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 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

4.86 from 785 votes
Tart fresh cranberries and sweet buttery cake are perfectly combined in this popular Christmas dessert!
Pin Print Review
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 5 mins
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. Valerie Spencer says

    Sorry, but I need to ask before investing time! (And cleanup). Is the 12oz of cranberries in the recipe by weight or volume? Thanks in advance!

  2. Fran Saddoris says

    Just FYI the cranberries are seasonal ! Only around during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Buy up the first you find…they will be best. I buy all I can find and place the bags in freezer. Never knew that until just recently. Can make fresh cranberry sauce too….so easy and good. Recipe on bags, usually. Clean under water and throw out bad ones. Hate to tell too many people…might be all gone before I get all I want.😊🤪

    The lady that had the cake that did not rise well, might have been the GF flour. Have had that problem before…just does not rise like other. She should try again with a little smaller pan.5 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      Good tips Fran! Just quit letting people in on the buy after the holidays and freeze tip. We don’t need that secret getting out there.:) Although last year the week after Christmas a local store had fresh cranberries for $.99 a bag, the shelf was rather empty after I went through. Good thing Thanksgiving is almost here as my stash is running LOW.

  3. Esther says

    Love, love this recipe! One of my all time favorites any time of the year, I request it for my bday- in June. I make it GF as I have Celiac’s Disease but I don’t tell anyone it’s GF until after they’ve eaten it and no one has ever suspected!5 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      You could make this into cupcakes. This recipe is a bit denser so I would check them at 15 minutes and keep an eye on them. If I were testing this I would plan on 15-20 minutes.

  4. Kate says

    This is a really GOOD cake. I’m thankful you shared the recipe (with clear directions). When I serve it, I feel like an expert baker. The orange zest is a wonderful addition.5 stars

  5. Nicole says

    Thank you for this wonderful recipe. I made it a few days ago and it is so delicious. I app4eciate the tips for making as Christmas gifts. Have you tried adding white chocolate chops? I’m wondering if I should reduce the quantity of cranberries I do add them.5 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      I have not tried it with white chocolate chips but they could likely be a nice addition. Personally, I would not change the quantity of cranberries though.

  6. Stacey Trap says

    Love this cake! It’s become a holiday favorite. I do add white chocolate chips, chopped pecans and just a touch of coconut (1/4) cup. The coconut is not noticeable except to keep moistness and adds a certain bite. Such a pretty cake.5 stars

  7. Chris vanKoeverden says

    I made this cake multiple times last Thanksgiving and Christmas. Was a favorite wherever I brought it. And, already bought 2 bags of Cranberries. In the freezer already. (And will buy more). Love this cake.5 stars

  8. Melody says

    It says you can use frozen cranberries. Do you thaw them first or add to dough still frozen? I thawed and I have a pink cake. Taste good still.

  9. Anna says

    I have made this cake many, many times…it is ALWAYS wonderful! I’ve made it gluten free and it’s been a big hit…I’ve made it the regular way and everyone raves about it! Today I made it with fresh orange zest and a heavy tablespoon of fresh squeezed orange juice, then after it came out of the oven I poured a glaze made with 3 tablespoons of fresh squeezed orange juice and 1/3 cup of sugar over the top of it while still warm ..it’s HEAVENLY!!!5 stars

  10. Adrienne Flowers says

    My cake/berry ratio is off, and I suspect it’s because my berries dried out and my 12oz of weight was a larger volume than usual. I’ll add slowly next time until it looks right. Still, delicious.

  11. Sharon Boteler says

    Could you substitute erythritol for the sugar? I’ve made this cake several times and it’s fabulous, but wondered if a sugar substitute would work.

  12. Ruth says

    Orange zest was mentioned in the comments but did not see it in the recipe. How much and how exactly do you zest an orange, I have troubles with this.

  13. Genie says

    I’m so in love with this cake that I baked it in advance and had it as my postpartum meal after birth! Thank you for this wonderful recipe, I only wish cranberries were in season longer so I could make it more often!5 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      I love that Genie! Congratulations on your little one. Cranberries are in the stores now buy extra and just pop the bags in your freezer. I do this and have them on hand year around.

  14. Alice says

    I would love to make this recipe, but the batter looks very thick and I don’t have a stand mixer. Is it possible to make this with a hand mixer?