Cranberry Orange Cake

a slice of cranberry orange snack cake

My cranberry orange cake is a celebration of bright seasonal flavors that’s easy to make, moist, and so festive. It’s great for gifting, snacking, and holiday mornings.

cranberry orange cake, stacked

cranberry orange cake is perfect any time of day

It’s an unpretentious cake meant for breakfast, coffee time, or any time snacking. The colors and flavors are bright and vivacious thanks to fresh cranberries and my special orange sugar, which infuses citrus flavor like nothing else can. It’s based on my ever popular cranberry breakfast cake, which is delicious on its own, but somehow the addition of orange takes it over the top.

a slice of cranberry orange snack cake

what you’ll need

  • fresh cranberries ~ you can also use frozen.
  • orange zest ~ you’ll remove the zest of one orange with a vegetable peeler (just the orange part, none of the bitter white pith.)
  • sugar
  • butter
  • egg
  • buttermilk
  • flour
  • baking powder and salt
  • vanilla extract
  • sparkling sugar to give it that extra twinkle and crunch on top.
making orange sugar

how to make orange sugar for the brightest citrus flavor!

Orange sugar is simply sugar that has been infused with orange zest. By processing the two together you get the most impactful orange flavor possible in this cake. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Peel the zest off of an orange with a vegetable peeler. Just remove the orange part, not the bitter white pith. A sharp serrated vegetable peeler works great.
  2. Put the orange zest and sugar in a food processor.
  3. Process for about a minute until the zest is fully incorporated and the sugar is beautifully orange.
  4. You’ll be left with a moist fragrant sugar with the consistency of brown sugar, only instead of a molasses flavor, it has a bright vibrant orange zing!
orange sugar in a food processor

citrus sugar in other recipes

Once you’ve tried this technique you’ll realize there are lots of other uses for it. Here are just a few of the ways I use lemon and orange sugar:

Whenever you’ve got a recipe that you want to infuse with citrus flavor, you can use this method.

cranberry orange breakfast cake

why this cranberry orange cake works

YOU CAN TRUST THE RECIPE. This is a tried and true recipe with a sturdy batter that bakes up easily and reliably. It’s moist, with lots of vivid flavor so you can be proud to serve it to guests, or give as a gift from your kitchen.

THE FLAVOR IS FABULOUS. The cranberry/orange combination is such a wonderful flavor pairing, with the sweetness of the orange balancing out the tart berries.

IT’S ADAPTED FROM A FAN FAVORITE. I adapted this from my original cranberry breakfast cake, which has rave reviews.

a slice of cranberry orange cake with fork

more breakfast and snack cakes

a slice of cranberry orange snack cake
5 from 34 votes

Cranberry Orange Cake

My cranberry orange cake is a celebration of bright seasonal flavors that's easy to make, moist, and so festive. It's great for gifting, snacking, and holiday mornings.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Yield 12 servings
Calories 230kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • 9×9 square baking pan
  • parchment paper (optional)


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • zest of one orange, peeled in strips with a vegetable peeler (just the orange part, none of the bitter white pith)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups cranberries
  • 2 Tbsp sparkling sugar


  • Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly spray a 9×9 inch baking pan. I like to line mine with a 2 sheets of parchment paper with long ends, so I can lift it out later for easy slicing.
    making orange sugar
  • First make the orange sugar. Put the sugar and orange zest in a food processor and process until the zest is completely incorporated. The sugar will be pale orange and moist.
    orange sugar in a food processor
  • Cream the orange sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. I use my stand mixer, but you can use electric beaters if you like.
    creaming butter and sugar
  • Beat in the egg and vanilla, followed by the baking powder and salt, and keep scraping that bowl. 
    beating in egg
  • Lower your mixer speed and blend in 1/2 the flour, just until it's almost all blended, then add the buttermilk, and finally the rest of the flour. Just blend until the flour is incorporated, and then stop.
    adding flour to batter
  • Gently fold in the cranberries, making sure to get them evenly distributed.
    folding in cranberries
  • Spread the batter (it will be quite thick) evenly into your pan.
    cranberry orange cake batter in pan
  • Sprinkle the sparkling sugar over the surface of the cake and then bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until risen, golden, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out without wet batter on it. Try not to over bake the cake, and check on the early side, especially if your oven runs hot.
  • Let cool for 15-20 minutes in the pan, then, if you used parchment, you can remove the cake to cool completely, or slice while still slightly warm.
    a slice of cranberry orange cake with orange slice
  • Store the leftover cake in the pan on the counter covered with foil.


Calories: 230kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 37mg | Sodium: 213mg | Potassium: 126mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 285IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 50mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    Rajni Sud
    February 26, 2022 at 10:33 pm

    Hi Sue,
    So glad I chanced upon your blog and can’t wait to try this recipe!
    Can I use dried cranberries instead of fresh as that’s what I have and can you also advice on the baking time if I use a Bundt pan?
    Thank you.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      February 27, 2022 at 6:43 am

      Hi Rajni ~ I think this isn’t the best type of cake for a bundt. It might not be sturdy enough, though I can’t say for sure, though, because I haven’t tried it. Also the amount of batter would be on the small side for a bundt. You can use dried cranberries, if you like.

  • Reply
    Maven in the Making
    January 10, 2022 at 11:41 am

    5 stars
    One of my favorite cakes ever! Full of fresh flavor and not too sweet. Easy and quick to make. Ticks all the boxes. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2021 at 8:41 pm

    This Cranberry Orange Cake was a huge hit at my holiday brunch! Easy to make and very delicious. I will definitely make it again.

    • Reply
      December 12, 2021 at 11:47 am

      Can this cake be frozen?

      • Reply
        Sue Moran
        December 12, 2021 at 1:32 pm

        Yes, it will freeze fine.

  • Reply
    Daryl Weaver
    December 9, 2021 at 10:51 am

    5 stars
    I’ve already made this recipe twice since Thanksgiving to give as gifts or take to the office, and I plan to have it again on Christmas morning with the family. It is SO easy and delicious. The orange-sugar makes all the difference, and I will use this technique over and over in other recipes calling for citrus. Thank you!

  • Reply
    December 5, 2021 at 8:17 am

    5 stars
    This cake was so good – disappeared fast. The cake is perfect and the cran-orange is tangy and bright. Yum

  • Reply
    Shirley Hill
    December 3, 2021 at 9:48 am

    5 stars
    Sounds delicious, cannot wait to try it.

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