This moist and flavorful Cranberry Orange Cake is a total showstopper! Featuring tender layers of orange cranberry cake, orange cream cheese frosting, and sugared cranberries this cake is equally beautiful and delicious! Perfect for Christmas or Thanksgiving dessert!
Cranberry Orange Layer Cake
Hi! After an amazing week in Austin I’m finally home and it feels SO good. I can’t wait to bake, decorate our apartment for the upcoming holidays, and unpack my Winter wardrobe. We’re expecting our first frost this evening, so I think it’s time to swap sundresses and sandals for sweaters and snow boots.
You know what else it’s time for? CRANBERRIES! More specifically: Cranberry Orange Cake!
Can I tempt you with a bite before we move on?
This cranberry orange cake is the Winter version of my lemon raspberry cake. It’s bright, vibrant, and absolutely beautiful. It’s also moist, flavorful, and downright delicious.
Orange and cranberry are a flavor match made in heaven, and this humble cake is the perfect balance of both. The moist cake layers get their flavor from fresh orange juice, orange zest, and cranberries. The rich buttercream is flavored with orange zest and vanilla, then topped with sugared cranberries. But my favorite part? The cranberry orange marmalade filling. That’s what you see oozing out of the center here ↓
Now I should note the filling is totally optional. If you’re not cuckoo for cranberries (like me) you may want to leave it out and simply frost the center with the orange buttercream. Both ways are delicious!
Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success:
- This recipe requires cake flour. Cake flour is extra finely ground flour and gives this orange cranberry cake its delicate crumb. In most grocery stores you can find cake flour in the baking aisle. If you can’t find it – don’t fret! Making your own cake flour is easy, and only requires two ingredients: cornstarch and all-purpose flour. Here’s what you do: For every 1 cup of flour called for in the recipe, remove 2 Tbsp of flour. Then add in 2 Tbsp of Cornstarch for every 1 cup of flour (you’re replacing the tablespoons of flour taken out with cornstarch). Sift this mixture a few times (you want it well combined) and that’s it – you just made ready-to-use cake flour.
- When you measure your flour, be sure you’re not packing it into the measuring cup. Packed flour will yield a dense and dry cake.
- You must toss the cranberries in all-purpose flour before adding them to the batter. This dusting of flour helps keep the cranberries afloat during the baking process, and ensure you won’t slice into a cake full of sunken cranberries.
- You may use fresh or frozen cranberries for this cake. If you use frozen, don’t thaw them first.
- I used store bought cranberry orange marmalade in this recipe, but feel free to use homemade if you’d like! If you’d like to use the extract brand I did, click here.
- Use fresh orange juice and zest! You’ll want to zest the oranges first, then cut them in half and juice them. I suggest buying 3 large, heavy oranges so you have enough on hand.
- I don’t recommend adding more cranberries than called for to the batter. Adding too many berries will weigh down the cake as it bakes, causing it to sink the middle and bake unevenly. Plus cranberries are tart, so adding more will change the overall taste of the cake.
- For best results make sure your butter, eggs, and sour cream have all come to room temperature before you begin baking.
- For the frosting, you’ll want to make sure your butter and cream cheese are VERY soft before creaming it.
- If you’d like your cake to look exactly like mine does in these photos, simply top it with sugared cranberries (instructions for this are in the recipe box at the end of this post) and twisted orange slices.
Hope you bake this orange cranberry cake SOON! I just know you’re going to love it.
If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment below and don’t forget to snap a pic and tag it #bakerbynature on instagram! Seeing your kitchen creations makes my day.
More Cranberry Recipes:
- Bakery-Style Cranberry Orange Muffins
- The Best Basic Cranberry Sauce
- Cranberry Orange Pancakes
- Bakery-Style Cranberry Orange Scones
- Cranberry Hand Pies
- Dark Chocolate Cranberry Orange Slice and Bake Cookies
Cranberry Orange Cake
For the cranberry orange cake:
- 1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) butter, at room temperature
- 1 and 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 and 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup full-fat sour cream
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 2 and 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, if using frozen, do not thaw first
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
For the sugared cranberries:
- 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, if using frozen do not thaw
For the orange cream cheese frosting:
- 1 block (8 ounces) full-fat cream cheese, a little softer than room temperature
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, a little softer than room temperature
- 4 cups confectioners' sugar, more if needed
- 2 teaspoons fresh orange zest
- 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
For the filling:
- 1/2 cup cranberry orange marmalade (see post for more on this), optional
For the cranberry orange cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Cut out two 9-inch round segments of parchment paper to line your cake pans with. Spray each pan generously - sides and bottom - with nonstick cooking spray, then place the parchment paper cut out in the bottom of the pans and spray again. It's important to make sure every bit of pan and paper are sprayed so your cakes don't get stuck. Set pans aside.
- In a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer (or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), combine the butter, sugar, orange zest, and vanilla extract; beat on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (don't skimp on time here!). Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, mixing well to evenly combine the ingredients. Add the dry mixture into the wet ingredients and mix on low speed until everything is just barely combined. You should still see some lumps and dry streaks. Turn mixer off. Add in the sour cream and orange juice; use a rubber spatula to fold the ingredients into the mixture, stirring until everything is incorporated, but being sure not to over mix. Set aside.
- In another bowl, toss the cranberries with 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour. Add the cranberries, and any remaining flour, to the batter and fold in by hand, using a rubber spatula, until just combined. Again, be sure not to over mix! Over mixing is very easy to do, and will result in a dry, dense cake.
- Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the tops are firm and slightly golden, and a cake tester (or toothpick) inserted in the center comes out clean, or with a few moist (but not wet) crumbs clinging to it.
- Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before gently running a knife around the edges to loosen any stuck bits, then turning them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
- While the cakes cool, you can make the sugared cranberries and frosting (in that order).
For the sugared cranberries:
- Combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar with 1/4 cup of water in a medium saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a light simmer, stirring frequently, until sugar is completely dissolved, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add in the cranberries and stir to coat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cranberries to a wire rack and let dry for at least 30 minutes.
- When the 30 minutes are up, roll the cranberries in remaining sugar, working in small batches are tossing until well coated. Set aside to dry for at least 1 hour.
For the orange cream cheese frosting:
- In a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer (or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment) beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add in the confectioners' sugar. Add in orange zest, orange juice, and salt; beat until combined. Increase the speed back to medium and mix until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the cream and continue beating the frosting until very light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. If the frosting seems too thin, add a little more confectioners' sugar, starting with one tablespoon at a time; if the frosting seems to thick, add in a little more sour cream, starting one tablespoon at a time.
- When the cakes have completely cooled, place one round on a cake stand or large plate; spread the top and sides evenly with frosting, then top with the cranberry orange marmalade. Don't worry if they mix together a little. Gently place the other cake round on top of the frosted one and press down very lightly to seal them together. Place the semi-frosted cake in the fridge for 30 minutes, then continue frosting the cake, using a thin spatula, offset spatula, or whatever you have that works best, until the top and sides of the cake are evenly frosted. Place the cake back in the fridge for another 30 minutes before decorating. I love decorating this cake with sugared cranberries and thin orange slices, but feel free to decorate according to your own tastes.
- The frosted cake will stay fresh, covered and stored in the refrigerator, for 3 days. Simply take it out of the fridge an hour or two before serving so it can come to room temperature.