Fresh Cranberry Bundt Cake
This fresh cranberry bundt cake is bursting with sweet buttery flavour, tart cranberries and crunchy pecans! Fluffy and moist, it makes delicious breakfast slices and the perfect tea treat. Serve with sugared cranberries for extra bursts of flavour.
I’m super excited to start off this year’s bakes with my favourite kind of cake – a bundt cake – and a fresh cranberry cake is just the perfect choice!
In fact, I made a loaf version with this recipe last week and we devoured it faster than I could take a pic! It was totally scrumptious! The cake crumb is wonderfully moist and tender, and gorgeously studded with tart-tasting cranberries and crunchy pecans.
If you love sweet, tart and tangy flavours all at once, then this cake has your name written all over it. It’s quick and a breeze to make, and there’s beauty in its simplicity.
No need for icing, glazes or toppings, though I couldn’t resist these sugared cranberries only because they’re so easy to do and make a pretty garnish!
Table of contents
Why this fresh cranberry cake recipe works
You can make this fresh cranberry cake in a regular cake pan but I chose a bundt pan because I absolutely love how gorgeous and cheery it looks.
Here’s why this recipe is so good:
- loaded with fresh cranberries. Nothing can compare to the tart flavour and juicy texture of fresh cranberries. With 2 cups of fruit in the batter, this cake’s crumb is peppered with sweet-tart notes.
- moist and buttery. Using all butter, instead of an oil and butter mix, gives this cake a full-on rich and creamy buttery flavour. Not to mention, the sour cream adds extra moisture that helps this cake stay moist for days.
- tender crumb. Best described as closer in texture to a pound cake, but a tad lighter and fluffier. In other words, yummm!
- not too sweet. There’s just the right amount of sugar to balance the tartness of the cranberries without being overly sweet.
- fuss-free. The steps are easy and simple, and doing it in a stand mixer or with handheld electric beaters makes it effortless.
- sugared cranberries. The perfect sweet-tart complement to this cranberry cake! Sugared cranberries make such a pretty garnish too!
Note: Sugared cranberries are very easy to make but you will need about an hour so be sure to factor in the extra time.
Ingredients to make cranberry cake
These are the ingredients needed to make cranberry cake:
- cranberries, fresh or frozen. You can add the cranberries whole, but I personally recommend roughly chopping the larger pieces and leaving the smaller ones that are about the size of peas, whole. There’s no need to coat in flour as the batter is thick enough to hold them without sinking.
- pecans. Pecans pair really well with cranberries, but use your preferred nuts or skip entirely for a nut-free cranberry cake.
- plain or all purpose flour. I use plain flour for a firm crumb. Cake flour is not recommended as the cake crumb could turn out too fine and crumbly.
- baking powder and baking soda. Both are used here. Baking powder leavens the cake batter to give it lift, while baking soda counteracts the acidity of the sour cream and makes the crumb tender.
- caster sugar. If you don’t usually stock up or use caster sugar, regular granulated sugar will work just as well.
- butter. I use unsalted butter, and my favourites are European butters with a high percentage of butter fat. If using salted butter, remember to omit the salt.
- eggs. Use large eggs, each weighing 60-63 grams (2-2.25 ounces) with shell.
- sour cream. Makes this cake extra moist! It also infuses the cake with a subtle tang.
- milk. I use full cream milk.
- lemon zest. I love a generous amount of lemon zest for a hint of lemon flavour and aroma. You can use orange zest if you prefer a cranberry and orange flavour pairing.
- salt. As a flavour improver, salt just makes everything taste better! Just a bit goes a long way. Remember to omit it if you use salted butter.
How to make cranberry cake: Step by step
This is a basic butter cake that uses the creaming method. In a nutshell, here are the steps:
- Cream butter and sugar
- Beat in eggs
- Fold in flour and milk/sour cream
- Fold in add-ins (cranberries and nuts)
Note: The ingredients and instructions are detailed in the recipe card at the end of this post – if you want to skip to the recipe card, scroll down to the bottom or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post.
- Cream butter and sugar. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest mixture in the bowl at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 – 6 minutes. Stop the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl to get all the butter evenly creamed.
- Beat in the eggs. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating fully for 45 seconds before adding the next. The butter mixture will curdle each time you add an egg, but do not be alarmed and continue to beat until the mixture smoothens out.
- Add dry and wet ingredients. Now, reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the sifted flour mixture in 3 lots alternating with 2 lots of the sour cream/milk mixture.
So, in a nutshell, you introduce the dry and wet ingredients in this order: one lot of flour, half of sour cream/milk, second lot of flour, remaining sour cream/milk, then the third lot of flour.
Do not over beat, stop once the flour is absorbed and the batter is smooth and at the same consistency throughout.
- Fold in cranberries and nuts: With a rubber spatula, gently fold the cranberries and pecans into the batter. This is a thick and heavy batter, so be sure to scoop the batter off the bottom of the bowl a couple of times, to distribute the fruit and nuts evenly.
- Fill the bundt pan: Spoon the batter into the greased bundt pan. Level the batter and smooth the surface with a spatula.
- Bake: Bake in the centre of the oven for 45 – 50 minutes, or until the cake tests done. To check, insert a metal skewer or cake tester into the centre of the cake. Once it comes out clean of batter, the cake is done.
Tip: How to check the cake is done baking
- Colour and appearance. Check to see if the cake surface has browned evenly to a deep golden brown. Also see if the centre of the cake has fully risen and if the cake has shrunk from the sides of the pan.
- Firmness and spring. Press lightly in the centre of the cake. When the cake feels firm to the touch and springs back, it has baked through.
- Check for sticky batter. Insert a bamboo or metal skewer into the centre of the cake. The cake is done if it emerges free of sticky batter. If you’re at the end of the suggested baking time and there’s still some sticky batter, extend the baking time, checking every 5 mins.
How to make sugared cranberries
Sugared cranberries make a great complement to any cranberry cake, and they’re very easy to do. All you need to make is a simple syrup.
While they do need a bit of time, most of it is hands free as once coated in syrup, the cranberries need to dry out for an hour before coating them with sugar. So I usually start on these sugared cranberries right after popping the cake into the oven to bake.
Because sugared cranberries are at their freshest on the day they’re made, I usually make these on the day I serve the cranberry cake.
Here’s how you make sugared cranberries:
- Make the simple syrup. In a saucepan, heat up equal parts of water and sugar over medium heat and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Once the syrup starts to barely simmer around the edges, remove from the heat.
- Coat the cranberries. Stir in the cranberries, moving them around to evenly coat with the syrup. Let the cranberries steep for 10 minutes.
- Dry out the cranberries. Transfer the cranberries to a wire rack using a slotted spoon, spacing them apart (reserve the sugar syrup, it’s a great addition to chilled beverages, cocktails, etc.). Let them dry out for an hour at room temperature.
- Roll in sugar. Roll the cranberries in the extra sugar until fully coated all around. Set aside until ready to use.
In case you’re wondering how I got these sugared cranberries to stay on top of the cake, it was a bit of a circus act!
Truth be told, I didn’t plan on how to set it, only that I really wanted these sugared cranberries with the cake… somewhere!!.. without having to do anything else.
I found that when I set the rosemary sprigs on the grooves of the bundt, it was much easier to place the sugared cranberries. Still, this was a bit of a bother because the cranberries all too easily rolled down the cake at the slightest nudge.
Instead, I would highly recommend making this delicious lemon glaze to drizzle over the top of the cake, allowing the sugared cranberries to adhere. This way, you can decorate to your heart’s delight!
- Sour cream. Replace 1:1 with buttermilk, plain yogurt or Greek-style yogurt. You can also replace the sour cream with heavy cream or whole milk, but omit the baking soda and add an additional ½ teaspoon baking powder.
Do note that sour cream’s high fat content is what makes this cake extra moist, so replacing with milk will make a slight difference.
- Milk. Substitute 1:1 with oat milk or almond milk but be aware that their flavours can come through in the cake.
You can also replace with lemon juice or orange juice which pairs really well with cranberries, and adds extra flavour. Make sure you keep the baking soda in the recipe to counter the acidity of these juices.
- lemon zest. Replace 1:1 with orange zest.
- extracts. Add up to 1 tsp of vanilla or almond extract.
- pecans. Replace 1:1 with your favourite nuts – chopped walnuts and brazil nuts are great options.
10 Baking Tips for Perfect Bundt Cake
Whether you’re making a cranberry cake for the first time, nervous about baking in a bundt pan, or simply looking for a picture-perfect tea cake to impress, these pro tips are indispensable for every home baker.
This recipe is easy to execute but a few seasoned tips will help ensure it turns out as pictured. So here are my:
10 Baking Tips for Perfect Bundt Cake
- Use room temperature ingredients.
Start with all your ingredients at room temperature. Chilled ingredients like butter, eggs, and sour cream can take at least 30 – 45 minutes to an hour to get to room temperature. If your kitchen is warm as mine always is in the tropics, this can be as quick as 25 minutes but in cool weather during the fall or winter where you are, this could take longer.
- Do not let butter get too warm.
While it’s important to get cold butter to room temperature, around 18-19°C (65°F) is ideal, you shouldn’t let it sit out too long until it gets too warm.
Warm butter will not whip up light and fluffy, because it can’t hold or trap the air pockets. When the butter is too cold, it’s very hard for the sugar crystals to cut through and aerate the butter and get to a smooth, even consistency.
Butter is ideal for creaming when it’s slightly softened to the point that it leaves a dent when you press it but doesn’t feel greasy.
- Measure the amount of flour correctly.
Use a digital scale, whenever you can, for accuracy and consistent baking results. If you use cups to measure flour, it’s really important to do it correctly as the difference can be as much as 1.5 times more than the amount of flour you need. Too much flour will throw the recipe out of balance, resulting in dry, crumbly cakes.
To do this correctly, start by spooning the flour into the measuring cup until it mounds on top. Level it off with the side of a knife and tip out the floor into a large bowl. Do not scoop out the flour with the measuring cup itself, and don’t tap and pack down the flour in the cup either.
- Sift dry ingredients together.
Sifting helps to aerate the flour and evenly distributes the leavening agents (baking powder and baking soda). This helps the cake to get an even, uniform rise during baking.
- Check your baking powder and baking soda are still active.
If your leavening agents have been opened or sitting in your pantry for some time, it’s a good idea to check if they are still active. Leavening agents past their shelf life will prevent the cake batter from rising and result in a flat and dense cake.
- Follow the recipe accurately.
This recipe as it stands has been tested to give consistent and reliable results. Do not be tempted to swap out ingredients, unless alternative substitutions are suggested for the specific recipe. I recommend following the recipe exactly the first time you try it, and then tweak or change it up if desired.
- Grease AND flour the bundt pan thoroughly.
Give the bundt pan a healthy coat of grease with shortening or softened butter. I do not recommend using melted butter as it tends to run down the sides and pool at the bottom of the pan by the time you’re ready to fill it with batter.
Make sure you get grease into all the nooks and crannies, including the sides down the funnel as well. Then coat with flour by sifting 1-2 tablespoons over the greased sides. Flour can clump in certain areas, so tap the outside of the bundt pan while turning it around to get the flour to distribute and coat the grease evenly. Then tap out all the excess flour.
- Do not over-mix or under-mix.
An over-mixed batter is the main reason baked goods end up tough, dense, and chewy because the batter loses trapped air bubbles from over-beating and develops too much gluten. Under-mixing isn’t ideal either as ingredients aren’t well combined and won’t turn out as intended.
- Use the mixing technique suggested.
There’s a good reason why certain ingredients need paddling for a longer time to get to a light and fluffy state (eg. butter and sugar), others need a gentle mixing until ‘just’ combined (eg. flour and liquids), while add-ins need folding to distribute evenly throughout the batter.
Likewise, the mixing tools are also important. If the recipe asks to beat, use a paddle attachment fitted to a stand mixer or beaters fitted into an electric hand mixer, and not a foam whisk. Likewise, if the recipe says to gently fold, use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, usually by hand, do not beat or whip.
- Watch the baking time and test for doneness.
I know this goes without saying but because ovens behave differently, the baking times are guidelines and can vary. The type of baking pan (tube, chiffon, round, square, layer or loaf pans) as well as the size will affect baking times.
Cranberry cake: FAQs
This recipe batter can be baked in either of the following:
– One 9″/23-cm tube or chiffon pan (closest alternative to a bundt pan)
– One 10″/25-cm round springform pan
– One 9“ round cake pan
– One 8″ or 9″ square cake pan
– One 9“ loaf pan
As the types of pans suggested above differ in design, surface area and depth, the baking times can greatly vary. Watch the cake closely for indications that the cake is nearing the end of baking and test for doneness.
Yes, you can make this cranberry cake in advance and freeze for up to 3 months. To retain its freshness, freeze the cake on the same day it’s baked, without any icing, glaze or topping.
Once the cake is baked and completely cooled to room temperature, wrap in several layers of plastic wrap and seal tight. Do a final wrap with a sheet of aluminium foil. Place the wrapped cake flat on freezer rack, and avoid stacking anything on top of it.
Pull it from the freezer and into the chiller, still wrapped, to thaw overnight. Alternatively, you can unwrap the cake and let it thaw at room temperature for 2 – 3 hours.
At room temperature, this cranberry bundt cake keeps well for 3 days. Beyond this time, I recommend storing in the chiller to extend its freshness due to the fruit and dairy content in the cake.
Before storing, make sure the cake has completely cooled to room temperature. Pop chilled slices into a microwave oven, and heat at medium power for 15 to 20 seconds to get it as tender and moist as when first baked.
The easiest way to make this cake gluten free is to substitute the plain flour with plain gluten free flour. I recommend using Bob’s Mill Gluten Free 1:1 Baking Flour without making any change to the recipe.
Definitely! In fact, I can only get fresh cranberries when they’re in season so I usually buy to freeze and use later. Frozen cranberries can be used in place of fresh, raw cranberries in recipes as they are identical.
More recipes you may like:
- Cranberry Pecan Loaf Cake with Lemon Cinnamon Glaze
- The Best Raspberry Cheesecake
- Blueberry Crumble Cake with Lemon Glaze
- Coconut, Almond and Blueberry Cake
- Moist and Fluffy Strawberry Shortcake
For the cake
- 340 g plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt omit if using salted butter
- 227 g unsalted butter at room temperature
- 300 g caster sugar
- 2½ tbsp lemon zest or the grated zest of 2 large lemons
- 4 large eggs at room temperature, each weighing 60-63 grams (2 – 2.25 ounces) with shell
- 125 g sour cream at room temperature
- 4 tbsp milk
- 230 g fresh cranberries Note 1 roughly chopped (or use frozen, no need to thaw)
- 125 g pecans roughly chopped
For the sugared cranberries
- 120 g caster sugar plus extra 60 grams (¼ cup) for coating
- 120 g water
- 100 g fresh cranberries do not use frozen
- Oven: Preheat to 175°C (350°F). Set the mode to top and bottom heating with a rack placed in the middle of the oven.
- Bundt pan: Using a pastry brush, grease a 10- or 12-cup bundt pan (recipe shows a 10" bundt pan) generously with softened butter or shortening. Make sure to get the grease into all the nooks and crannies and up the sides of the funnel. Sift or sprinkle flour enough flour to thoroughly coat the grease. Turn the bundt pan over the sink and tap out the excess.
Make the cake
- Combine the dry ingredients: Sift together the plain flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, rub the lemon zest into the sugar until fragrant.
- In another small bowl, stir sour cream and milk until well combined.
- Cream butter and sugar: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar and lemon zest mixture at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 – 6 minutes, stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the butter off the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Beat in eggs: Beat the eggs, one at a time, at medium speed for 45 seconds until the mixture smoothens before adding the next egg.Note: The mixture will curdle each time you beat in the egg, but do not be alarmed and continue beating until the batter becomes smooth.
- Add dry and wet ingredients: Reduce the mixer setting to low speed. Add the flour mixture in 3 lots alternating with the sour cream and milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Do not over beat, stop once the flour is absorbed and the batter is smooth. Note: In alternating order, it goes like this: the first lot of flour, then half of sour cream and milk, the second lot of flour, then the remaining sour cream and milk, and lastly, the third lot of flour. The batter will be thick – it won't be pourable but will easily fall off the spatula when scooped.
- Fold in cranberries and nuts: Tip in the cranberries and chopped pecans. With a rubber spatula, very gently fold into the batter. This is a thick and heavy batter, so be sure to scoop the batter off the bottom of the bowl a couple of times, to distribute the fruit and nuts evenly.
- Fill the bundt pan: Spoon the batter into the greased bundt pan. Level the batter and smooth the surface with a spatula.
- Bake: Bake in the centre of the oven for 45 – 50 minutes, or until the cake tests done. To check, insert a metal skewer or cake tester into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. If it comes out sticky or covered in batter, add 5 – 7 minutes to the baking time.Note: If the cake browns too quickly before it is done, tent the top with a sheet of aluminium foil. Once done, remove the pan from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. To remove from the pan, carefully insert an offset spatula in between the cake and the pan and gently nudge the sides of the cake away from the sides of the pan and the funnel. Invert the cake onto a wire rack to release it.
- Once out of the oven, let the cake sit in the pan for 15 minutes. To release, use an offset spatula to gently nudge the cake away from the sides of the pan and the funnel. Place a wire rack over the pan. Holding the bundt pan and rack firmly together with both hands, flip over swiftly in one go. Gently lift up the bundt pan – slowly – to release the cake. Let the cake cool on the wire rack.Note: If the cake is still sticking a bit in certain spots, wiggle the pan gently. If this doesn’t free the cake, flip back the pan. Use a small knife or offset spatula to scrape down the sides that are still sticking. Then place the wire rack over the bundt pan as before, and flip over to release the cake.
Make the sugared cranberries
- In a saucepan, stir or whisk sugar and water over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Once the syrup starts to barely simmer around the edges, remove from the heat.
- Stir in the cranberries and move them around to evenly coat in the syrup. Let steep for 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cranberries (reserve the sugar syrup Note 2) to a wire rack, spacing them apart.
- Dry them out for an hour at room temperature. Roll the cranberries, a few at a time, in the extra sugar until fully coated all around. Set onto a sheet of parchment paper to continue drying out. Note 3Note: The cranberries will be a bit sticky at first, but become much less so once coated in sugar.
- Set the cooled cake on a serving plate and garnish with sugared cranberries as desired.