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Christmas Cranberry Layer Cake

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Celebrate the holidays with our Christmas Cranberry Layer Cake!  There is a smooth layer of tart cranberry mixture sandwiched right in the middle of two moist vanilla cake layers.  Then, the cake is covered with a blanket of ultra-creamy, pure white icing. 

Christmas Cranberry Layer Cake
Celebrate the holidays with our Christmas Cranberry Layer Cake!

Cranberries are King at the holiday season and we are love’n every bite of our Christmas Cranberry Layer Cake! This delightful cake is all decked out for the holidays and will be a delicious ending for any event at Christmas. 

About the Christmas Cranberry Layer Cake:

The recipe we used for this cake is the same basic recipe as our Lavender cake and it is wonderful!   It uses the reverse creaming method which means that there isn’t any creaming of the fats, sugar and eggs. Instead of creaming the butter with the sugar, this method blends the butter with the flour.  The liquids and eggs are blended in last. The reverse creaming method helps minimize the formation of gluten and produces a light, moist cake with a tender crumb.

The transformation of the cranberry:

Sugar and water are simmered with fresh cranberries  until they burst and the sauce thickens slightly.  Vanilla, lemon oil and a dab of butter enhance the flavor.  Cranberries have a lot of natural pectin which causes the mixture to thicken. 

The edge of the cake gets a barrier or dam of buttercream before adding the cranberry filling. The dam of buttercream will prevent the cranberry filling from spilling over the edge of the cake.  This is an essential step to keeping the layer cake intact.     

Christmas cranberry layer cake collage
Christmas Cranberry Layer cake

A little cranberry trivia:

  • Cranberries are evergreen shrubs, grown on woody vines. 
  • Contrary to popular belief, cranberries do not grow in bogs of water.  
  • Farmers do not flood the cranberry plants until it is time to harvest them.
  • Blueberries and huckleberries are related to the cranberry.
  • October, November and December is when cranberries are harvested.

The secret to this buttercream icing is boiling water!

There is a secret to this buttercream icing.  It uses just four ordinary ingredients and transforms them into something extraordinary.

  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • Boiling water
  • Butter
  • Flavorings/Color

Yes, you read that right!  Boiling water is poured over confectioner’s sugar while the mixer is running on low.  The sugar dissolves into a thick, smooth mixture.  During this initial slow mixing the sugar/water gradually cools, then the flavoring and butter are added and it is mixed for another ten minutes.  As it mixes it builds in volume to produce this velvety, smooth icing.

The awesome buttercream icing:

I kid you not!  Our buttercream icing is beyond awesome.   This is the lightest, fluffiest and smoothest buttercream icing I have ever tasted!  I’m talking true love here! You have got to try this buttercream!  There is no greasy mouth-feel, no gritty sugar and it is not a bit over-sweet.  It is as smooth as meringue.  And, it is so easy!   I promise…. you will never, ever make the traditional American buttercream icing again! 

Christmas Cranberry Layer Cake

Christmas Cranberry Layer Cake

Everything about this cake is special!  The moist, tender crumb of the vanilla flavored white cake, the thick layer of tart cranberries and that wonderful awesome buttercream icing!  You will not go wrong by adding this Christmas Cranberry Layer Cake to your Christmas dessert menu.

More cake recipes:

Christmas Cranberry Layer Cake

Christmas Cranberry Layer Cake

Celebrate the holidays with our Christmas Cranberry Layer Cake! There is a smooth layer of tart cranberries sandwiched right in the middle of two moist vanilla cakes. The cake is covered with a delicious blanket of ultra-creamy, pure white buttercream.
4.75 from 36 votes
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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 26 minutes
Total Time: 46 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 621kcal
Author: Pat Nyswonger


For the white vanilla Cake:

  • 2-3/4 cups cake flour 300 grams
  • 1-2/3 cups sugar superfine is best (330 grams)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¾ cup butter (12 tablespoons) softened
  • 4 large egg whites plus 1 whole large egg
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

For the cranberry layer:

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure lemon oil * See Notes
  • 1 tablespoon butter

For the buttercream icing:

  • 2 cups 4 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 2 cans 14-ounces each sweetened condensed milk
  • Decorations of choice


For the White Vanilla Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F
  • Prepare two 9”x 2” round pans by lining them with parchment paper.
  • Mix the dry ingredients on slow speed for 2 minutes to blend. Add the soft butter and beat on medium speed until it looks like damp sand.
  • Add the egg whites one at a time, then add the whole egg, beating well after each addition. This will help build the structure of the cake. 
  • In a small bowl, whisk the milk with the vanilla and almond extract and add it 1/3 at a time, to the batter. Mix just until combined.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. 
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 23 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs stuck to the toothpick. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

For the cranberry layer:

  • To a small saucepan set over medium heat, add the cranberries, sugar water and salt. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently until the berries have burst. 
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer for 8-10 minutes. 
  • Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, lemon oil and butter. Allow to cool. Transfer to the food processor and pulse until the berries are slightly broken. Do not over-mix the berries or they will turn into a puree. 
  • Cool to room temperature.

For the buttercream icing:

  • Whip the butter on high speed with a whisk attachment for 6 to 8 minutes until light in color.
  • Add the vanilla and almond extract. Beat until well incorporated.
  • Slowly drizzle in the sweetened condensed milk while whisking on medium-high speed. Stop the mixer a couple of times to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

To Assemble:

  • Slice off any dome on the cake to level. Place one cake layer on a cake stand and arrange parchment strips to keep your cake plate clean while icing the cake.
  • Spread or pipe a rim of the buttercream around the edge of the first cake layer. This creates a dam and prevents the cranberry filling from flowing over the edge of the cake.  
  • Spoon the cranberry mixture into the center of the cake and spread it to the inside edge of the dam.
  • Place the next cake layer on the filling, bottom side facing up, and anchor by pressing down slightly. 
  • Using an off-set spatula, if possible, cover the sides and top of the cake with a thin coating of icing and place the cake in the freezer or refrigerator to 'set'.  *(See Notes)
  • Remove the cake from the freezer and cover the top of the cake with a thick coat of icing.  
  • Next cover the sides, using small amounts of icing for better control, and smoothing evenly to finish the effect.
  • Remove the parchment strips and decorate the top according to your preference.



  1. 1 tablespoon of lemon zest can be substituted for the lemon oil
  2. The cranberry sauce will yield about 1 1/4 cups of sauce
  3. Using all butter will give an off-white, cream-color to the finished icing. I used Wilton’s Liquid White-White food coloring to make our pure-white icing.  
  4. Use a hand-held mixer if the stand mixer is not available. 
  5. Mixing the icing on high speeds will incorporate air bubbles so don’t turn it any higher than medium.
  6. A thin layer of icing will prevent any crumbs from lifting and marring the finished icing.
  7. If you plan to pipe the icing you will want to use 2 tablespoons less water in the initial mixing.  


Serving: 1 | Calories: 621kcal | Carbohydrates: 101g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 71mg | Sodium: 461mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 74g

Christmas Cranberry Layer Cake! A sweet-tart layer of cranberries sandwiched between moist layers of vanilla cake and covered with an awesome buttercream icing!
A sweet-tart layer of cranberries sandwiched between moist layers of vanilla cake and covered with an awesome buttercream icing!

Pat Nyswonger

Pat is a wife, mom of four adult children, and grandmother to seventeen beautiful children. She is a self-taught home cook and loves creating delicious meals for her family and friends. Her kitchen is the hub of activity in her home, and she loves to entertain.

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Friday 11th of February 2022

I can’t find fresh or frozen cranberries right now. Can I substitute cranberry sauce or jam if I can find that?

Dahn Boquist

Friday 11th of February 2022

Yes, that would work. You will need two 15-ounce cans of cranberry sauce. You can skip step 1 and 2 in the cranberry layer and add vanilla, lemon oil, and melted butter to the canned cranberry sauce.

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