Sick of cookies? Of course you aren’t.
But just in case you need a little something different in your oven this week, here’s a cranberry orange bundt cake. You won’t regret this.
Peppermint and mocha. Pumpkin and spice. Butter and pecan. Ginger and molasses. Mint and chocolate. There’s no doubt that this time of year is home to some of the most delicious and irresistible flavor combinations. Helloooo red velvet and cream cheese. But there’s one duo that’s completely underrated. It stands up to even the most decadent peppermint, eggnog, or gingerbread treat. Tart cranberry and sweeeeet orange. Oh what a marriage!
Today we’re making a super-moist glazed orange bundt cake that’s dotted with cranberries and a thick cinnamon swirl nestled inside. The starting point for this recipe is my chai cinnamon swirl bundt cake. Remember that cake from earlier this Fall? I froze slices of it, thawed them, and served them to friends who visited us right after Noelle was born. Everyone raved about it. It’s honestly one of the best cakes I’ve ever made, even without the chai cinnamon swirl inside. Seriously! It’s insanely buttery, moist, and dense– without being too heavy. That’s the crazy part. It’s dense, but not weighed down at all. I love it.
With a quality base recipe like that, the options are endless. So I knew that’s where I wanted to start when crafting a holiday inspired cake.
How to Make?
Creamed butter + sugar + orange zest is the base of the bundt cake. Instead of granulated sugar, I sweeten the cake with brown sugar. Paired with orange, cranberry, and cinnamon– brown sugar is clearly the way to start! Since they’re quite large, bundt cakes have the tendency to dry out, so let’s add enough moisture to compensate. We’ll use 5 large eggs, sour cream, milk, and fresh orange juice. You’ll need orange zest for the cake batter, so cut that orange open and use its juice as well. I don’t recommend store-bought OJ as it’s a little too thick. And I found it just made the cake crumb too wet.
For the cranberries, you’ve got options. You can use fresh, frozen, or dried. I tested the cake with both fresh and frozen. If using frozen, no need to thaw. Dried cranberries work just as well. See my recipe note below. I suggest using about 1 and 3/4 cups of cranberries. I tried the cake with 2 cups and that was a little aggressive. The crannies masked the orange flavor! Scaled back, it totally works. A pop of cranberry here, a pop of cranberry there. Just under 2 cups is the magic spot.
The cinnamon swirl was a last minute addition. I originally just added cinnamon straight to the cake batter, but DEFINITELY enjoyed it swirled throughout the cake even more. It’s like a sticky sweet cinnamon river flowing between the brown sugar orange crumb. Who wouldn’t want that? Everything about this cake is pure gold.
Layer the cinnamon swirl between cake batter. No need to actually swirl it– the oven will take care of that. (Want to know how? The weight of the cake batter rises and falls, moving the cinnamon swirl along with it.) Half of the cake batter goes on the bottom, half of the cake batter on top.
I love making icings and glazes with fresh citrus juices. The icing is always a little thin, but “sets” on top of the cake, quick bread, muffin, whatever you’re drizzling. Plus a little tang with a little sweet is generally a good idea… always.
If you’re feeling ambitious, serve with sugared cranberries because they’re sparkly. Look at this beautiful orange and cranberry speckled crumb!
Before you bundt:
- Call me boring, but I always use the same bundt cake pan. It’s the best. It’s nonstick, but I still always grease it just to be safe. The bundt cake releases so easily. Never a crumb stuck. Easy to clean. Plus, the shape is so pretty!
- The wet ingredients in the batter will look somewhat curdled before you add the dry ingredients; this is completely normal and due to the ranging temperatures of the ingredients. The butter may be warmer than the eggs, the sour cream may be colder than the butter, etc. Have no fear! It will all come together when the dry ingredients are added.
Cranberry Orange Bundt Cake
- 3 cups (375g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks; 345g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 and 3/4 cups (350g) packed light or dark brown sugar, divided
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- zest from 1 orange (about 2 Tbsp)
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (120g) full fat sour cream, at room temperature*
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (120ml) milk, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup (60ml) fresh orange juice*
- 1 and 3/4 cups (220g) fresh or frozen cranberries (do not thaw if frozen)*
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) confectioners' sugar
- 3-4 Tablespoons (45-60ml) fresh orange juice*
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease a 10-inch bundt pan.
- Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment beat the butter, 1 cup (200g) brown sugar, granulated sugar, and orange zest together until creamed, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla and beat on medium speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. The mixture will look curdled; that's ok-- it will come together when you add the dry ingredients.
- Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, add the milk and fresh orange juice, and beat on medium speed it all until the batter is completely combined. Beat or stir in cranberries. Batter is thick, yet silky.
- Make the swirl: Mix the remaining brown sugar and cinnamon together in a medium bowl.
- Pour half of the cake batter evenly into the prepared bundt pan. Sprinkle the swirl ingredients evenly on top and pack down slightly-- it will be a thick layer of swirl! Cover evenly with remaining cake batter.
- Bake for 55-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean with just a couple lightly moist crumbs. This is a large, heavy cake so don't be alarmed if it takes a little longer in your oven.
- Once done, remove from the oven and allow to cool for 2 hours inside the pan. Then, invert the slightly cooled bundt cake onto a wire rack or serving dish. Allow to cool completely.
- Make the icing: Whisk confectioners' sugar and 3 Tablespoons of orange juice together. Add 1 extra Tablespoon of juice to thin out as needed. (Alternatively, add an extra Tablespoon or 2 of confectioners' sugar to thicken, if desired.) Drizzle icing over cake before slicing and serving.
- Cover leftover cake tightly and store at room temperature for a couple days and/or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Make ahead tip: You can make the entire cake ahead of time (before topping with icing). Cover cooled cake and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before icing and serving. Baked cake can be frozen up to 3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature (if desired) before icing and serving.
*You can use 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Just as moist and delicious!
*Use fresh orange juice. You'll need an orange for the zest anyway, so use up that juice in the cake and icing. The cake tastes MUCH better with fresh juice than with store-bought OJ.
*1 and 3/4 cups of fresh, frozen, or dried cranberries work.
I used sugared cranberries for garnish!
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Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe.