Loaded with fresh cranberries and packed with orange flavor, this Cranberry Orange Cake with cream cheese frosting is a hit for any occasion!
Something about the sweet-tart flavor is irresistible. Maybe the fact that they’re not as cloyingly sweet as a lot of desserts or that they just feel more refreshing. I don’t know. They are delicious!
How to Make this Cranberry Orange Cake
I modified my favorite Vanilla Cake recipe to make this cake but adding orange zest and juice to the batter. Then just folded in some cranberries at the end.
I used fresh cranberries, but you could use frozen as well (don’t thaw them first). It’s important that you toss them in a bit of flour so that they don’t sink in your cake batter whether they’re fresh or frozen.
I intentionally made the layers on the thinner side — they are about 1″ tall each, slightly more. I wanted a better balance of frosting to cake without the cake being too large. If you like, you can 1.5x the recipe for taller layers (see Tips section).
The cake is delicate and delicious with bursts of orange and tangy cranberry flavor throughout.
Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
I chose to pair this Cranberry Orange Cake with a cream cheese frosting for some extra tang, but you could use an American buttercream, a Swiss meringue buttercream, or even German or Ermine frosting. Any of those options would be equally delicious.
I added orange zest to my buttercream for more of that orange flavor and highly recommend doing that. You could leave the zest out, but you’d be missing out on a delicious hit of extra flavor.
I kept the decorating simple with just a swirl through the frosting on the sides and top. This is a really easy technique — all you need to do it is a cake turntable (mine is a $10 lazy susan from Ikea) and an offset spatula.
For the top of the cake I decorated it with some fresh cranberries, orange slices, and sprigs of thyme and I love how it turned out! If you prefer, you can use sugared cranberries as decoration instead of plain ones to give the cake more of a winter/holiday vibe.
This Cranberry Orange Cake is moist, tender, and so delicious. The flavor combination works so well and I think it’s perfect for the holiday season.
Tips for this Cranberry Orange Cake:
- The cake layers will be just over 1″ tall. This is intentional as I wanted a better cake to frosting ratio. If you like, you can 1.5x the recipe for taller layers.
- The recipe as-is will also work in two 8″ pans or three 6″ pans, but will make taller layer (~2″ each). Baking time will need to be increased.
- To make cupcakes, all you need to do is reduce the baking time — start checking at 15mins or so.
- You can use fresh or frozen (unthawed) cranberries. Either way, be sure to toss them in a bit of flour so they don’t sink while baking.
- I recommend beating the butter and orange zest together for both the cake and the frosting as a first step. This really helps infuse that orange flavor throughout.
- The cooled cake layers can be baked ahead of time, double wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 3 months. Take out 2-3 hours before assembly.
- The frosting can be placed in an airtight container and refrigerated for 1 week for frozen for 3 months. Bring to room temp and rewhip before using.
- Learn how to keep your cakes moist using Simple Syrup.
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, check out my How to Bake Flat Cake Layers post!
Cranberry Orange Cake
Cranberry Orange Cake:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 Tbsp orange zest from one large orange
- 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup milk room temperature
- 1/2 cup orange juice fresh squeezed, from one large orange
- 1 cup cranberries heaping, coated in 1 Tbsp flour
Cream Cheese Buttercream:
- fresh cranberries
- orange slices if desired
- thyme sprigs if desired
Cranberry Orange Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour three 8″ cake rounds and line with parchment.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and orange zest until smooth. Add sugar and beat on med-high until pale and fluffy (approx 3mins).
- Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla.
- Alternate adding flour mixture with milk & orange juice, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk & orange juice). Fully incorporating after each addition.
- Toss cranberries in 1 Tbsp of flour. Gently fold cranberries into cake batter.
- Spread batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops.
- Bake for 25-30mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
- Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10mins then turn out onto wire rack.
Cream Cheese Buttercream:
- Beat butter and orange zest until smooth. Add cream cheese and beat until smooth and combined.
- Slowly add in 5 cups powdered sugar (1/2 cup at a time). Add vanilla. Beat on med-high for 5mins. Reduce speed to low and beat for 2mins.
- Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Top with approximately 1 cup of buttercream. Repeat with remaining layers and crumb coat the cake. Chill for 20mins.
- Frost the top and sides of the cake with remaining frosting. Do a swirl on the sides and top using a large offset spatula.
- Do a crown of cranberries on top and add orange slices and thyme sprigs if desired.
Originally published on Jan 7, 2018