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Cranberry Christmas Cake

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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 an almond-flavored powdered sugar glaze.

Not only is this cake delicious, it’s 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!

Plus, this tasty homemade dessert is so simple to put together, it’s what every busy hostess needs!

a slice of cranberry cake on  Christmas china plate

Cranberry Christmas 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.

ingredients for cranberry cake

Ingredients

  • Cranberries — When in season, fresh cranberries are preferred, however you may substitute frozen cranberries.
  • All-purpose flour — No baking powder or baking soda required in this recipe!
  • Eggs — Beating the eggs with sugar until doubled in volume acts as the leavening agent in this recipe.
  • Sugar — white granulated
  • Unsalted butter — A whole cup of butter makes this cake rich and delicious!
  • Kosher salt — flavor enhancer
  • Vanilla and almond extracts
adding butter to the batter for cranberry cake

How to make cranberry cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour and cranberries until the dry ingredients are incorporated. The batter will be thick!
  5. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 60 minutes, until golden brown.
  6. 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.
folding in flour and cranberries into cake batter

PRO TIP: Since the fresh cranberries are added along with the flour to the batter, there’s no need to toss them in flour first (like in my Cranberry Orange Bread recipe). Be sure that the cranberries are dry, however, before you add them in.

spreading cranberry cake batter in a springform pan

Preparing the pan

I baked my cake in a heavy duty springform pan and used a small amount of shortening to lightly grease the bottom and sides. This was ample to keep the cake from sticking.

You could also apply a light coating of non-stick cooking spray if you don’t have vegetable shortening in your pantry.

After cooling in the pan for about 20 minutes I ran a thin sharp knife around the interior wall and the cake came out beautifully!

cranberry. cake cooling on a wire rack
Cranberry Christmas Cake is delicious with or without the glaze!

Can frozen cranberries be substituted for fresh?

If fresh aren’t available, you may substitute frozen cranberries. You’ll need 2 1/2 cups of frozen cranberries for this cake. In a crunch, you may also substitute dried cranberries, but reduce the amount to 1 2/3 cup.

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 recommend laying them on a paper towel lined plate to dry before incorporating into the batter, too.

Do you have 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.

Finish the cake with a powdered sugar glaze

process shots for making glaze for cranberry cake

It only takes a couple of minutes to whisk up a powdered sugar glaze as the finishing touch for this cranberry cake. All you need is confectioner’s sugar, a little milk and almond extract.

  1. 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.
  2. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake and serve.

PRO TIP: Since cranberry and orange flavors compliment each other, you may enjoy making an orange glaze for this cake as a tasty variation. To do so, substitute orange juice for the milk and vanilla for the almond extract.

a slice of cranberry cake on Christmas china plate

Can you freeze cranberry cake?

If you’d like to make this cake ahead of time, you can certainly freeze it WITHOUT the glaze. 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.

How about a sugar frosted cranberry garnish?

If you have leftover fresh cranberries, I think these pretty sugar frosted cranberries would be a lovely cranberry cake garnish! Sugar frosted cranberries are also a tasty snack and a lovely garnish for holiday drinks and cocktails.

Please share!

Your shares are how this site grows and I appreciate each one. Do you know someone who would enjoy this recipe? I’d love it if you would share it on Facebook or on your favorite Pinterest board!

Yield: 12 servings

Cranberry Christmas Cake

a slice of cranberry cake on Christmas china plate

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!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

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

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour and cranberries until the dry ingredients are incorporated. The batter will be thick!
  5. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 60 minutes, until golden brown.
  6. 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

  1. 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.
  2. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake and serve.

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.
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    Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    12

    Serving Size:

    1

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 368Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 77mgSodium: 198mgCarbohydrates: 60gFiber: 1gSugar: 43gProtein: 4g

    Did you make this recipe?

    Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

    ABOUT SHEILA
    Sheila Thigpen, author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook, is a recipe developer, food photographer, and food writer. She spent 20+ years as a business manager in the publishing industry before she retired in 2018 to focus on her passions — cooking, photography, and writing. Living near the beautiful Smoky Mountains, Sheila and her husband have two adult daughters and two fine sons-in-law, are active in their church, love to travel, and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. Follow Sheila on YouTubePinterestInstagramFacebook, and Twitter!

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