Cranberry Orange Cake

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This moist, light and refreshing Cranberry Orange Cake has the perfect combination of flavors!

Sliced Cranberry Orange Cake in a white cake pedestal.

We love the balance of tart cranberries and sweet orange cake. It makes a beautiful dessert for fall and winter celebrations!

Ingredients for Cranberry Orange Cake

Here's a quick look at the star ingredients for our Cranberry Orange Cake! You'll find the full, printable recipe at the bottom of this post.

Ingredients for Cranberry Orange Cake.

Cranberries, sliced: You can use fresh or frozen

Orange zest and Orange juice: Adds a boost of citrus flavor, especially the orange zest as it contains the fragrant oils from the orange peel. You can use a microplane or fine grater for this. When zesting oranges, be careful not to go past the orange layer into the white layer beneath (the pith) as that is more bitter.

Orange Extract: adds additional orange flavor.

Sour Cream adds richness without thinning the cake batter. The thick batter helps to keep the sliced cranberries suspended. Sour cream also enhances the texture of the cake as the boost of acidity softens the strands of gluten in the cake batter.

Cake Flour We like to use cake flour in many of our recipes as it contains less protein. This results in less gluten formation, which results in a softer, more tender cake.

How to Make a Cranberry Orange Cake

You can find the full, printable recipe at the bottom of this post. Here is a quick look at our steps!

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, grease and flour three 8x2 inch round cake pans.
  • Chop the cranberries into small pieces. We placed the sliced cranberries in a strainer and rinsed them to wash away most of the seeds. (Seeds are soft, it is okay to have some seeds.) Pat dry with a paper towel.
Bowl of sliced cranberries.
  • In a medium sized bowl add the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to blend, set aside.
Bowl of Dry Ingredients, with a whisk.
  • In another bowl or measuring cup add the sour cream, orange juice, orange zest, vanilla extract and orange extract. Blend with a fork and set aside.
Bowl of wet ingredients for this recipe.
  • In the bowl of your mixer, mix the softened butter until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and mix on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes until it is lightened in color and fluffy.
Creaming Butter and Sugar in mixing bowl.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until the yellow of the yolk disappears. If adding orange coloring gel to your batter, you can do it at this time (or any time during mixing process).
Adding eggs to the cake batter.
  • With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and the sour cream mixture alternately, beginning and ending with flour mixture (3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of wet). Mix just until combined.
Orange Cake Batter in mixing bowl.
  • Gently stir in the sliced cranberries.
Adding cranberries to Orange Cake Batter.
  • Divide the batter between the 3 pans smoothing the tops with the back of a spoon.
Three pans of Orange Cranberry Cake batter.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. Bake times can vary- Start checking as the 25 minute mark approaches, and adjust accordingly. Let the cakes cool 5 to 10 minutes before turning out.
Freshly baked Orange Cranberry Cake layers, still in pans.

For the Cranberry Filling

This homemade cranberry filling is so simple to make in a saucepan, with cranberries, water, and sugar. It adds a burst of cranberry flavor into every bite of this dessert!

Here is a quick look at our steps. Find the full recipe at the bottom of this post.

  • In a medium saucepan, add the cranberries, sugar and water.
  • Cover the saucepan and cook over medium heat 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop. Uncover and cook another 5 to 10 minutes until the mixture thickens.
Preparing cranberry filling.
  • Remove from the heat, put into a heatproof bowl and refrigerate. The mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.
  • For Smoothing Filling: It will take a couple of hours in the refrigerator for the mixture to cool and thicken completely. After that, as an optional step, you can use an immersion blender to make the cranberry filling smooth.
Heating cranberry filling in a saucepan.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

This creamy orange cream cheese frosting is one of our favorites. It pairs really nicely with our orange cranberry cake layers. It has just a bit of tang and is not overly sweet, with a nice amount of orange flavor.

As with most of our cream cheese frostings, this recipe consists of softened unsalted butter, confectioners sugar, softened cream cheese, a pinch of salt, and flavoring (orange for today's recipe).

This makes a great filling or frosting, and is pipeable also.

Bowl of Orange Cream Cheese Frosting.

We used an additional stick of butter as well as more powdered sugar than our usual orange cream cheese frosting to extend it just a bit further. Since we are using it in the filling as well as frosting, we wanted to have plenty to work with! (This recipe makes about 6 cups.)

Assembling the Cranberry Orange Cake

Once your cranberry orange cake layers have cooled completely (as well as the cranberry filling), it is time to assemble the cake!

Place the first cake layer on the cake base or pedestal. Pipe a dam of frosting (using a disposable piping bag or ziplock bag with the tip snipped away) about ¼ inch-½ inch from the edge of the cake.

Spread a thin layer of the filling onto the top of the cake layer.

Spreading orange filling over the cranberry orange cake layer.

Top with dollops of orange cream cheese frosting and lightly spread over the cranberry.

Assembling the Orange Cranberry Cake.

After adding filling for the first two cake layers, top with the final layer. Fill in any gaps between the cake layers with frosting.

Filled, unfrosted cranberry orange cake.

Apply a thin layer of frosting (crumb coat) around the sides and on top of the cake.

At this point, we like to chill the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes (or longer in the refrigerator) to firm everything up. Then, apply the final layer of frosting.

Decorating the Cake

Decorate the frosted cake however you like! For an extra smooth finish, you can glide over the chilled, frosted cake with a hot offset spatula (heated under hot water).

We added a chunky braided border piped with a 1M (large star) piping tip. You can check out our tutorial on piping with star tips for more details on this border!

Piping braided shell border around the top of the cake.

Next, we added some fresh cranberries for decoration as an optional step.

Cranberry Orange Cake topped with fresh cranberries.

Here is a peek inside!

Sliced Cranberry Orange Cake on a white pedestal.

Recipe FAQs

Yes, because of the cranberry filling and orange cream cheese frosting, this cake should be refrigerated.

However, for best flavor and texture, remove from the refrigerator a couple of hours before serving. This will allow time for the cake and frosting to warm and soften.

Yes, just as with most of our cake recipes (from marble cake to our carrot cake recipe, strawberry cake and more), these layers freeze beautifully for up to three months.

To thaw, move the cake layers to the kitchen counter. Keep wrapped for at least 30-45 minutes to allow any resulting condensation to form on the wrapping rather than on the cake.

We really like the boost of orange flavor the the orange extract adds.Orange juice flavor is more likely to bake out (although the oils in the orange zest add nice flavor). If you choose not to use the orange extract, you will have a much lighter orange flavor.

Another alternative to using orange extract is to use 3 Tablespoons orange jello powder. (We do something similar in our Margarita Cupcakes.) You can add it along with the sugar or with the dry ingredients in the recipe.

More Orange Cakes

We have several cakes where orange plays either a starring or supporting role ;0) -

Some of our most popular are our Orange Dreamsicle Cake, Orange Cake from scratch, Orange Bundt Cake, and Orange Pineapple Cake.

Make sure to check out our collection of favorite cakes with fruit!

Thanks so much for stopping by! We hope that you will give this moist orange cranberry cake a try. Whether you are in need of a great fall birthday cake, Thanksgiving cake recipe, or winter gathering of friends, it is sure to bring rave reviews!

Don't miss our full collection of Cake Recipes, including cake recipes from scratch as well as cake mix recipes.

Also, if you are interested in cake decorating, we have so many tutorials to share with you, from How to make a Cake to piping borders, elegant cakes, birthday cake ideas, and more!

Slice or Orange Cranberry Cake on a plate.
Cranberry Orange Cake, sliced, on a white cake pedestal.

Cranberry Orange Cake

This moist, light Cranberry Orange Cake with cranberry filling and orange cream cheese frosting is sure to please a crowd!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Course: Dessert
Servings: 15
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Ingredients

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, slightly softened (226g)
  • 2 cups sugar (400g)
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature (If in a hurry, place the eggs in a bowl of warm water for five minutes.)
  • 1 cup sour cream (242g)
  • cup juice from approx. one medium sized orange
  • 3 Tablespoons Orange Zest (or zest from 2-3 oranges)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (4g)
  • 1 Tablespoon orange extract (10g) See notes
  • 3 cups cake flour (plain in the UK) — if you do not have cake flour see substitution below (342g)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder (7g)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda (3g)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (3g)
  • 1 cup cranberries, sliced into pieces (either fresh or frozen) (90g)
  • Orange Coloring Gel to tint the batter (optional)

For the Cranberry Filling

  • 1 ½ cup fresh or frozen cranberries (180g)
  • ¾ cup sugar (150g)
  • ¾ cup water (180g)

For the Orange Cream Cheese Filling/Frosting

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened (339g)
  • 16 oz cream cheese (total weight 452g). We recommend "full fat" cream cheese. (452g)We used two 8 oz packages cream cheese, full fat)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (4g)
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract (4g)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (2g)
  • 7 cups Confectioners sugar (adjust slightly up or down to your liking) (805g)
  • Orange Coloring Gel (Optional. We used a very small amount for tinting.)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, grease and flour three 8x2 inch round cake pans.
  • Chop the cranberries into small pieces. We placed the sliced cranberries in a strainer and rinsed them to wash away most of the seeds. (Seeds are soft, it is okay to have some seeds.) Gently pat dry.
  • In a medium sized bowl add the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to blend, set aside.
  • In another bowl or measuring cup add the sour cream, orange juice, orange zest, vanilla extract and orange extract. Blend with a fork and set aside.
  • In the bowl of your mixer, mix the softened butter until smooth. Gradually ad the sugar and mix on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes until it is lightened in color and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until the yellow of the yolk disappears. If adding orange coloring to your batter, you can do it at this time (or any time during mixing process).
  • With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and the sour cream mixture alternately, beginning and ending with flour mixture (3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of wet). Mix just until combined.
  • Gently stir in the sliced cranberries. Divide the batter between the 3 pans smoothing the tops with the back of a spoon.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. Bake times can vary- Start checking as the 25 minute mark approaches, and adjust accordingly. Let the cakes cool 5 to 10 minutes then turn out.
  • Makes 7 cups cake batter. Works for cupcakes also. (Approximately 28 cupcakes.)

For the Cranberry Filling

  • In a medium saucepan, add the cranberries, sugar and water.
  • Cover the saucepan and cook over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop (skins will split). Uncover and cook another 10 minutes until the mixture thickens.
  • Remove from the heat, put into a heatproof bowl and refrigerate. The mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.
  • As an optional step: For a smooth filling, you can use an immersion blender to blend the the cooled cranberry filling.

For the Frosting

  • Mix the softened butter on low to medium speed until softened and smooth.
  • Add the softened cream cheese to the butter, mixing at low to medium speed until smooth and well combined.
  • Add the vanilla and orange flavorings. Gradually add the powdered sugar beating on low speed until blended. Add coloring gel if you are tinting the frosting.
  • Continue to mix on low to medium speed until well combined and smooth.
  • Store in the refrigerator. If making the frosting in advance, allow to sit on the kitchen counter until it comes closer to room temperature. You may need to remix.

Storing the Cake

  • This cake should be refrigerated in an airtight container or under a cake dome. For best flavor and texture, remove the cake 2-3 hours before serving so that the cake and frosting have plenty of time to warm and soften.

Notes

Substitution for Cake Flour: 
  • For each cup of flour in the recipe, remove 2 Tablespoons of flour and replace with 2 Tablespoons cornstarch. This recipe has 3 cups of flour, measure out 3 cups of all purpose flour, remove 6 Tablespoons and replace with 6 Tablespoons cornstarch, whisk to blend.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • If frosting becomes too soft as you are decorating the cake, place the piping bag, bowl, cake, (or all three) in the refrigerator as need to firm things up.
Orange Extract: If you do not have orange extract, you can substitute with 3Tablespoons orange jello powder. Otherwise, the orange flavor will be very light.

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12 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Do you think you can use a bundt pan for this recipe? How would you alter the time and temperature?

    thanks.

  2. This cake looks fantastic! Yummy! I'm wondering if I could bake this in a 9x13 pan? Do you think that would be okay?

  3. 5 stars
    I used tangerine, as i wanted a tangerine flavored sponge and it was a beautiful crumb, moist, fluffy, light and aromatic cake. Well done!

  4. Could you use rehydrated dried cranberries - maybe rehydrate with either cranberry or orange juice? Then strained before using?