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.

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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!

If my cranberry stash runs out frozen mixed berries work beautifully to make this sweet and buttery treat.

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

Cranberry Christmas Cake is everyone's favorite food gift for the holidays.

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.

The batter or "dough" for the cake is very thick. You'll need to press it into the pan.

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.

Cranberry Cake "batter" should be super thick!

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 dough for this cake should be very thick. You'll need to press it into the baking pans.

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.

For holiday gifting, I bake this cake in these 9-inch disposable cake pans. The pans come with a domed lid and make for a really nice gift at a terrifically inexpensive price. I use those same pans for pretty much all of my food gifts.

A doubled Cranberry Cake recipe will fill (4) 9-inch round pans for gifting.

A doubled recipe of this cake will just barely fit in my stand mixer (see photo above) and will fill (4) of these cake pans perfectly.

I line the disposable pans with parchment squares and it makes it very easy for the recipient to lift the cake out, slice, and serve. The baking time for (4) 9-inch pans in my oven at the same time is 60-65 minutes.

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!

Love this cake already, but wish it were even easier to stash in the freezer? Cranberry Christmas Cookies are just what you’re looking for and you’re going to love them every bit as much as this cake.

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.

“The sweet heat that you can not stop eating” is the best way to describe this creamy cranberry jalapeno dip. Double it for a crowd so you don’t run out!

Slightly chewy with a sweetly tart combination, cranberry oatmeal bars are full of cranberries and apples topped with brown sugar and oatmeal crumbs or try the same combination as a cranberry apple crisp.

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

4.87 from 965 votes
Tart fresh cranberries and sweet buttery cake are perfectly combined in this popular Christmas dessert!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
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 ¼ cup brown rice flour + ½ cup potato starch + ¼ cup tapioca starch + 1 teaspoon xanthan gum may be substituted for the amount of all-purpose flour listed in the ingredients above.
BEFORE YOU BAKE THIS CAKE – please read through the frequently asked questions. If you have a question, please read through the questions that have already been answered here. The odds are good that your question has been answered many times already.

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
Tried this recipe?Mention @barefeetkitchen or tag #barefeetkitchen!

{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. Barb says

    I used sweetened dried cranberries which I soaked for half hour to rehydrate. And I cut back on the sugar by half cup. It took just 40 minutes to bake in a 9×13 inch pan and it rose nicely.
    It was delicious!5 stars

  2. Asella T. says

    I LOVE this recipe and my family does too! I make this yummie treat as often as I can! Thank you for sharing your wonderful cranberry Christmas cake recipe!5 stars

  3. Joan Martin says

    Love this cake! I found the recipe on 12tomatoes, and thankfully, they linked back to yours. Theirs had a brown sugar topping and used baking powder & salt in the cake. I just made this for the 2nd time, as requested by the mister.5 stars

  4. Vicky Connolly says

    This cake has good flavor but the batter is very thick and hard to spread in a buttered pan. A heads up would have been nice. Not sure i will make it again.3 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      If you had read through the extensive FAQs and instructions here, in addition to seeing the numerous step by step photos AND the video included, you’d have understand exactly what the batter for this recipe should both look and feel like. I’m glad you enjoyed the cake.

  5. Tracy Sealy says

    Do you think this recipe would work in a bundt form? We’ve made dozens of times and absolutely LOVE this cake. We’ve also substituted the cranberries with fresh blueberries and lemon zest…equally as delicious!

  6. menkens says

    Okay — I wanted to “experiment” with 1-1/2 cup sugar substitute (Stevia used in other recipes successfully) and same amount of oil substitute (applesauce) — again successfully in the past separately or together. Did not work welll in this recipe as mini-muffins. They did look very pretty but more like cookie dough as one person said who really liked them — I did add 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon of almond extract. I’m going to continue “experimenting” to improve the texture of the final product — I got 29 mini-muffins filled pretty much to the top; they did not expand while cooking but kept their form.3 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      Wow, you changed the recipe pretty dramatically if you skipped the butter and swapped in applesauce. In my experience, recipes with only handful of ingredients do not lend themselves well to this type of substitution. Hopefully you’ll be able to come up with something that works for your needs.

  7. Suzanne says

    I have made this many times and always loved it! this time I tried using frozen cranberries. It did not turn out well. Not only did the cake not rise much, also, it did not form the sugary crust on top. I think I will stick to using fresh cranberries in the future I am sad it didn’t turn out well because I was planning to take this to an event tomorrow. I am rating this a five because this is such a great recipe if you use fresh cranberries.5 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      I’m thrilled you like the cake so much and I’m a little confused as to how it turned out so differently for you with frozen cranberries, as I use frozen cranberries nearly every time I make this cake. Is it possible that the cake wasn’t fully cooked? Did you add an extra minute or two to compensate for the frozen ingredients?

  8. Shelly says

    I’ve been making this cake for years. I buy fresh cranberries and freeze them to have throughout the year. It has always looked like your photos in every step. And I have never had a bad cake. Ever. I have taken this to events and made for people who don’t eat cake and they have all raved over it. I’m making one tonight for church tomorrow and I know again it will be a hit. Love it. I use almond extract because I don’t like vanilla anything and I think it brings a great balance to the flavor. ❤️❤️❤️❤️ five stars5 stars

  9. Marie Catchel says

    Excellent cake, but I can’t help but be turned off by the belittling and rude responses to reader questions from the author. Be a little more patient with people, or don’t reply at all since you don’t have much nice to say. What a shame to read.4 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      Bless your heart, Marie. If I’ve belittled any readers, that was never my intention. I get hundred of questions on this post and I do my level best to answer them. However, the vast majority of those questions have already been addressed in the body of the post and also answered repeatedly. I’m glad that you enjoyed the cake and I’m sorry to hear that you have been offended by my tone here. I wish you only the best.

  10. Andrea Rhoda says

    I’m interested in adding the orange extract and/or zest to this recipe. Any thoughts as to how much? Anything that is cranberry orange in a recipe is a winner in our household! Thanks for the help!

    • Mary Younkin says

      I hope you love the cake, Andrea. Depending on how strong an orange flavor you want there to be, I’d start with a teaspoon or so of extract and up to a tablespoon of finely minced zest.

  11. Sylvia Coleman says

    I make this several times a year. I add slivered almonds on top and it is amazing! Thank you for sharing this.5 stars

  12. Christine says

    Gluten free question here: Instead of combining the brown rice flour + potato starch + tapioca starch + xanthan gum, could I just use regular *gluten free flour* (which contains xanthan gum)? It’s what I have handy at home so thought I would ask!

    Thanks!5 stars

  13. Annegret (Anne) Winsor says

    I’m visiting my brother in Germany and he had some cranberries he didn’t know what to do with. I had seen this recipe before so I made it for him.5 stars

  14. Melinda says

    This cake is perfect as is, it’s a huge hit and I’ve made it many times since seeing it on Dale Calders video. In the spring I swap in blueberry and lemon zest. I also make with my mom’s favorite, rhubarb! Make sure to defrost, drain, and pat dry if using frozen rhubarb. Tomorrow I’m trying frozen peaches for the first time for our local firemen’s benefit. Thanks for such a beloved recipe5 stars