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Cranberry Christmas Cake

This easy Cranberry Christmas Cake has a light streusel topping and it’s perfect for dessert, a holiday morning breakfast, or for homemade gifts.

Christmas morning is special; it’s even more so with a cup of coffee and a slice of Cranberry Christmas Cake baked the day before. You read that correctly, I am among those who believe homemade cake is usually better the next day; if you do a lot of holiday baking you may have discovered this by accident.

Cranberry Cake should really be enjoyed all year round, and this recipe has some flexibility for non-holiday baking. Some people like to switch blueberries for cranberries when they make this cake recipe outside of November and December. If you choose to do so, you don’t need to alter the recipe, just swap the berries!

a closeup of cranberry christmas cake topped with fresh cranberries and a sprig of fresh rosemary

Main Cranberry Cake Ingredients

  • Cake: Basic pantry staples is all that is needed for this cake recipe.
  • Streusel Topping: This light streusel topping is made with brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and unsalted butter.
  • Garnishments (optional): For beautifully decorated cake and a little extra flavor try topping with these homemade Sugared cranberries (or fresh cranberries), a sprig of rosemary and powdered sugar.

(Scroll down to the bottom for the printable recipe card with all ingredients, exact measurements and recipe instructions.)

a closeup of a slice of cranberry christmas cake

Cranberry Christmas Cake Tips & Hacks

  • When making dishes with cranberries, you can swap fresh for frozen, but make sure the frozen berries are thawed, drained, and dried with a paper towel. Putting frozen cranberries in your mix without thawing them can make blending the recipe much more difficult.
  • Some believe storing cakes like these in airtight containers makes them dry out faster. Your results may vary, but it’s worth noting.
  • The cranberries soften during the baking process; you won’t need to pre-cook them unless you just want to give it a try to see how it affects the overall presentation.
  • Take the time to make some sugared cranberries for the topping. This Cranberry Christmas Cake is much better using them. Keep in mind that this topping tastes great on its own and you’ll want to make some extra!
  • I recommend a 9 x 13 pan but most cake pans will work as long as the baking time is adjusted. I do not recommend using a bundt pan but increase your baking time if you do.
  • Store the cake uncovered or loosely covered at room temperature.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature, whatever you prefer.
  • Cranberry Christmas Cake makes a wonderful homemade gift. Bake in a 9 inch disposable cake, place a gift box, add a bow, and you’re all set.
cranberry christmas cake topped with fresh cranberries and a sprig of fresh rosemary

Can Frozen Cranberries be Substituted for Fresh?

Yes, frozen cranberries can be used in place of fresh. I buy quite a few bags of fresh cranberries every year and pop them in the freezer to use all year long. Be sure to thaw them first in a colander so the liquid drains off, then gently pat them dry with a paper towel. Measure the cranberries before they’re thawed to avoid adding to many cranberries to the recipe.

Dried cranberries can also be used but won’t produce as good of a result. Just soak the cranberries in boiling water, sit for 10 to 15 minutes and strain. Measure after soaking the dried cranberries

Christmas Cake Toppings

This cranberry Christmas cake calls for a streusel topping and really it’s delicious without any toppings. However, here are some other tasty toppings if you like it a little extra sweet. It’s also great served with vanilla ice cream

  • Caramel
  • Orange glaze
  • Cranberry orange sauce
  • Cream cheese frosting
  • Butter sauce
  • Fresh nutmeg
  • Whipped cream (regular, sweetened or flavored)
  • Nuts on top e.g. pecans, almonds

What can you do with cranberries besides Cranberry Christmas Cake?

There are so many wonderful recipes out there using cranberries, and not all of them are desserts! Here are a few of my favorites:

cranberry christmas cake topped with fresh cranberries and a sprig of fresh rosemary

Make it a festive evening and pair this cranberry Christmas cake with these winter cocktails!

cranberry christmas cake topped with fresh cranberries and a sprig of fresh rosemary

Cranberry Christmas Cake

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

This easy Cranberry Cake has a light streusel topping and it's perfect for dessert, a holiday morning breakfast, or for homemade gifts.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup half & half (can also use buttermilk)
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

Streusel Topping

  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

Additional Toppings

  • powdered sugar
  • [fresh or sugared cranberries]
  • a sprig of rosemary (just for garnish)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until it's lighter in color and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after adding each one. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix until it's combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 cups of flour, the salt and baking powder.
  5. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed just until it's combined.
  6. Add a third of the half & half and blend it again. Continue until all of the flour and half & half has been added and mixed in. (Note: take care not to over-mix the batter; beat just until it's combined).
  7. In a small bowl, toss the fresh cranberries with the remaining flour until they're completely coated. Fold the cranberries carefully into the batter.
  8. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8-inch springform pan, then spread it out evenly to the edges.
  9. Sprinkle the sliced almonds evenly over the top of the batter, gently pressing them into the batter to adhere.
  10. Bake for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl.
  11. Add the butter and, using a fork, mix and press it together until it's blended and the mixture forms small crumbs.
  12. Quickly remove the cake from the oven and sprinkle on the streusel mixture, then sprinkle with the sliced almonds.
  13. Return the pan to the oven and bake another 20 minutes or until the top of the cake is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a crumb or two.
  14. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully release the cake from the pan and remove it, then cool it completely on the wire rack.
  15. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar and top with more fresh or sugared cranberries and a sprig of rosemary.

Notes

Add nuts to the recipe if desired.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 481Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 75mgSodium: 299mgCarbohydrates: 80gFiber: 3gSugar: 47gProtein: 8g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix.

Kristy Bernardo
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