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and be sure the rack is placed in the middle of the oven.
Then, lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray or cake release.
STEP 2 | Beat eggs with sugar
Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar. Use an electric mixer on high speed to beat the eggs and sugar together until the mixture is pale yellow and doubles in volume, about 6 to 8 minutes.
When you raise the beaters out of the bowl, the mixture should leave ribbons on top of the batter.
STEP 3 | Add butter, flavorings, and cranberries
Add the softened butter, cut into cubes, vanilla, and almond extract to the bowl and beat for 2 more minutes until the butter is completely incorporated and the batter is smooth.
Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour and cranberries until the dry ingredients are incorporated. The batter will be thick!
STEP 4 | Spread into pan and bake
STEP 5 | Cool cake completely
Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then run a sharp knife along the inside edge and remove the outer ring of the springform pan.
Place the cake on a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
STEP 6| Top the cake with vanilla glaze
In a small bowl, add the powdered sugar, almond extract and 1 tablespoon of the milk. Stir until incorporated. Add more milk, a teaspoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
Drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake and serve.
- If desired, place all the spices — cloves, allspice berries, and cinnamon sticks — in a square of cheesecloth and tie it with kitchen twine. Then, add apple slices to the cider instead.
- For an adult version, add one-half cup of dark rum, bourbon, or brandy to the simmering cider.
Variations and substitutions
- Since cranberry and orange flavors complement each other, you may enjoy making an orange glaze for this simple cake as a tasty variation. To do so, substitute fresh orange juice or orange extract for the milk and vanilla for the almond extract.
- If using frozen cranberries, thaw first and drain/dry well.
- To use dried cranberries, reduce the amount in the recipe to 1 2/3 cups.
- Store this sweet buttery cake tightly covered at room temperature for up to three days.
- If you’d like to make this cake ahead of time, you can freeze it WITHOUT the glaze. To freeze, cool the cake completely, then wrap it in plastic wrap and store it in a resealable freezer bag for up to a month. Thaw the cake overnight in the refrigerator, then add the glaze.
Frequently asked questions
If fresh isn’t available, you may substitute frozen cranberries. You’ll need 2 1/2 cups of frozen cranberries for this cake. You may also substitute dried cranberries in a crunch, but reduce the amount to 1 2/3 cups.
If using frozen, let them thaw first, and be sure to drain off any excess liquid. I would also recommend laying them on a paper towel-lined plate to dry before incorporating them into the batter.
Not at all! The cranberries will cook as the cake bakes and still hold up their shape. Cooking them first would result in a soggy mess, I’m afraid.
Use leftover fresh cranberries to make these pretty sugared cranberries for a lovely cranberry cake garnish!
Sugar-frosted cranberries are also a tasty snack and a lovely garnish for holiday drinks and cocktails — ’tis the season!
Behind the Recipe: Christmas Cranberry Cake
I’ve been dying to share this recipe with you ever since a friend brought her Cranberry Christmas Cake to a church function a couple of years ago. Everyone raved about the cake and, of course, I had to have the recipe!
My friend makes this cake in a Bundt pan, but I prefer making it in a springform pan. The cake seems to develop a more golden crust all around in the springform pan.
This recipe can also be baked in a loaf pan or in paper-lined muffin tins for cupcakes.
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Cranberry Christmas Cake
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter cubed and softened to room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 cups fresh cranberries 1 12-oz. bag
Powdered Sugar Glaze
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 -2 tablespoons milk
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan.
- Break the eggs into a large bowl and add the sugar. Use an electric mixer on high speed to beat the eggs and sugar together until the mixture is pale yellow and doubles in volume, about 6 to 8 minutes. When you raise the beaters out of the bowl, the mixture should leave ribbons on top of the batter.
- Add the softened butter, cut into cubes, vanilla, and almond extract to the bowl and beat for 2 more minutes, until the butter is completely incorporated and the batter is smooth.
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour and cranberries until the dry ingredients are incorporated. The batter will be thick!
- Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 60 minutes, until golden brown.
- Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then run a sharp knife along the inside edge and remove the outer ring of the springform pan. Cool completely before glazing.
Powdered Sugar Glaze
- In a small bowl, add the powdered sugar, almond extract and 1 tablespoon of the milk. Stir until incorporated. Add more milk, a teaspoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
- Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake and serve.
Life Love and Good Food does not claim to be a registered dietician or nutritionist. Nutritional information shared on this site is only an estimate. We recommend running the ingredients through an online nutritional calculator if you need to verify any information.
About Sheila Thigpen
Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer
Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.