Cranberry Christmas Cake

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This Cranberry Christmas Cake is one of those recipes that is an instant favorite every single time someone new tastes it.

Tart cranberries, sweet buttery cake, and a fantastic texture all combined to basically beg me to eat another piece.

Cranberry Christmas Cake recipe by Barefeet In The Kitchen

About ten years ago, my friend Valerie made this cake to share with some friends. The moment I tasted it, I asked her if she would share the recipe.

This is an absolutely perfect cake that takes very little effort to make. No icing, no topping, nothing else is necessary at all. It was reminiscent to me of a coffee cake in texture but much lighter than the typical heavy version.

This might be the only cake I’ve ever tasted that basically screams holidays to me. It is pure heaven to eat.

I made nine different desserts for a Thanksgiving event the first year I made this cake and this was my absolute favorite, by far. That hasn’t changed a bit over the subsequent years since we first tried this cake.

While I have no problem sending almost all other leftover sweets home with friends and family, I always save a few small pieces of this once just for myself.

This Cranberry Christmas Cake is one of my all-time favorite treats to enjoy with Cafe con Leche in the morning, afternoon, or evening.

Cranberry Cake is the Christmas dessert that everyone loves.

I’ve learned to stock up on cranberries each year. That way I will always have them in my freezer and we’ll be able to enjoy this cake throughout the year.

You’ll be wishing you had a few bags stashed in the freezer as well, just as soon as you take the first bite of this Cranberry Christmas Cake!

BEFORE YOU BAKE THIS CAKE – please read through the frequently asked questions. If you do have a question, please read through those questions. The odds are good that the question has been answered many times already.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Yes, you will use fresh, raw cranberries for this recipe. They will soften and burst as the cake bakes. There is a good bit of sugar in this recipe and it balances the tartness of the cranberries.

Yes, you can use frozen cranberries. I buy multiple bags of fresh cranberries every year when they start appearing in the stores. Just toss them straight into the freezer to have them on hand through the year. I use frozen cranberries almost every time I make this cake.

Cranberry Cake "batter" should be super thick!

However, the dough will “freeze” up a bit and become even thicker and it will be somewhat more difficult to stir in the cranberries. I find it easiest to let the frozen berries thaw on the counter for a little while as I’m beginning to prepare the cake.

This is a very thick batter that will resemble cookie dough when it has finished mixing. You will need to press it into the pan to spread it out.

There is no baking soda or baking powder needed in this recipe. The extended beating time for the eggs provides the necessary leavening for the cake.

You need to beat the eggs until the batter forms a “ribbon” off of the beaters. Do not shorten or skip the beating process.

Cranberry Cake process - beating the eggs and sugar

If you read through the comments, you’ll see countless variations that I’ve made and other readers have made for this recipe. Blueberries swap nicely for the cranberries. Adding nuts to the recipe works too.

The addition of orange zest, orange extract, or almond extract works nicely as well. The gluten-free substitution is listed in the recipe notes.

The cake can be made in a variety of different cake pans. It can also be made into cupcakes and mini loaves. Watch the baking time and adjust as needed.

Cranberry Christmas Cake - with just six ingredients!

One of the most frequently asked questions is whether you can bake this in a bundt pan. I do not personally recommend that. Yes, many people in the comments have said that it works, and I’ve tested it in a bundt twice myself, however, it isn’t the same cake that way.

(Once it fell apart on me and another time it worked fine.) If you do decide you must use a bundt pan, grease the pan HEAVILY with butter and then flour the pan generously.

The biggest downside to baking this cake in a bundt pan is that you will miss out on the best part, that lovely crust that forms on the top of the cake.

There is no glaze on this cake. The crust forms as the cake bakes and winds up looking as pictured in the photos.

Cranberry Christmas Cake - process shot before baking

I store this cake at room temperature, either uncovered or very loosely covered.

This is a moist cake and the crust will soften a great deal if it is stored airtight. It will still be tasty, but it won’t be the same the next day if it’s kept airtight.

If you freeze this cake, thaw it uncovered at room temperature if possible.

Cranberry Cake is a holiday favorite!

Cranberry Recipes

For more ways to use fresh cranberries, check out these Cranberry Brownies. I think they’re my favorite brownies ever!

Cranberry Pepper Jam is a year-round favorite. I make as much as possible each time I can get my hands on cranberries. On a fancy cheeseboard or just on a cracker, this jam rocks.

Nantucket Christmas Cranberry Pie and this Cranberry Apple Tart are both great new ways to make the most of the available cranberries during the holiday season.

Cranberry Pistachio Snack Mix by Foodie with Family and these Cranberry Rolls with Orange Icing by The Noshery are holiday favorites too.

Cranberry Ginger Sugar Cookies by 365 Days of Baking and Cranberry White Chocolate Shortbread by Love from the Oven are also on my list to try soon.

I recommend stocking up on plenty of cranberries so that you can enjoy these recipes all year long.

Cranberry Christmas Cake on plate

Cranberry Christmas Cake Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. With a mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until slightly thickened and light in color, about 5-7 minutes. The mixture should almost double in size. The eggs work as your leavening agent in this recipe, so do not skip this step.
  3. The sugar and egg mixture should form a ribbon when you lift the beaters out of the bowl.
  4. Add the butter and vanilla; mix two more minutes. Stir in the flour until just combined.
  5. Add the cranberries and stir to mix throughout.
  6. Spread in a buttered 9×13 pan. (This pan is my favorite!)
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. (I baked mine for 43 minutes.) Let cool completely before cutting into small slices.
  8. I cut mine into fairly small pieces, about 1″ x 2″ so that they could be easily eaten at a party.
Cranberry Cake for the holidays

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Cranberry Christmas Cake

4.86 from 431 votes
Tart fresh cranberries and sweet buttery cake are perfectly combined in this popular Christmas dessert!
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Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 5 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 16 servings

Ingredients 

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour * see note below for gluten-free alternative
  • 12 oz fresh cranberries

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until slightly thickened and light in color, about 5-7 minutes. The mixture should almost double in size. The eggs work as your leavening agent in this recipe, so do not skip this step. This mixture should form a ribbon when you lift the beaters out of the bowl.
  • Add the butter and vanilla; mix two more minutes. Stir in the flour until just combined. Add the cranberries and stir to mix throughout.
  • Spread in a buttered 9×13 pan. (This pan is my favorite!) Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. (I baked mine for 43 minutes.)
  • Let cool completely before cutting into small slices. I cut mine into fairly small pieces, about 1"x2", so that they could be easily eaten at a party. Enjoy!

Notes

* Gluten-Free Substitution: 1 1/4 cup brown rice flour + 1/2 cup potato starch + 1/4 cup tapioca starch + 1 teaspoon xanthan gum may be substituted for the amount of all-purpose flour listed in the ingredients above.

Nutrition

Calories: 252kcal · Carbohydrates: 39g · Protein: 2g · Fat: 9g · Saturated Fat: 5g · Cholesterol: 53mg · Sodium: 88mg · Potassium: 48mg · Fiber: 1g · Sugar: 25g · Vitamin A: 325IU · Vitamin C: 2.8mg · Calcium: 11mg · Iron: 0.9mg
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{originally posted 12/2/11 – recipe notes and photos updated 11/9/20}

Cranberry Christmas Cake is like no other cake you've ever tasted! Stash those cranberries in the freezer, because you're going to want to make this one all year long. Get the recipe at barefeetinthekitchen.com

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Mary Younkin

Mary Younkin

Hi, I’m Mary. I’m the author, cook, photographer, and travel lover behind the scenes here at Barefeet In The Kitchen. I'm also the author of three cookbooks dedicated to making cooking from scratch as simple as possible.

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  1. holly barrett says

    Could you add orange flavoring or zest to this cranberry cake recipe, you think? I live that orange cranberry combo!

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