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Cranberry coffee cake

Cranberry coffee cake is full of fresh cranberries and topped with a thick layer of buttery crumb topping. This breakfast cake also gets a ton of flavor from orange zest, buttermilk, and the cardamom-scented streusel on top. It is large enough to feed the whole family, making it perfect for Christmas morning.

I’ll give you variations and substitutions where I can, plus helpful tips and tricks for success. Read on for this info as well as the recipe. If you’d like to skip straight to the recipe, use the jump to recipe button at the top of the post.

You may also be interested in my blueberry crumb cake and my cherry crumb cake recipes. For ease of browsing, you can find all of my cake recipes in one place.

Cranberry coffee cake slices on small white plates surrounded by fresh cranberries on a white background.

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Why you should make this recipe

If you love a good coffee cake, filled with seasonal flavors & topped with a thick layer of buttery streusel topping, keep reading. Nothing makes me happier than a good coffee cake, and this, my friends, is a winner.

  • Great for holidays – This cranberry orange coffee cake is big enough to feed to the whole family.
  • Make ahead – It stays moist for days, so you can bake it a day ahead of time.
  • Easy recipe – This simple crumb cake requires nothing more than a bit of mixing & stirring. It’s great for beginner bakers.

Cranberry coffee cake

This cranberry buttermilk coffee cake is perfect for the holiday season. As soon as the holiday season begins, I grab a bag of cranberries and start brainstorming. I knew I wanted to make a cake this year, and eventually, I settled on a coffee cake with a thick layer of crumb on top.

A close up of baked cranberry coffee cake slice on white plate with antique fork.

I packed a hefty amount of fresh cranberries into this cake, so you’d get a tart burst of flavor in every bite. The batter gets a bit of citrus flavor from orange zest and juice for that classic combination. Combined with the cardamom-scented, buttery streusel topping, this cake is a winner.

Ingredients

The ingredients for this cake are inspired by a cranberry cake from NYT cooking. You’ll find pantry staples and a few fresh ingredients are all you’ll need to make this easy breakfast treat.

Ingredients for cranberry buttermilk breakfast cake on light gray background.
  • All-purpose flour – Weighing your flour is the most accurate way to measure. I highly recommend using a scale to measure flour. 
  • Butter – Use unsalted butter so you can control the amount of salt in your baked goods.
  • Orange – You’ll need one large orange, or 2 smaller ones. We’ll use the zest and juice in the cake.
  • Vanilla – Vanilla extract gives baked goods that familiar flavor we all love.
  • Sugar  – Granulated white sugar provides just a touch of sweetness.
  • Buttermilk – Buttermilk gives the coffee cake moisture and tang.
    • Substitution: No buttermilk? You can swap it with sour cream. Directions are in the recipe card.
  • Eggs – Eggs provide moisture and structure to the batter.
  • Salt – All baked goods need salt. I use Diamond Crystal in all of my recipes.
  • Baking powder – Baking powder gives the cake a bit of lift.
  • Baking soda – Baking soda reacts with the acid in the buttermilk to give the cake a fluffy interior.
  • Cranberries – Fresh cranberries make this cake tart and sweet.
Best for home use
Escali Digital Food Scale
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This is the scale that I own and use daily. It is easy to use, plus it measures in pounds, ounces and grams.

Measuring ingredients by weight, ESPECIALLY in baking, is much more accurate than cup measurement.

Affiliate link, I may earn a commission from your purchase. Your price is unaffected.
02/23/2024 02:36 pm GMT

How to make

Here’s a quick summary of how to make cranberry coffee cake. Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the full recipe. 

How to make cranberry coffee cake, step by step directions.
  1. Prep – Make the crumb topping, and set aside.
  2. Make – Whisk the dry ingredients together. Beat the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Combine them to make the batter.
  3. Assemble – Line the baking pan with parchment paper. Spread the batter in the pan and top with reserved cranberries.
  4. Bake – Top the cake with the crumb topping and bake.
Cranberry coffee cake with crumble topping in baking pan.

Let the cake cool in the pan for about 30 minutes before transferring it to a metal rack to cool completely. You can use the parchment paper sling to carefully lift the cranberry crumb cake from the pan.

Crumb topping for coffee cake

There is a trick to getting big chunks of crumb on top of the cake, and I’m going to share how to make the best crumb topping for coffee cake, because we all deserve to bite into big chunks of buttery crumb.

You do not want small, sandy crumb topping. When you are stirring the crumble topping together, it will start to clump up – that’s good. However, you will be left with smaller pieces, or what looks like sand, in the bowl.

Side view of coffee cake on cooling rack.

Gather all of that up in your hand and squeeze it together until it forms a solid piece. Break it into large chunks and top your cake.

The problem with those sandy bits is this: they will melt into the top of your cake. A little is fine, but if the whole coffee cake was that way, you wouldn’t get those big pieces of crumb that we all love.

Cranberry coffee cake FAQ’s

Does coffee cake need to be refrigerated?

No. You can store this cranberry coffee cake at room temperature for 3 – 4 days, covered. To extend the life of the cake, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Can I freeze it?

Yes. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap (cling film) and store in an airtight container for up to 3 months in the freezer.

Coffee cake on cooling rack on a light gray background.

Variations and substitutions

  • Lemon – Swap in lemon for the orange to give this cake a bright, citrusy taste.
  • Nutty – Add 1/2 cup toasted, chopped pecans to the cake for a nutty twist.

Serving suggestions

This cake is perfect with a cup of coffee, or tea. It’s great as a sweet breakfast treat, or as a dessert. We’ve had it for breakfast AND dessert in one day.

Here are a few breakfast recipes to serve with this cranberry coffee cake.

Slice of cranberry cake on red background, with whole cake in the back.

Helpful tools and equipment

Slices of cranberry crumb cake on white plates. Whole cake on a cake stand to the right of the cake slices in the background.

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Yield: 9x13 cake

Cranberry coffee cake

Cranberry coffee cake slices.

This simple cranberry coffee cake is perfect for the holidays.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Cooling Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 5 minutes

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour // 300g
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal. Reduce by half if using table salt)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter // 113g // 8 tbsp.
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp. orange zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk // 180ml
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (from the zested orange) // 60ml
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries (picked over to remove any bad/moldy cranberries) // 280g

For the streusel topping

  • 1 1/2 cups flour // 180g
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar // 213g
  • 1 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom (If you like a strongly flavored crumb, use 1 1/2 tsp.)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted // 113g // 8 tbsp.

Instructions

  1. Make the crumb topping: In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cardamom, and salt. Pour the melted butter over the mixture, and stir with a fork until it begins to form clumps. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350° / 180°C / Gas mark 4. Line a 9x13 cake pan with parchment paper. Leave an overhang on either side, so you can use this to help lift the cake out later.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and orange zest together with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. Add the vanilla, and beat to combine.
  5. Beat in half of the dry ingredients on low speed, followed by the buttermilk. Add remaining dry ingredients and finish with the fresh orange juice. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  6. Fold in half of the cranberries. Reserve the other half.
  7. Spread the batter into the parchment-lined pan and use an offset spatula to smooth the top. Sprinkle remaining cranberries on top.
  8. Top the cake with the streusel topping. Use your hand to squeeze together the sandy bits and smaller pieces, then break off larger pieces to top the cake.
  9. Bake the coffee cake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with moist crumbs stuck to it.
  10. Place the cake pan on a cooling rack and let the cake cool for about 30 minutes, before using the paper sling to carefully lift it from the pan, and place it back on the cooling rack to cool before cutting.

Notes

To substitute sour cream for buttermilk: Use 1 cup of full fat sour cream in place of the 3/4 cup of buttermilk.

To use frozen cranberries, increase baking time by 10 - 15 minutes.

You can cut the cake when it is slightly warm, but don't cut it when it is hot from the oven. Store the cake covered at room temp for 3 - 4 days, or in the refrigerator for about a week.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

15

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 360Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 58mgSodium: 292mgCarbohydrates: 56gFiber: 2gSugar: 29gProtein: 5g

Nutrition information calculated by a third-party company as a courtesy. It is intended as a guideline only.

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