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
I needed something g gluten free and dairy free and had lots of cranberries to use. I made this and used a bundt pan and this was to die for! No one knew if was df/gf except my mom who has celiacs. Since it called for yogurt and I didn’t have any df on hand, I actually used a bit of tofutti sour cream that was pretty thick but thinned out when I softened it. Now I’m going to make it again with some oatly df yogurt this weekend. It is going to be a staple for weekend brunch so I better stock up on cranberries for the freezer. Thanks for this!!
Can this be made without the pecans?
Great recipe! I made it this week without changing anything and it cam out perfect. Several people wanted the recipe so I referred them to your site.
hi – could I use apple sauce instead of butter? And thoughts on the use of whole wheat?
Hi Jenna! Those substitutions would yield a very dense and dry cake. Best to stick with butter (you could maybe try to replace SOME of the butter with applesauce) and all-purpose flour (again, you could try to replace a portion of the flour with whole wheat to see how it goes). Otherwise, it may be more useful to find a recipe that is specifically formulated for the ingredients you’re hoping to use. Hope this helps!
Oh my gosh. Was this good. Had a bag of fresh cranberries left from Christmas Day. Tart sweet. Crunchy. So good. Cake is so moist. I sent picture to my children and I’m sure I will be making this next time they come home This cake is a winner. I did not change anything on this recipe. Perfect the way it is.
I have leftover cranberry relish in my freezer. Could I possibly thaw that and use it instead of cranberries? Maybe as a ribbon in the middle of the cake?
Hi Tammy, We’ve never tried it that way. It would really depend on the consistency of your relish, but let us know if you end up giving it a try!
Delish…I just made this and skipped the crumble. I did a drizzle of your frosting and I loved the flavors. Definitely will make it again with a crumble topping! Another winner.
This is my new go-to recipe for leftover cranberry sauce! I might try blueberry jam next!
This and your Blueberry Pecan cake looks so so good.. With this one, I may add apple just because I have them… thank you for so many delicious recipes…
This cake is fabulous! The name fits perfectly because I have to be careful with because I am truly snacking on it anytime!! Love the abundance of pecans coupled with the slightly tart cranberries. Another wonderful recipe, Sally!
This cake is divine. The load of pecans is decadent & delicious. I used caramel extract instead of vanilla in the glaze – because I bought a bunch of different extracts on sale recently after discovering your site & getting excited about baking. I couldn’t create the perfect end result without all the instructions & suggestions. Thank you for all your wonderful recipes, great photos, & expert guidance. I lead a couple of friends to your site who were also super impressed. Merry Christmas Sally!
If I wanted more nuts in the batter, would I reduce some of the fruit? Thanks for sharing your fabulous recipes with us.
Wishing you and your family a very happy Christmas and New Year.
Hi JJ, You could add up to 1 cup of nuts without making any other changes. Happy baking!
Can I use Dried cranberry/ Raisin’s instead ?
Sure can! See recipe notes on cranberries.
Great recipe and a wonderful cake! Can it be refrigerated and for how long? Merry Christmas!
Hi Laura, We are so happy you enjoyed this recipe! You can store the cake at room temperature for up to 1 day or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
It was my first time trying out something a bit more complicated than a cupcake, 😀 but I must say it turned out pretty well. Thank you so much for posting this.
My house smells wonderful right now.
Baked tonight and we’ll have tomorrow with our Christmas brunch.
Fabulous cake. I tossed in the whole bag of cranberries and was great! My sister sadly has to spend Christmas in the hospital so I took it in for her and her nurses and everyone loved it. Thanks for another winner Sally! All the best for 2022!
These are going to make great gifts for all the tireless delivery persons that grace our doorstep. Have you ever made these in mini loaves? If so, how long should I bake them?
You can definitely make mini loaves. The exact bake time will depend on the size of your mini loaf pans.
Can I make this the day before, refrigerate it and bake it the next morning?
Hi Linnea, No we don’t recommend it. As soon as the batter is mixed together the leaveners (baking powder and baking soda) are activated so if it’s not baked right away it will not rise properly.
Oops, I accidentally threw the pecans in the batter and not the crumb…. Wonder if this will be okay???
Hi Stephanie, the recipe calls for pecans in the batter and mixed with the crumb topping.
Have you tried this recipe with gluten free flour, and if so will I get the same result? Thank you
Hi Tammy! I haven’t. Let us know if you test it.
I made this exactly as written but used gluten free flour blend (Namaste Granny’s something from Costco). It was excellent.
I love all of your recipes and I have tried several. I baked the cranberry pecan crumb cake and it was fabulous!! Can I substitute other fruit, as the seasons change?
Hi Sally, absolutely. For heavier berries such as blueberries or raspberries, I recommend 1 and 1/2 cups. If you use apples, 2 cups chopped would be fine. Anywhere between 1.5-2 cups fruit is great.
Could walnuts be used instead of pecans? We are not pecan lovers in our house and the cake sounds delicious.
Patricia, absolutely! Just a simple swap– no other changes needed.
Could blueberries be substituted instead of cranberries?
Yes they can, Rhagen!
Will a food processor work for mixing?
Hi Carolyn, a food processor would work for pulsing/mixing the crumb topping, yes.
I would love to to make this. There r no cranberries where I am at the moment. Can I replace cranberries with frozen raspberries?
Thank you & Merry Christmas
Absolutely! I would reduce the amount down to 1 and 1/2 cups (about 200g) though.
THANK YOU SALLY I LOVE ALL OF YOUR RECEIPES’ MERRY CHRISTMAS
Looks really good. However, now I have to check if a 12 oz bag of cranberries is 2 cups.
Would be great if part of ingredients info.
Hiya a quick google search tells me 120z = 340g. As the recipe uses 250g/2 cups, 1 bag is sufficent 🙂
Do you leave the cranberries whole or do you chop them?
Hi Mary, I leave them whole.
Thanks. I can’t wait to try this recipe. My husband loves cranberry bread so I know he’ll love this, too.
I snuck a piece after I made this last evening. Ohhh! I love anytime cakes. We had my daughter’s caroling group dropping by on their way to another party. This was a very warm and welcome addition. Even a few kids who hadn’t realized how good cranberries are were floored. It wasn’t difficult at all. I used fresh squeezed orange juice. The OJ and the cranberries do well together. Thank you for a lovely anytime holiday cake! Happy Holidays to you and yours Sally!
Oh my, sounds so yummy. Can’t wait to try this.