December 19, 2014

Orange-scented cranberry cake with sugared cranberries

Finished orange scented cranberry cake with sugared cranberries.

Sugared cranberries are something I've been wanting to make for a while now because they just look so pretty and festive. Recently, we had a birthday dinner for my mom and I was in charge of the dessert. She requested a cranberry cake and this gave me the opportunity to make sugared cranberries to decorate this cake studded with fresh cranberries and orange zest. My mom doesn't like frosting, so I went with a very light glaze made with fresh orange juice - or you could top each slice with some freshly whipped cream and the sugared cranberries. Everyone enjoyed the cake and my husband really enjoyed the sugared cranberries and was eating them like candy!

This cake was adapted from this recipe that I've had marked for a while now. I'm really glad I gave this cake a try. It was only lightly sweet, but sweet enough, with punches of tartness from the fresh cranberries. I really do love fresh cranberries and do not use them nearly enough in my cooking. I'm changing that for sure. If you are looking for an elegant holiday dessert, look no further! It's a bit of a process, but the results are worth it. I'll definitely be making sugared cranberries more often now!

Cranberry cake on a platter with sugared cranberries.

Orange-scented cranberry cake with sugared cranberries
for the sugared cranberries:
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus another 1/2 cup for rolling (fine sugar works best)
1/2 cup fresh cranberries

for the cake:
1 cup granulated sugar, (I use unbleached)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
zest of 1 medium orange (about 1 tablespoon)
1-1/2 cups fresh cranberries 
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

for the glaze:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
fresh orange juice 

Top view of finished cake topped with sugared cranberries.

First make the sugared cranberries. In a small skillet, heat the water and 1/3 cup of sugar over medium low heat, whisking until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the cranberries and stir them around well until they are all coated. You don't want to sugar/water to boil or for the cranberries to pop! Once they are coated, remove them with a slotted spoon to a tray or wire rack (that they can't fall through) to dry for one hour. Try to keep them from touching. Once they are dry gently roll them in the remaining sugar until coated. Set aside on a tray or plate to continue to dry.

While the cranberries are drying, start the cake. Butter a 9-inch spring form pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl (or bowl of your stand mixer), stir together the sugars and the orange zest. Use your fingers to rub the zest and sugar together until well-combined and fragrant. Set aside.

In a small bowl, gently toss together the cranberries and the 2 tablespoons of flour until they are coated. Set aside.

In one more bowl, whisk together the 2 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Add the butter to the sugar and orange zest bowl. Beat with paddle attachment (or hand mixer) until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. 

Turn the mixter to low and add about 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by 1/2 of the buttermilk, and continue alternating until they are gone and incorporated. 

Gently fold in the cranberries with a rubber spatula. Spread the batter into the pan in an even layer.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out cleanly. Check at 45 minutes. 

Let cool on a wire rack. While the cake is cooling, prepare the glaze by simply adding fresh orange juice to the powdered sugar about 1/2 teaspoon at a time while stirring until the glaze will drizzle.

When the cake is cooled, drizzle with the glaze (as much or as little as you want) and then let dry. Top/decorate the cake or each slice with the sugared cranberries as desired.

Slice of orange scented cranberry cake.


  1. this looks like a beautiful cake! yum! i've always wanted to make sugared cranberries too :)

  2. Such a perfect holiday dessert! And the sugared cranberry garnish is beautiful!

  3. This cake looks really pretty and I love sugared cranberries.

  4. I am sure your mother enjoyed this beautiful birthday cake very much! The flavor sounds fantastic and I love the look of the sugared cranberries.

  5. The perfect cake to enjoy with a cup of tea during this busy holiday season. Lovely! :)

  6. Hi Amy, wish I could have a slice of this lovely yummy orange-scented cranberry cake. Great with a cup of hot tea !
    Blessed Christmas to you ^-^!

  7. What a gorgeous cake! Cranberries are rare as hen's teeth here, but I'd love to make this cake.

  8. I like this.... I've never tried sugared cranberries - they must be fantastic. If I can find another bag of cranberries.....

  9. I love sugared cranberries! They are just so so pretty! And this cake looks absolutely delicious - fresh cranberries are just so good in baked goods!

  10. I wish I could try the sugared cranberries! I wonder if I can do this with other seasonal berries? Have a super Christmas Amy :)

  11. I have sugared cranberries on my counter right now! What I don't have is your delicious cake to go with them :) I need to remedy that asap!

  12. What a beauty of a cake! Loving the sugared cranberries, wishing I could grab a piece right now!

  13. I love the combination of orange and cranberries for the holidays! It just gets me every time! This cake looks delightfully moist and perfectly seasoned!

  14. Cranberries and orange were meant to go together, this looks fabulous!

  15. What a beautiful and delicious looking cake!


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