This cranberry pecan Christmas cake is tender and buttery with brown sugar cinnamon pecan crumble blanketing each bite. Cranberries and pecans are a wonderful pairing and especially during the holiday season. You’ll love them together in this cake– a breakfast, brunch, snack, or dessert suited for any time of the day!
This breakfast cake, which is like a fancy holiday version of my classic coffee cake, is really an anytime cake. 🙂 During the holiday season where routines are amiss, schedules are packed, guests pop in, school is out, and your gift wrapping snack is a spoonful of cookie dough, it seems ANY TIME is the time for cake– not just Christmas cookies!
And no, you don’t have to save it for Christmas or celebrate Christmas to enjoy it!
Why limit a buttery soft cranberry cake dressed up with pecan brown sugar crumble to the morning? And why limit those tasty tart cranberries to Thanksgiving cranberry sauce? I have a feeling your afternoons and evenings could use the tasty pick-me-up too.
Tell Me About This Cranberry Pecan Cake
- Flavor: Tart cranberries dotted throughout a sweet buttery cake is a lovely flavor balance. Plus, you have a pecan brown sugar cinnamon crumble topping that makes each bite even more scrumptious than the last. And if you prepare the icing with orange juice (you could also use milk), you have a little citrus finishing it all off.
- Texture: Thanks to the sour cream, expect a moist and tender cake crumb. The coarse crumble topping adds a pleasant texture contrast and I love that some bites of the crumb are crunchy (around the edges) and some are melt-in-your-mouth buttery (in the very center). Between the cranberries, cake, pecans, and crumb topping, there’s a variety of texture to savor.
- Ease: The cake batter is quite standard using staple baking ingredients like flour, butter, sugar, and eggs– and some of these ingredients are repeated in the crumb topping, too. Assembling the cake is nothing more than spreading thick batter into your pan and topping with the pecan crumble. That’s it! I always appreciate a cake that doesn’t require complicated shaping/decoration/design.
- Time: Isn’t it nice when you can cut into a cake while it’s warm? Cool this cake for just 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving. The bake time varies and this depends on the pan you’re using.
Testing The Recipe
Have you ever made this raspberry almond crumb cake before? It’s been a big hit ever since I published the recipe. Today’s cranberry cake uses a similar batter, but I add a little more flour and some liquid. Cranberries are a special add-in because they’re so light and you often need a lot of them to fill each slice with berries. I found 2 cups (about 250g) to be the perfect amount. Since I added 2 cups of add-ins (plus pecans in the batter too), the batter needed a little more flour. And to prevent the crumb from tasting dry with extra flour, I added some liquid. I recommend orange juice for a little flavor, but you can use milk if that’s all you have. The recipe below includes these additions.
- You also need liquid in the icing and you can use orange juice or milk there too. It depends on if you want a vanilla or orange icing drizzled on this cranberry jeweled cake! I love the orange.
Expect a thick cake batter:
Cranberry Cake Crumb Topping
The crumb topping is a scaled down version of what we usually use on New York-style crumb cake. I use this same amount on blackberry cream cheese crumb cake, too. (A favorite!) You need a fork or pastry cutter to cut the cold butter into the mixture. Mix until you have plenty of crumbles– some dry powdery crumbs are fine. Stir in pecans and then sprinkle over the cake batter before baking:
Can I Use Frozen or Dried Cranberries?
I typically make this cranberry pecan cake with fresh cranberries, but you can use frozen instead. You do not have to thaw the berries before folding into the batter. You could also use dried cranberries, but keep in mind that they are much sweeter so reducing the amount is imperative. If using dried instead of fresh or frozen, use 1 cup (140g) dried cranberries.
Lots to love here. Orange cranberry bread would be the loaf version of this cake and there’s cranberry orange muffins too– both are also great for the holidays, any time of day!
Even More Brunch Treats
- Chocolate Chip Loaf Cake
- Star Bread
- Chai Spice Cinnamon Swirl Bundt Cake
- Cranberry Cardamom Spice Muffins
- Dark Chocolate Raspberry Coffee Cake
- Cinnamon Swirl Quick Bread
Cranberry Pecan Cake
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
- Yield: serves 10
- Category: Breakfast
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
This cranberry pecan cake is tender and buttery with a brown sugar cinnamon pecan crumble blanketing each bite. Fitting for breakfast, brunch, snack, or dessert. See recipe notes about best baking pans.
- 1 and 1/2 cups (190g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
- 2 Tablespoons (30ml) milk or orange juice, at room temperature
- 2 cups (250g) fresh or frozen cranberries (do not thaw)
- 2/3 cup (90g) roughly chopped pecans
- 1/3 cup (67g) packed dark or light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (63g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp; 60g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 2/3 cup (90g) roughly chopped pecans
- 3/4 cup (90g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons (22ml) milk, heavy cream, or orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (skip if using orange juice)
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease a 2-quart baking dish. (See note below for recommendations on best pans to use.)
- Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until creamy and combined, about 2 minutes. On medium speed, add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and sour cream. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat again as needed to combine. (Mixture may appear curdled– that’s ok.) With the mixer on low speed, pour in the dry ingredients and milk/orange juice and beat until smooth and combined. Do not overmix. The batter will be thick. Fold in the cranberries and pecans. Spread into prepared pan. Set aside.
- Make the crumb topping: Combine the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry blender or a fork (or even with your hands) until the mixture is crumbly. Mix in the pecans. Sprinkle evenly over batter.
- Bake for 40-55 minutes. Baking times vary greatly depending on the pan you’re using. A thick ceramic pan (as pictured) will take longer than a metal springform pan. Keep an eye on yours. The cake is done when the edges are browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If you find the top of the cake is browning too quickly in the oven, loosely cover it with aluminum foil.
- Remove the cake from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool for 10-15 minutes.
- Make the icing: As the cake slightly cools, you can make the icing by whisking the icing ingredients together until smooth. Add more milk/cream/orange juice to thin out if needed. Drizzle icing over cake while it’s still warm. Slice and serve.
- Cover and store leftover cake at room temperature for up to 1 day or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Freezing Instructions: Bake the cake as directed, cool completely, and then freeze for up to 3 months (with or without the icing). Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature to serve or you can slightly warm by baking at 300°F (149°C) for 15 minutes. Drizzle icing on cake, if it’s plain, before serving.
- Baking Pan to Use (affiliate link): Use a baking dish that holds 2 quarts, such as a 9-inch square baking dish, 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan, or an 11×7 inch pan. I do not recommend a 9-inch regular round cake pan because there is so much batter and even though it will fit, the batter will rise quite high and won’t bake evenly. The pictured red ruffled baking dish is by the brand Emile Henry and comes in a set with others.
- Sour Cream: If you don’t have sour cream, you can use plain regular or Greek yogurt instead. I don’t suggest subbing the sour cream with a liquid.
- Cranberries: If using dried instead of fresh or frozen, reduce down to 1 cup (140g) dried cranberries.
- Optional Icing (affiliate link): The icing is optional. Feel free to skip it completely and leave the cake plain. Or you can dust the warm cake with confectioners’ sugar using a fine mesh sieve.
Keywords: cranberry pecan cake
Reader Comments & Reviews
Do you see any problems worth these substitutions?
•Dried apricots, diced, instead of cranberries
•pecans in the batter, not in top
•cream cheese frosting (infused with raspberry powder) instead of crumble top
Do I need to make any liquid adjustments for the dried apricots or anything? Many thanks! Love SBA— recipes are also so trustworthy.
Hi Chels, we haven’t tested it with dried apricots but we have used dried cranberries (reduce the total amount to 1 cup) so it should work. Mixing the pecans into the batter will work just fine, and you can definitely use a cream cheese frosting on top. Hope you enjoy the recipe!
How come the actual recipe procedure have been deleted?
Hi Samuel, you can find the full recipe instructions in the gray recipe box (above the comments section).
Loved this cake, came together nicely!
I baked this in a springform pan. I don’t think I got the center baked, but still plan to eat the part that got baked. I do like the flavor. The streusel adds a lot to it. Lately I’ve over baked things and that’s probably why I may have jumped the gun on this and took it out too soon.
Could you double this recipe and bake it in a 13 x 9 pan?
Hi Vanita, here’s everything you need to know about cake pan sizes and conversions.
Scary, it was so so so delicious!!!!! Easy to make, even easier to eat AND absolutely beautiful with the cranberry color. Directions were spot on. Oh boy ………….. this is the just beginning of my new love affair with this coffee cake base.
OMG… like all of your other recipes, this was the BOMB! So moist and flavorful. I made one for myself then decided to make 2 more for my neighbors as a holiday gift and they raved about it as well. Thank you for helping me find my annual holiday baked goods giveaway!
Excited to try this recipe for Christmas! Do you think a 9.5 and almost 2 inches deep pie pan would work for this? Thanks so much!
Hi Christa, We fear that even though the batter may fit, it will rise too high and won’t bake evenly. If you are using a 9 or 10 inch round pan, a springform pan is best.
Would it be possible to bake this in two loaf pans instead?
This recipe isn’t quite enough for 2 loaf pans, but it’s a little too much for 1. I recommend filling your greased 9×5-inch or 8×4-inch loaf pan about 2/3 full with batter, and then using the rest to make a few muffins on the side. I’m unsure of the best bake times, so keep your eye on them!
What a lovely recipe. I took it to a gathering Sunday morning and received lots of good response. Can you tell me about the great pan you baked it in for photos? Thanks.
I cant wait to try this! What would happen if I used a gluten free flour? I want to make it for a friend who is gluten intolerant.
Hi Jodi, we haven’t tested this recipe with gluten free flour but please let us know how it goes if you do!
This looks amazing, I can’t wait to try it over the holidays! I do have a cousin who is celiac though. Can this be made with gluten free flour? Thanks!
Hi MT, we haven’t tested this recipe with gluten free flour but please let us know how it goes if you do!
Solid recipe. Used an 11 x 17 Pyrex pan and put the glaze on the top. The catch is getting the middle done without over baking the edges. Perhaps a ceramic dish (as pictured) would be best. That’s seems to be the rub with this recipe. Otherwise the cranberries and pecan pair well. Tasty but be careful… or it will be dry.
I made this recipe Thanksgiving morning. We enjoyed it then, but I just wanted to note that unlike other coffee cakes, which are pretty much dustbowls later, this one was even more moist the next day. Apparently, like a good piundcake, it improves with time.
Can this be baked in a bundt pan?
Hi Pamela, unfortunately, there won’t be enough batter for a Bundt pan.
I generally sub lite sour cream for full fat in recipes.Would this change the outcome?
Hi Pat! Full fat is best, but lite will work in this recipe in a pinch.
This is an awesome bake! It went together so easily. It smells so good baking, I can hardly wait to taste it! It’s out. It’s delicious. I baked two mini loaves and one large loaf. I dusted heavily with powdered sugar then I topped them with a powdered sugar orange juice glaze. The crumbs of topping that fell off when I turned out the large loaf are so tasty that I had to try to glue them on with powdered sugar and glaze. One mini loaf is for a friend the other is for my wife and me. The large loaf is going in the freezer until Christmas Day. Then it’ll be shared with friends and family. Thank you. I love your blog!!!!
This recipe looks so delicious! I love pecans and have some fresh picked blackberries. Can I substitute blackberries for the cranberries or are they too juicy?
Hi Stephanie! blackberries *should* work, but this raspberry almond crumb cake may be a better batter to work with for blackberries (it’s a very similar batter!). Let us know what you try!
I would love to make this in a 9×13″ pan… would I double the recipe or 1 1/2 times the recipe?
Thank you in advance 🙂
Hi Del, Here is everything you need to know about converting recipes to different Cake Pan Sizes.
Sally, you have one of the only blogs that I have complete confidence in. I know that any recipe of yours will turn out great. This cake was no exception. I used dried cranberries because that is what we had, but I’m definitely going to make this once I can get fresh cranberries. I added the zest of a large orange to the butter and sugar before creaming it because I love cranberries and orange.
Sally, I love this cake so much and cannot stop thinking about making it again. I was wondering how chopped dried apricots would be in this cake instead of cranberries?
Hi Ava, We are so happy you love this recipe! We haven’t tested it with dried apricots but we have used dried cranberries (reduce the total amount to 1 cup) so it should work. Let us know if you try it!
This was so good!! I substituted almond extract for the vanilla just for fun. It was delicious!
We enjoyed this cake at home so when my MIL asked for a suggestion to serve to her church ladies group, I suggested this. At my suggestion she put it in a 9×13″ pan and baked it about 40 min. She topped it with Cool Whip instead of the drizzle and said she got many compliments on it and the thickness was perfect. .
what would be an alternative for egg as in India not everyone eats egg
Hi Aditya, We have not tested this recipe with any egg substitutes so we are unsure of the results. If you are interested, here are all of our egg free recipes.
This is so good. I’ve made it twice for Christmas gatherings. Had to send the recipe to a friend so she could make it.
Nice blog on Cranberry Cake. The cake looks delicious and interesting and having it for the brunch makes a day. Thank you for sharing such a nice blog.
Could we make these into muffins?
Hi Meagan, we’d recommend these cranberry orange muffins instead, and you can use this crumb topping with that recipe. Let us know if you give it a try!
Simple to make for a delicious Sunday morning breakfast and enjoyed throughout the week! Used frozen cranberries, came out perfectly.