Loaded with fresh cranberries and packed with orange flavour, this Cranberry Orange Cake with cream cheese frosting is a hit for any occasion!
Anyone else having a hard time getting back into the swing of things after the holiday season? It’s always a challenge for me this time of year. You’re coming off the high of the holidays and you’re immediately dropped right back into your routine the day after New Years. Personally, I would prefer a longer adjustment period.
If you’re anything like us, the holidays are still lingering throughout your place. Our tree is still up (though not for much longer), Christmas decorations are still peppered throughout our house, (likely expired) eggnog sits in our fridge, and leftover cranberries linger in the fruit & veg drawer.
I don’t like to see things go to waste, so I thought I would bake up this Cranberry Orange Cake as a sort of bridge between the holidays and citrus season (which is now in full swing).
I am a huge fan of citrus desserts. In fact, I often prefer them to anything with vanilla or chocolate. It’s actually a wonder I don’t have more recipes using citrus. I might look to change that and add a few lemon flavoured desserts to my repertoire this year!
This Cranberry Orange Cake is actually a long time coming. I planned to make it for the holidays last year, and then again this year (hence the lingering cranberries), but time just kinda got away from me. I spent a lot of time with my family in Nov and Dec, what with my sister visiting and all, and a lot of the baking just got back-burnered.
I used fresh cranberries in the cake, 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. The cake is delicate and delicious with bursts of tangy cranberry flavour throughout.
I chose to pair this Cranberry Orange Cake with a cream cheese frosting for some extra tang, but you could use an American buttercream or a silky Swiss meringue. Either would be equally delicious. I also added orange zest to my buttercream for more of that orange flavour and highly recommend doing that. You could leave the zest out, but you’d be missing out on a delicious hit of extra flavour.
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. 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 flavour combination works so well and I think it’s perfect for the season.
Tips for this Cranberry Orange Cake:
- 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 used three 8″ round pans for this cake, but you could easily use two 8″ or three 6″ rounds. Baking time will need to be adjusted since the layers will be thicker though.
- 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 flavour throughout.
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, see my Flat Top Cakes 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
- 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.