This Cranberry Orange Cake has a cranberry jam filling and is topped with an orange zest frosting that is truly out of this world! You can use fresh or frozen cranberries for this cake. Top with sugared cranberries and orange slices for the perfect Christmas dessert.
This cake is pure magic. It was so fun to make. I enjoy the entire process of baking the cake, making the cranberry filling, whipping up the orange frosting, decorating it with sugared cranberries and orange slices. It is a true work of art. I believe you’re going to love making it too!
Since cranberries are easy to find in the grocery stores during the holiday season, Christmas time is the best time to make this cake. Wow your family and friends by bringing this cake to your next holiday celebration!
If you’re interested in more cranberry orange baked goods, check out these cranberry orange scones or cranberry orange shortbread cookies! If you’re looking for another incredibly beautiful (and simple) cake to make, try this chocolate sour cream pound cake with chocolate ganache.
Why You’ll Love This Cake
- It’s Perfect for Christmas – Cranberries are in season. Celebrations are abundant. Why not make this cake to bring to your Christmas get-together?!
- Cranberries and Oranges Complement Each Other – This flavor combination is so good. The tart cranberries along with the sweet orange frosting. They work well together and make a delicious cake.
- Feeds a Crowd – This is a two-layer cake and it will feed about 16-20 people!
- It’s Beautiful – If you’re like me and love the process of creating something beautiful, you’re going to love baking this cake. There are multiple steps, but breaking it down step-by-step, you’ll create a fantastically tasting and beautiful work on art. I thoroughly enjoyed decorating this cake.
For the Cake:
- Granulated Sugar
- Orange Zest – I mix the orange zest with the sugar to bring out the orange flavor in this cake.
- Butter – Use room temperature butter. I use salted butter. If you use unsalted, lovely. Just add an extra 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the batter when you add the salt.
- Eggs – Mix these in one at a time.
- Buttermilk – I prefer to use this over regular milk because it adds more moisture. I make my own substitute. Instructions below walk you through how to make your own as well.
- Vanilla Extract – Vanilla extract adds so much flavor to baked goods!
- Almond Extract – I add a little of this to the cake because it enhances the orange flavor.
- Orange Juice – I used the juice from oranges, but you can use store bought orange juice as well.
- All-Purpose Flour
- Baking Soda
- Cranberries – Fresh or frozen cranberries can work here. If using frozen, make sure to keep them frozen until just before adding them to the batter.
For the Cranberry Jam:
- Chopped Cranberries – Fresh or frozen work here also.
- Granulated Sugar
- Orange Juice
For the Orange Frosting:
- Cream Cheese – I recommend full fat cream cheese. I use one 8-ounce block of cream cheese for this recipe.
- Heavy Cream
- Vanilla Extract
- Powdered Sugar
- Orange Juice
- Orange Zest
See recipe card for quantities.
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare 2 round 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper. Set aside. Combine the granulated sugar and orange zest. This will enhance the orange flavor in the cake. To zest the orange, simply grate the outside rind with a citrus zester or cheese grater (I use a cheese grater, I don’t need another appliance in this kitchen!).
Step 2: Next, cream the butter and sugar mixture together for about two minutes with a hand mixer or stand mixer.
Step 3: Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla and almond extract, buttermilk, and orange juice, making sure to mix continuously.
Step 4: In a separate mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.
Step 5: Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Mix together until just combined, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to incorporate all the ingredients.
Step 6: Fold in the fresh or frozen cranberries. If you’re using frozen cranberries, make sure they stay frozen until just before you add them to the mixing bowl. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a pink batter, which, I guess would be pretty cute, so you do you.
Step 7: Evenly divide the batter between the two cake pans. Place both the pans in the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 35 minutes. Stick a toothpick in the center of the cakes. If moist crumbs still stick to them, the cakes are ready to come out of the oven. If wet batter still sticks to the toothpicks, bake them for a bit longer.
Step 8: While the cakes are baking, make the cranberry jam. To make the cranberry jam, you’ll need cranberries, orange juice, granulated sugar, and water.
Step 9: Add all the ingredients to a saucepan over medium heat on the stove. Stir continuously as the mixture heats up. You’ll start hearing the cranberries popping. This is a good sign!
Step 10: The mixture will start to boil and thicken. Once there is no more liquid, it’s done.
Step 11: The jam should look like this once it’s done. Then, allow it to cool while the cakes cool.
Step 12: Allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting them. You can also bake the cakes (and jam) a day ahead and finish the cake the next day. To do so, wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and store in the fridge or room temperature overnight.
Step 13: Once the cakes are cooled, make the frosting. To do so, first mix together the cream cheese until it’s soft and creamy. Then add the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix on medium/high speed until the frosting it whipped and creamy. Finally, mix in the orange juice and orange zest with a spatula.
Step 14: Add about 1/2 cup of the frosting into a piping bag and frost the outside top of the bottom layer of the cake. This is not necessary if the jam is nice and thick, but it helps keep everything together if it isn’t. Then use an offset spatula to spread the jam on top of the bottom layer.
Step 15: Once the jam is added, frost over the jam. Then, add the top layer cake and frost the entire cake. Decorate the cake with orange slices and cranberries. If you wish to decorate with sugared cranberries, follow the next steps to make them.
Step 16: Add the water and sugar to a saucepan over medium heat until it starts to boil and become thick and syrupy.
Step 17: Add the cranberries, mixing them completely into the syrup, and remove from heat. I recommend using fresh cranberries here. I used frozen, and while it also works, it took more time to separate the cranberries from each other!
Step 18: Pour the cranberries onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and allow them to cool for about 1-2 hours.
Step 19: Once cooled, roll the cranberries in granulated sugar. Top your cake with the sugared cranberries!
- Two Round 9-inch Cake Pans
- Mixing Bowl
- Parchment Paper
- Measuring Cups
- Measuring Spoons
- Offset Spatula
- Hand Mixer or Stand Mixer
This cake is best stored in the fridge since the frosting has cream cheese and heavy cream in it. It will stay good in the fridge for about 5 days stored in an airtight container.
You can also freeze it in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
- To save time, bake the cakes the day ahead! Once they are completely cooled, wrap them in plastic wrap and store them in the fridge or at room temperature. Cold cake is easier to frost, so I do recommend the fridge!
- You can also make the cranberry filling ahead of time and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- You can make the sugared cranberries up to 2 days in advance. Store them in an airtight container. If they start looking wet, or the sugar rubs off, you can simply roll them in sugar again and they’ll be good as new!
- Before making the frosting (any frosting with heavy cream in it), I like to pop the mixing bowl and the hand mixer beaters in the freezer for about 15 minutes beforehand.
Absolutely! You can make the sugared cranberries, cranberry jam filling, and cakes the day before to help you save some time. Make sure to store all of them in airtight containers. The cakes would do best in the fridge and wrapped in plastic wrap before frosting. Store the jam in the fridge as well.
Always make sure to fluff up the flour before you measuring it out and level it off. Too much flour will result in a dry, dense cake.
You can easily make it yourself. I do! Simply add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to a 1-cup measuring cup. Then add whole milk (2% works too) to the measuring cup until you’ve reached 1 total cup of liquid. Allow it to sit for about 5-10 minutes. The milk will curdle, and that is totally normal!
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
Cranberry Orange Cake with Cranberry Jam Filling
For the Sugared Cranberries (Optional)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar save 3/4 cup for coating the cranberries at the end
- 3 cups cranberries fresh is recommended, frozen can work in a pinch
For the Cake:
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 3/4 cup salted butter room temperature
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk see note on how to easily make buttermilk if you don't have any on hand
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 cup orange juice I used the juice from 2 medium-sized oranges
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups cranberries fresh or frozen
For the Cranberry Jam Filling
- 1 cup chopped cranberries fresh or frozen
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons orange juice
- 1/4 cup water
For the Orange Frosting
- 8 ounces cream cheese 1 block of full fat cream cheese
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons orange juice
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
Make the Buttermilk Substitute:
- If you don't have buttermilk, you can easily make it yourself by adding vinegar to milk. You'll need one cup of buttermilk for this recipe. To make it, add a tablespoon of white vinegar to a 1-cup measuring cup and fill the remainder of the cup with milk (whole or 2% works). Let sit for about 5 minutes. If it curdles, that is completely normal!
Make the Sugared Cranberries (Optional)
- Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add water and 1/2 cup granulated sugar (save the other 3/4 cup of sugar for the end) to a saucepan over medium heat. Mix with a large spoon.
- After 5-7 minutes, the mixture will begin to boil. Once it has become thick and syrupy, add the cranberries. Remove from heat and coat the cranberries with the syrup.
- Transfer the cranberries to the baking sheet and allow them to cool for 1-2 hours. Once cooled, use a spoon to roll the cranberries in the remaining 3/4 cup of granulated sugar. Set aside or in an airtight container until you are ready to decorate the cake with them.
For the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350℉. Prepare 2 round 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper. Set aside. Use a cheese grater or citrus zest to zest an orange (about 2 teaspoons). Add the zest to a large mixing bowl. Add the granulated sugar. Use your hands to combine the sugar and zest together.
- Add the butter and mix with a hand mixer until medium for about 2 minutes or until creamed together. Mix in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla extract, almond extract, buttermilk, and orange juice.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl of wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to incorporate all the ingredients.
- Finally, fold the cranberries in. If using frozen cranberries, keep them frozen until just before adding to the batter. Evenly divide the batter between the two cake pans. Bake for 32-37 minutes. The cakes are ready if you stick a toothpick in the center of them and the toothpick has moist crumbs on it. If there is still wet batter on the toothpick, bake the cakes longer.
- Allow the cakes to sit in the pans for about 10-20 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. To help the cakes release, gently guide a butter knife around the edge of them to help them easily fall out of the cake pans.
Make the Cranberry Jam Filling:
- Add the cranberries, orange juice, water, and sugar to a medium-sized saucepan and cook on the stove over medium heat. Mix continuously as the jam starts to boil and thicken. Once it has reached a thick jammy-like consistency (about 7-10 minutes), take off the heat and allow it to cool.
Make the Frosting:
- Use a hand mixer to mix the cream cheese until it is soft (about 2 minutes). Then, add the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar and mix on high speed for about 3-5 minutes or until the frosting is whipped and thick. Add the orange juice and orange zest until just combined.
Frost the Cake:
- Wait until the cakes are completely cooled before frosting them. You can also place them in the fridge for about an hour before frosting. This helps keep the cake together and results in fewer crumbs in your frosting.
- If you want to make sure the cakes are flat and even, you can use a serrated knife to take off the tops of them.
- Pipe about 1/2 cup of frosting around the edge of the bottom layer of the cake. Then, add the cranberry jam filling to the top of the bottom layer cake. Frost over the jam. Then top the bottom layer with the top layer of cake. Frost the rest of the cake.
- Decorate the cake with orange slices, sugared cranberries, and perhaps a pop of evergreen or spruce tips. Store in the fridge until you're ready to serve.