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 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.
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.)
- baking powder and salt
- vanilla extract
- sparkling sugar to give it that extra twinkle and crunch on top.
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:
- 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.
- Put the orange zest and sugar in a food processor.
- Process for about a minute until the zest is fully incorporated and the sugar is beautifully orange.
- 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!
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:
- lemon crumb cake
- lemon crunch cake
- lemon shortbread
- cranberry orange bread
- orange creamsicle cake
- lemon cake with lemon poppy seed frosting
Whenever you’ve got a recipe that you want to infuse with citrus flavor, you can use this method.
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.
more breakfast and snack cakes
- Blueberry Zucchini Snack Cake with Lemon Buttercream
- Cold Chocolate Snacking Cake
- Cranberry Breakfast Cake!
- Easy Rhubarb Breakfast Cake
- Super Easy Cinnamon Coffee Cake
- Carrot Coffee Cake with Cream Cheese Glaze
Cranberry Orange Cake
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Beat in the egg and vanilla, followed by the baking powder and salt, and keep scraping that bowl.
- 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.
- Gently fold in the cranberries, making sure to get them evenly distributed.
- Spread the batter (it will be quite thick) evenly into your 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.
- Store the leftover cake in the pan on the counter covered with foil.