After what feels like months of cookies, a different kind of dessert on your Christmas table is a much appreciated change of pace. A few years ago, I was on the search for the perfect Christmas cake to bring to a holiday get-together, and I landed on this moist and decadent Orange Cranberry Christmas Cake.
This bundt cake has the wonderful tart and tangy flavor of cranberries combined with the bright zestiness of orange. Slather it with an incredibly simple orange glaze and some sugared cranberries to make it look perfectly festive! Let’s get baking.
What you’ll need to make your orange cranberry Christmas cake
This cranberry Christmas cake uses a mix of fresh seasonal ingredients and baking staples to create a melt-in-your-mouth Christmas dessert.
- Oranges: You’re going to use both the juice and the zest from these oranges, so don’t throw away that peel! It’ll take two to three oranges to make the cake and the glaze.
- Fresh cranberries: To give your cranberry cake that juicy tart flavor. Have on hand 3 cups if you plan on also making the sugared cranberries to top your Christmas cake.
- Eggs and butter
- Baking soda, baking powder, sugar, salt, and flour: We recommend unbleached all-purpose flour.
- More butter and flour: Used to grease the pan and prevent your Bundt cake from sticking
- Orange liqueur: This is an optional ingredient, but I highly recommend adding it for the extra orange burst it’ll add to your cake.
- Vanilla and confectioner’s sugar: Confectioner’s sugar is sometimes referred to as powdered sugar or icing sugar. You’ll need these for the orange glaze.
How do you make cranberry Christmas cake?
- Grease your Bundt pan, making sure to get in all the nooks and crannies. Flour your pan after it’s been well greased to be sure the cake won’t stick.
- Whisk the orange zest, juice, and liqueur with your eggs.
- Toss your cranberries with a tablespoon of flour.
- Mix your remaining dry ingredients, and beat in the butter, a few tablespoons at a time.
- Combine the butter mixture with the orange juice. Beat for several minutes until the mixture is nice and fluffy.
- Fold in the floured cranberries.
- Pour your batter into your greased and floured Bundt pan.
- Bake at 350°F for 50-55 minutes. Cool completely before garnishing.
What is orange zest?
Orange zest is made using a zester or the fine side of your box grater to grate the orange part of your orange peel. There are potent oils located in orange peel that really boost the orange flavor of this cake—way more than just orange juice alone. Make sure your orange is well-washed before grating, and stop when you reach the white part of the peel—the orange part is delicious, but the white part is bitter.
Since you’ll need both the zest and the juice of your orange, make sure you zest it before you juice it. Zesting a peel that’s already off the orange is no fun at all!
Can I use dried cranberries?
The cranberries in this recipe should be fresh—we’re looking for the juiciness of the cranberry, not just the flavor. Dried cranberries just won’t do the trick.
Can I use frozen cranberries?
Yes! Frozen cranberries work perfectly in this cranberry Christmas cake. You don’t even have to thaw them; you can add them straight from your freezer.
What’s the best way to get the juice from the orange?
Allow your oranges to sit on the counter for a few hours to bring them up to room temperature if they were refrigerated. Warm oranges release their juice more easily than cold ones. Then, take your orange and firmly roll it around on the counter a few times. This will release the juice while it’s still contained in the orange.
Don’t forget to zest the orange before juicing it! It is much easier to remove the zest before the fruit has been cut open.
When your orange is ready, take a sharp knife and slice the fruit in half. Squeeze it into a glass or a measuring cup. If you can, place a strainer over the top of your glass to catch any orange seeds that might make their way in. If you don’t have a strainer, you can use a spoon to scoop the seeds out of the juice.
Certain varieties such as Valencia and navel oranges were bred to be juiced. This makes them the perfect oranges for your cranberry Christmas cake!
Why did my Bundt cake fall apart when I tried to remove it from the pan?
It’s important to let your cranberry Christmas cake rest for 20 minutes before you flip it over and remove the cake from the pan. If your cake hasn’t cooled, parts of it may break off, so don’t skip this step!
Your cranberry cake may also fall apart if you don’t grease the pan properly. Bundt pans have a beautiful design that allows you to make stunning cakes, but those little ripples can catch on your cake. Be sure to grease and flour every little cranny before pouring in the cake batter, so your cake slides out clean.
Help! My orange glaze is too thick/too thin
If you’re trying to get the perfect pouring consistency, you can add more orange juice to thin out your glaze or more powdered sugar to thicken it. Add a little bit at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
Can cranberry Christmas cake be made ahead of time?
Bundt cakes are famous for how long they’ll last. You can definitely make this cranberry Christmas cake ahead of time! Bake the cake according to the recipe, but hold off on adding the glaze and sugared cranberries until you plan on serving your cake.
Can I freeze this Christmas cake?
Sure can! This cake freezes well (unglazed) for up to a month. Just make sure to let it cool completely and then wrap it very well in multiple layers of plastic wrap before freezing.
I love the flavors, but I need something gluten-free. What could I make instead?
If you’re looking for a gluten-free dessert that captures the festive spirit of Christmas with fresh seasonal cranberries and oranges, I recommend my cranberry curd tart. This simple, stunning red tart is gluten-free and completely delicious!