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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!

Why you’ll love this Cranberry Christmas Cake Recipe!

  • Bursting with Cranberry Flavor. Tart cranberries infuse this cake with a tangy and slightly sweet taste.
  • Moist with a Tender Crumb. The juice from the cranberries adds a moist texture to this cake for days.
  • Versatile Holiday Recipe. Bake this cake to enjoy at Christmas Eve Brunch, with afternoon tea, or in small loaf pans for gift-giving.

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!

ingredients for cranberry cake

Ingredient notes

  • 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

preparing batter for cranberry cake.

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

spreading cranberry christmas cake batter into a springform pan.

Using a rubber spatula, spread the batter into the prepared springform pan and bake for 60 minutes, until golden brown.

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

process shots for making glaze for cranberry cake

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.

tips

  • 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.

If you like my cranberry Christmas cake, be sure to try this fruit-filled traditional Christmas cake recipe as well as my popular Christmas Rum Cake to make your celebrations extra special!

a slice of cranberry cake on  Christmas china plate

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.

Storage tips

  • 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

Can frozen cranberries be substituted for fresh?

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.

Do I need to thaw frozen cranberries?

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.

Do you need to cook cranberries before baking?

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.

Serving suggestions

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!

a slice of cranberry cake on Christmas china plate

Love cranberries?

You must try my pink Cranberry Fluff, this festive Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti dipped in creamy white chocolate, and my citrusy and tangy cranberry muffins. Top it all off with this bubbly and bright Cranberry White Grape Christmas Punch!

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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a slice of cranberry cake on Christmas china plate

Cranberry Christmas Cake

Cranberry Christmas Cake is a beautifully festive ending for any holiday dinner or makes a lovely brunch cake. In fact, it's a sweet addition to any gathering during the season!
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Cakes
Cuisine American
Servings 12 servings
Calories 368 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Video

Notes

  • If using frozen cranberries, thaw first and drain/dry well.
  • To use dried cranberries, reduce the amount in the recipe to 1 2/3 cup.
  • Store the cake tightly covered at room temperature for up to three days.
  • To freeze, cool the cake completely then wrap in plastic wrap and store in a resealable freezer bag for up to a month. Thaw the cake overnight in the refrigerator, then add the glaze.
  • Nutrition

    Serving: 1gCalories: 368kcalCarbohydrates: 60gProtein: 4gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 77mgSodium: 198mgFiber: 1gSugar: 43g

    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.

    Keyword baking, cake, cranberries, dessert, easy recipe, powdered sugar glaze
    Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was.
    Sheila Thigpen, blogger

    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.

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