Cranberry Christmas Cake
Cranberry Christmas Cake! This incredible one layer celebration almond cake is infused with fresh cranberries, almonds, and orange zest.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! We’re kicking off my favorite season with this fragrant, flavorful, and buttery cranberry Christmas cake.
I made this a few weeks ago when my parents were visiting from out of town, and we demolished it in less than two days. I can’t wait to make it again!
If you’ve made this blueberry almond cake, you will love today’s recipe. It is simple, yet sophisticated and festive.
To give it a holiday twist, I’ve added fresh orange zest (lots of it!) and fresh cranberries. The almond, orange, and tart cranberries complement each other so well. The texture is light, buttery, and very hard to resist.
Cranberry Christmas Cake: Ingredient Breakdown
The cake itself is a butter-based almond cake. The batter uses almond flour, crushed almond slices, and almond extract. We’re not skimping on the almond flavor!
The almond meal makes for a moist, tender crumb, the sliced almonds add texture throughout the cake, and the almond extract pulls everything together. Before baking, we’ll garnish the top of the cake with sliced almond pieces!
This recipe makes one 8-inch cake layer. While I’ve made this cake both ways, I highly recommend lining your greased cake pan with a round of parchment paper to ensure that the cake can invert and be removed easily.
Here is my easy go-to method for how to line a cake pan with parchment paper.
Baking with Fresh Cranberries:
To distribute the fresh cranberries more evenly throughout the batter, I recommend slicing them in half for this cake. I use a pairing knife, and it adds just a few minutes to the prep time. If your cranberries are on the smaller size, you can definitely keep them whole!
Cutting the cranberries in half ensures even distribution throughout the cake. You’ll get small bursts of ripe, fresh cranberry with each bite without overpowering the orange and almond flavor.
If you’re using frozen cranberries, I recommend leaving them whole to prevent color bleeding.
How to Serve this Cranberry Christmas Cake:
The batter for this cake is thicker than most standard cake batters – think crumb cake batter consistency – so you will need to reserve about an hour for baking.
To give it a bit of a festive look, I like to lightly dust it with powdered sugar before serving. However, be sure to allow the cake to cool completely before doing this. Otherwise, this cake tastes fabulous slightly warm!
This would make a lovely cake to enjoy casually with tea or coffee around the holidays (it will hold up well wrapped tightly in plastic for an additional 2-3 days!) or served with breakfast or brunch.
Cranberry Christmas Cake
- ¾ cup (100 g) whole wheat pastry flour or unbleached all purpose flour
- ¾ cup (100 g) almond meal/flour
- 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup (50 g) sliced almonds
- ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
- zest of one orange
- ¾ cup (6 oz; 170 g) unsalted butter softened
- ½ teaspoon pure almond extract
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, lightly whisked room temperature
- 2 tablespoons whole or low-fat milk
- ¾ cup (70 g) fresh cranberries sliced in half
- powdered sugar (optional) for serving
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C) with a rack in the center position. Generously grease an 8-inch cake pan (at least 2-inches deep) with baking spray or butter and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper (here's an easy tutorial!), grease again, and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole wheat pastry flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt. Reserve and set aside roughly one tablespoon of sliced almonds. Break the remaining almonds with your hands and stir them into the flour mixture.
- In a stand mixer bowl, combine the sugar and orange zest. Using your fingertips, rub the orange zest into the granulated sugar until fragrant and moist. Add the softened butter, almond extract, and vanilla extract. Using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar mixture over medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl halfway through to ensure all of the ingredients are incorporated evenly. Reduce the speed to medium and slowly add the eggs. Beat until incorporated (it may look slightly broken). Over low speed, slowly add the flour mixture in two additions, alternating with the milk. The batter will be relatively thick.
- Using a large spatula, gently fold the fresh cranberries into the cake batter. Transfer the batter into the greased cake pan, and smooth the top with a small offset spatula. Top with the remaining sliced almonds.
- Bake for 55 minutes to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Using a knife, run along the sides of the cake pan to release the sides of the cake and carefully invert onto a wire rack. Flip and allow the cake to cool right-side up. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, dusted lightly with confectioner’s sugar as desired.
36 Comments on “Cranberry Christmas Cake”
This recipe is absolute perfection!! I made it gluten free by using Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten free baking flour and it was amazing. The whole family loved it and asked me to make it again next Christmas. Thank you for a wonderful recipe!!
Hello! I made this for company and doubled the orange zest to bump
the flavor up a bit. Everyone liked it and I just might have a slice for my breakfast today. Thank you for the recipe!
I made this cake for Christmas this year and everyone loved it! Two of our family members are vegan so I used plant based butter, almond milk and egg replacer and it turned out amazing.
So happy to hear that! Thanks Caitlin!
Gonna have to try this. First we need to eat the sugar cookies. This looks great. I will have to freeze some of it because I’m the only person in my family who likes cranberries.
This sounds delightful. Will it freeze? I would like to make it now Dec 9th, in advance of Christmas Day. Thanks.
Yes, it could be frozen and thawed. Obviously will change things a bit, but its an option for sure!
I just made this and it’s cooling as we speak but couldn’t wait to try a piece. I had high hopes and was not disappointed! The batter was not as stiff as indicated so I did not add milk as it was in a springform pan. It cooked perfect in 55 mins and I will definitely be making this again. I love it!
It’s a thick batter, but not stiff per say – just thicker than some other cake batters 🙂 So glad it came out well for you and can’t wait for you to try it!
Just wanted to say thank you for this recipe, I’ve made it the last two years to send to my family and friends for the holidays and it is so delicious and festive I will probably make it every year forever!
Hi Emma! Wow, this was so incredibly nice to read and made my day. I’m so thrilled that you love the cake and that it’s become a family tradition. Nothing makes me happier. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a review! It means a lot. xo Happy holidays!
Do you think this would work as muffins? I have a square shaped muffin tin and thought these might be interesting s little square “cakes”.
I think it could but be sure to butter/grease them very well, and watch the bake time carefully. The consistency is definitely more of a cake than a muffin, but it should work! Hope this helps!
Could this cake be baked in a spring form pan? I’m just curious. I’m going to bake it in any case, but this cake in particular seems like a good candidate for this type of pan.
Thanks in advance.
I don’t see why it couldn’t be (just make sure it is the same diameter, otherwise the baking time will vary), but it certainly is not required by any means! It comes out beautifully from a regular cake pan too. 🙂
Laura: your comment about cutting the cranberries so they distribute better made me think of a problem I have with another cake. It’s a sour cream coffee cake with a streusel filling that has nuts, sugar, and chocolate chips. It’s supposed to stay in the middle of the cake like a ribbon but mine always sinks to the bottom. I’ve tried tossing the chocolate with a bit of flour and it helps minimally if at all. What’s wrong?
Hi Gina! It’s hard to say, because I haven’t made the specific cake that you’re talking about. I’ve heard mixed things about tossing ingredients with flour, as it relates to sinking. Cook’s Illustrated shared an article about how it doesn’t make much of an impact. Does the chocolate sink? Or does everything sink? I would cut the nuts into small pieces and perhaps even use chopped semisweet chocolate, instead of chips. Anything to reduce the density of the filling, which should help.
For this cake, you certainly don’t need to cut the cranberries, I just like that you end up with more cranberries in the cake (instead of just chomping down on a large cranberry) and it evens their distribution a bit better. This cake batter is very thick, so it can hold up a variety of fillings. However, if the coffee cake batter that you’re speaking of is lighter, that might be why that is happening. I wish I could be more specific!
Thank you for answering, Laura. I’ll try your suggestion with the chocolate. Love your recipes, so glad I discovered your blog!
I fancy making this cake but without the orange zest. Will it work with lemon?
I’m sure lemon will work with rasps and almond or even blueberries and almond.
Definitely! I make a very similar cake to this with blueberries and lemon zest. I do think orange zest is the best choice if you’re adding cranberries though!
Hello, I have a question. In the recipe it says the zest of an orange but in the instructions you say combine the lemon zest so I just want to make sure that it is orange zest to be used.
Hi Rosalva! Sorry about that. The recipe is a light adaptation of another popular recipe on this blog, and I replicated the instructions, added all of the changes, but must have missed that typo. I just fixed it. It should definitely be orange zest (not lemon zest). Thank you for bringing that to my attention!
I’m going to make this with my mom for Christmas Eve.
If I want to use all-purpose flour instead of whole wheat pastry flour, will I need to adjust the amount?
Nope! You can use the exact same quantity of all purpose and should have no problems at all. Hope you enjoy the cake!!
Can I substitute all purpose flour for the almond meal/flour too? I’m sure it will lessen the the almond flavor but couldn’t fine the almond meal flour
Yes! Someone else asked this question. It will definitely lessen the almond flavor – and might be a bit less rich in flavor, but you can definitely substitute all purpose and it should come out fine (it structurally shouldn’t hurt it). I might add a bit more sliced almonds to the batter or cranberries to help make up for it. I’d love for you to come back and let me know how it turns out!
I live in Cape Town in South Africa, and we dont get fresh cranberries very easily. I have loads of dried cranberries and wondered if I could substitute them? And if so, how would you recommend I do this?
Hi Anthea! Dried cranberries will totally work, however they won’t have quite the same effect – it will be sweeter and you won’t get that soft, burst fresh cranberry taste. You could substitute them though – I might plump them up prior to adding them to the batter (you could soak them in booze or just hot water for a few minutes; then drain), so that they’ll be a bit juicier. However, be careful that you don’t transfer much liquid over to the batter.
Alternatively, you could substitute another fresh berry, like raspberries, which might be the closest taste wise to a cranberry for this cake!
I loved this recipe. The only thing I left out was the ground almonds, I didn’t have them and really wanted to make this cake. It turned out fabulous.
What is calorie count or should I dare ask.
So happy to hear that! Did you just substitute it with the same amount of flour? Just curious for others to know! I’m not sure on the calorie count at the moment, but I’m working on adding nutritional information on all of the recipes on the blog, so stay tuned. It’s a process, but hoping to have all of that soon. 😉
Laura, thank you. Yes, I got ounces confused with tablespoons. Thank goodness it’s Friday – ugh!
Oh yay, glad to clear it up. And trust me, I’ve been there many times! ????
Question: your recipe says to use 1-1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, which would be 12 ounces using regular sticks of butter, not 6 ounces, which is what your recipe also states. Can you tell me which it is? Thank you!
Hi Ginny! Do you live outside the United States? If so, I think your standard stick of butter might be a different weight. But standard sticks of butter (1 lb package = 4 sticks) in US are 4 ounces each. So, it should be 6 ounces total as listed in the recipe. Hope this helps!
Are you confusing this with tablespoons, perhaps? If so, the equivalent of 6 ounces of butter is 12 tablespoons.