This Cranberry Christmas Cake is the perfect holiday dessert. It’s extra moist and super flavorful thanks to brown sugar, cinnamon, a hint of orange zest, and fresh cranberries. Topped with white chocolate cream cheese frosting.
This cranberry cake is a holiday favorite that’s perfect for entertaining or for your Christmas dinner dessert. It’s a deliciously moist and tender cake that tastes seriously warm and cozy.
Brown sugar, cinnamon and a hint of orange zest complement the tart cranberries perfectly, and the cranberries add a pop of color that make the cake feel extra festive. Then to top it all off – it’s frosted with white chocolate cream cheese frosting. Heaven.
Basically, I like to think of this cranberry Christmas cake as a Starbucks cranberry bliss bar in moist, fluffy cake form.
Cranberry Christmas Cake
Ok – let’s talk about what makes this cake soooo delicious. If you want to get straight to the recipe, feel free to scroll down. But for more cake details, keep reading 😉
First, flavor. This cranberry cake is packed with flavor. We’re using:
- Brown sugar for a delicious caramel undertone
- A hint of cinnamon
- Orange zest to balance out the tart cranberries
- Fresh cranberries
The cake crumb is moist & tender, and the cake is a little denser than some other cake recipes. Think of the texture as similar to a spice cake or carrot cake, instead of super light like a white cake or angel food cake. The cake has a deliciously moist texture and soft crumb because we’re using buttermilk, sour cream & 3 large eggs.
*It’s super important not to over mix the batter or the cake can get dry and tough. Warm up the ingredients to room temperature before getting started so that they mix together evenly without having to over mix.
Then the frosting is just to die for. It’s a white chocolate cream cheese frosting that’s not too sweet and just plain delicious. Slightly tangy, perfectly creamy, and always delicious with a thick layer. I then added an extra drizzle of white chocolate and dried cranberries on top to give it that cranberry bliss bar look.
Now for a couple common questions:
Can I make the cranberry cake with dried cranberries? I recommend using fresh cranberries in the cake because dried cranberries are hard and chewy – which isn’t the best in cake. If they’re all you can find, soak them in warm water for 20 minutes first to help soften them. Then pat them dry.
Can I make this cranberry cake with frozen cranberries? Yes – just make sure they aren’t frozen in syrup. If using frozen cranberries, toss them in 2 teaspoons of flour first to minimize the juices bleeding through the batter. Do not thaw the cranberries before baking.
Can I make the cake ahead of time? Yes. The cake can be made 1 day ahead of time. Cool fully, then cover it and store at room temperature (unfrosted). The cake can also be frozen for up to 2 months. Make the cake & cool it fully. Then wrap tightly before freezing. Thaw in the fridge first, then bring it up to room temperature. Frost the cake the day you plan on serving it for best results.
For more cranberry recipes, try these other holiday favorites:
- Cranberry Orange Loaf
- Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies
- Pumpkin Cranberry Cake
- Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies
- Cranberry Orange Cake
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 2/3 cups brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 3 large eggs*
- 1/2 cup sour cream*
- 1/2 cup milk**
- 2 cups cranberries***
- 8 oz cream cheese brick style, full fat
- 6 oz white chocolate melted & cooled
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1-3 tablespoons cream
- 2 oz white chocolate melted
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 9x13 inch cake pan.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, & salt.
In a large bowl beat together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy (at least 2 minutes).
Add in the vanilla extract & orange zest, then mix in the eggs 1 at a time until combined.
In a liquid measuring cup whisk together the sour cream and milk.
With the mixer on low speed, beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture about 1/3 at a time alternating with about 1/3 of the sour cream & milk mixture until combined.
Gently fold in the cranberries with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
Pour/spoon the batter into the prepared pan & bake for 27-33 minutes, or until the top looks set and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until soft.
Beat in the white chocolate (make sure it's not piping hot before adding it in).
Mix in the powdered sugar about 1 cup at a time, alternating with the cream until the desired sweetness is reached.
Frost the cooled cake.
Sprinkle the top with dried cranberries and drizzle white chocolate on top.
*Make sure the eggs, sour cream & milk are at room temperature before adding them in. Take them out of the fridge 20 minutes before getting started. Or place eggs in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes. Sour cream & milk can be measured first, then warmed up in the microwave for 10 seconds at medium powder.
**Buttermilk preferred. 1%, 2% or whole milk work too.
***If using frozen cranberries, toss them in 2 teaspoons of flour before adding them to the batter. Do not thaw. If using dried cranberries, soak them in warm water for 20 minutes then pat them dry before using.
Leftovers can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 1 day, or in the fridge for up to 3 days.