Dense orange cake layered with winter spice cranberry sauce filling and finished with decadent cream cheese frosting celebrates the beautiful flavors of winter produce and makes a simple statement on your holiday dessert table.
Thank you to HBF International for partnering with me to bring you this recipe. As always, stories are my own.
I still remember the first time I had a cranberry orange muffin. My husband and I were perusing the muffin display at a local grocery store. As “dirt poor” newlywed college students, buying muffins was a luxury. We had to choose very carefully because once you had it you were stuck with it.
I was intrigued by the cranberry orange muffin and being the more daring foodie in our family took a step on the wild side and passed up the safe and favorite blueberry muffin for what I learned was sheer decadence. There’s no other way to describe the explosion of orange and cranberry goodness. I still remember the way I bit into a cranberry and the tart juice mixed with sweet citrus muffin.
Each bite of this cranberry orange cake takes me back to that moment, which was made sweeter by knowing the precious spare change we spent was worth every penny and led to my lifelong love for all things cranberry orange.
Just below you will find the orange cake recipe. Keep reading for the all-natural cranberry orange decorating gel recipe below this recipe and get my winter spice cranberry sauce recipe, which I use for the filling.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1¾ cups sugar (raw is my favorite)
- 5 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (approximately 1.5 oranges)
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cream butter and sugar.
- Add 1 egg at a time, mixing between each addition.
- Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in separate bowl.
- Mix milk, orange juice, vanilla, and orange zest together.
- Add dry ingredients and wet ingredients alternately ⅓ at a time, mixing after each addition. Start with liquid and end with flour.
- Grease and flour 3 9 inch round cake pans. (May use 2 for double layer but bake for 5-10 minutes longer)
- Divide batter between pans and bake 30-35 minutes.
- Cakes will be done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- If you don't have a toothpick gently press the center. Cake is done if it springs back.
- Cool for 10 minutes then remove from pans to finish cooling.
- Once cool, trim rounded tops to flatten the cake and layer with winter spice cranberry sauce filling between each layer.
- I like to edge each layer with frosting to help keep the cranberry from squeezing out the sides and making it harder to frost cleanly.
I promised to share my decorator’s gel recipe with you and you won’t believe this beautiful red gel is all-natural and fruit based. It also whips together in NO time. Okay, maybe it takes 5 minutes to pull together then a little time to cool down, but that’s okay. You can frost the cake while it does.
Frost cake with your favorite cream cheese frosting recipe then decorate with cranberry orange decorating gel. If you top the cake with an orange slice and fresh (or frozen) cranberry, add just before serving as the fruit will “weep” into the frosting causing it to run.
Tips for Frosting a Layer Cake
Layer cakes can be a pain to frost. Here are some tried-and-true tips for making it as stress-free as possible.
- Make sure cake is completely cool before frosting.
- Take 4 strips of parchment, wax, or freezer paper and slide under the edge of the cake between the cake plate and cake to make clean up easier.
- Lightly frost top and side with a thin layer of frosting using an offset spatula. If you don’t have one, use a butter knife. This is called the crumb layer, which means you may have some crumbs in the frosting. It happens.
- Refrigerate cake and frosting for 30 minutes or longer. (This is a great time to break for the night if you are making over 2 days.)
- Using an offset spatula (or butter knife) again, add a thick layer of frosting to the top of the cake and smooth out and over edges.
- Frost the side of the cake then run the edge of the knife vertically along the rounded side of the cake to smooth it out.
- Gently slide pieces of parchment out from under edges of cake, or, if you are like me and forgot to do this step, take damp paper towel and clean up the edges of the plate.
- Decorate as you wish. I used cranberry orange decorator’s gel for the dots along the edge of the cake and to hold the orange slice in place.
Ready to go make some cranberry orange cake?
It’s a great excuse to put on a pot of tea or make some winter sangria and have some friends over for the evening.