Cranberry Cake

updated Dec 14, 2023
Cranberry Cake

This soft, buttery cake is great for gifting during the holidays.

Makes1 (10inch) cake

Prep10 minutes to 20 minutes

Cook1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes

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cranberry cake fanned out on marble
Credit: Photo: Ryan Liebe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

While I can’t claim credit for this cranberry cake recipe (I got it from a friend, who got it from another friend), it’s not proprietary information. This cranberry cake can be yours too.

The first time I made this soft, buttery cake I ended up making it twice more, just for kicks. I couldn’t get enough of it. It’s sweet and dense without being heavy, and laden with tart cranberries. The cranberries are left proudly to their own devices — no sugar coating or orange zest needed.

How to Make Cranberry Cake

This cake is a little unusual in its construction, at least for bakers like myself who are most accustomed to cakes leavened with baking powder. It’s leavened instead by whipping the eggs and sugar together until lightened and increased in volume. This method produces an outrageously moist and tender cake with the richness of a classic fruit cake.

If you have a stand mixer, the process is very easy; it comes together in about 10 minutes. The baking takes longer; depending on the size of the cake pan, this can take well over an hour to bake, but I promise it’s worth it.

You can bake it in any size pan you like. I mixed it up last time with a double batch and did one in my usual 10-inch springform, plus some some cupcakes and small loaf pans. The loaves and smaller cupcake sizes make sweet and easy gifts for family and friends.

How to Serve Cranberry Cake

When serving, I often cover this cake in kirsch-flavored whipped cream, but lately I have been baking it with a topping of pecans caramelized in butter and brown sugar (you can try walnuts or almonds). It’s just another way to make it yours.

For packaging cakes like these, I like to bake them in disposable, pretty loaf pans or cupcake liners. Then, I use cellophane treat bags (find them at Michael’s or other craft stores), plain kraft paper tags, and some pretty ribbon to wrap them up. The cellophane keeps the cake fresh, and the ribbons and tags are so cute and easy.

Credit: Photo: Ryan Liebe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Cranberry Cake

This soft, buttery cake is great for gifting during the holidays.

Prep time 10 minutes to 20 minutes

Cook time 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes

Makes 1 (10inch) cake

Nutritional Info


  • 12 tablespoons

    (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

  • Cooking spray

  • 3

    large eggs

  • 2 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon

    almond extract (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2 1/2 cups

    fresh or frozen cranberries (12 ounces)

  • 2 cups

    all-purpose flour

Pecan topping (optional):

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup

    packed dark brown sugar

  • 1 cup

    raw pecans


  1. Cut 12 tablespoons unsalted butter into small cubes. Let sit at room temperature until softened, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 10-inch springform pan (or a collection of smaller baking pans or loaf pans — this recipe makes 10 to 12 cups of batter) with cooking spray.

  2. Place 3 large eggs and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Beat with the whisk attachment on medium speed until mixture is pale yellow, very smooth, and doubled in volume, 4 to 7 minutes. (If using an electric hand mixer, beat on high speed for 6 to 8 minutes.)

  3. Add the butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon almond extract if using, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Beat on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.

  4. Add 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries and 2 cups all-purpose flour. Fold together by hand with a flexible spatula until just combined. The batter will be quite thick. Transfer into the prepared pan(s) and spread into an even layer.

  5. To prepare the optional pecan topping, melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar and stir to combine. Add 1 cup raw pecans and cook, stirring constantly, until the butter-sugar mixture is shiny and smooth, and the nuts are well-coated, about 2 minutes. Spoon evenly on top of the cake batter.

  6. For a springform pan, bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 60 to 80 minutes. For smaller pans, start checking the cake after 30 minutes, but expect small loaves to take at least 40 minutes. Tent the cake with a sheet of aluminum foil in the last 30 minutes of baking to keep the top from browning (this is especially important for the pecan topping).

  7. Let cool for 20 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edges of the pan to loosen. Remove the cake from the pan and place on a wire rack. Let cool for at least 1 hour more before serving.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Wrap the fully cooled cake tightly in plastic wrap and and store in a dry, cool place for up to 1 week. To freeze, wrap the fully cooled cake in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight at room temperature, still wrapped.