Delicious and tender cranberry cake, with a ribbon of chopped cranberries running through it. The topping makes a lovely sweet glaze as it bakes!

cranberry coffee cake, sliced on cooling rack

This cake has been a favourite of mine since it was first published in Gourmet magazine 13 years ago! I never let cranberry season pass by without making it. You can make this cake with fresh cranberries or thawed frozen cranberries.

Why you will love this cranberry cake, too!

The cake itself is wonderfully tender and flavourful, with a ribbon of cranberries running through it. The topping sort of melts into a glaze as it bakes and tops off this lovely cake beautifully.

This cake keeps well on the counter for several days and is the kind of cake that you’ll find yourself cutting off a small piece every time you walk past it. Or maybe that’s just me :)

Ingredients and Substitutions

Cranberries – You can start with either fresh or frozen cranberries. As this cake chops up the cranberries, you will need to thaw the cranberries so that you can put them in the processor.

Vanilla – If you happen to have Vanilla Bean Paste, it would be perfect for this cake! Otherwise, pure vanilla extract will work just fine.

Step-by-Step Photos

photo collage of steps to make cranberry vanilla cake 1

photo collage of steps to make cranberry vanilla cake 2

Recipe Tips

  • The original recipe from Gourmet used a vanilla bean to make vanilla sugar, which is then used in the topping, batter and with the cranberries. I have adapted it to simply add vanilla bean paste (or vanilla) to the various components, as I rarely have a vanilla bean pod on hand (and they are super expensive :)
  • No food processor? No worries. Simply chop the cranberries as finely as you can and mix with the sugar and vanilla.
  • If you are tempted to cut a bit of sugar in the recipe, I suggest that you could reduce the sugar in the cranberry filling slightly (down to 1/3 cup), especially if you enjoy a slightly tart cranberry flavour. I would avoid reducing it in the cake batter, as the sugar contributes to both the moistness and the counter-life of this cake.
  • Pay attention to the cake it as it bakes, to avoid over-baking. The baking time stated is always approximate, and will vary from kitchen to kitchen. Check through the window regularly and open the oven door to test when it looks like it might be getting close to done, so you can catch it when it is just done. Even a few minutes of over-baking can result in a drier cake.

cranberry coffee cake, sliced on cooling rack

Storage and Freezing

As noted above, this cake will keep well on the counter for a couple of days with the cut end wrapped. It will also keep well in the freezer up to 3 months.

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cranberry coffee cake, sliced on cooling rack

Get the Recipe: Vanilla Cranberry Cake

Delicious and tender cranberry cake, with a ribbon of cranberry running through it. The topping makes a lovely sweet glaze as it bakes!
4.75 stars from 4 ratings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Yield: 12 servings



  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, cold
  • 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

Cranberry Filling:

  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup white granulated sugar, tarter or sweeter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups cranberries, fresh or thawed frozen cranberries


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, reduce to 1/2 tsp if using salted butter
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk, whole milk recommended


  • Icing/confectioners sugar


  • Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in centre of the oven. *If your baking pan is dark grey or black, reduce the oven temperature to 360F.
  • Grease a 9-inch round cake pan or springform pan and line bottom with a round of parchment paper and grease the parchment. *If you have both pans, opt for the springform pan, for easiest removal of the cake.
  • Prepare the topping: In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, flour and vanilla. Add the butter and use your fingertips to blend the sugar mixture with the butter into crumbs. Place into the fridge until needed.
  • Prepare the filling: In a food processor, pulse the cranberries with the sugar and vanilla. Do not puree. Set aside.
  • Prepare the batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl with an electric hand mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and white sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Mix in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down side and bottom of bowl. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour, until just combined. Do not over-mix once the flour is added, mixing just until the flour is incorporated.
  • Spread 2/3 of batter into the prepared pan. *If your cranberry mixture has liquid in the bowl, either strain off or use a slotted spoon to transfer the cranberries to the cake, leaving most of the liquid behind. Spoon cranberries over batter, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Top the cranberries with remaining batter and smooth top gently with a spatula. *As the top batter is thin, you may pull up a bit of the cranberry mixture as you spread the batter. I find it easiest to spoon the batter into the centre of the cake and use a spatula to gently push it towards the edges. That said, don't stress about it if it isn't perfect. It will all be good in the end.
  • Scatter prepared topping evenly over the top of the cake.
  • Bake until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into cake (not into cranberry filling) comes out clean and side begins to pull away from pan, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 15-30 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely, crumb side up. *If using a springform pan, you can cool just 15 minutes before removing the outer ring, then allow to cool a little longer before sliding off the base. For a regular round baking pan, allow it to cool in the pan the full 30 minutes, then carefully remove and flip back over to be right side up to cool completely on a wire rack.
  • My cake in a 9-inch springform pan took 45 minutes at 360F, as my pan is dark (and it cooks more quickly). Your cake may vary, so be sure to watch after about 40 minutes of baking.


Be sure to read the Ingredient and Baker's Notes above this Recipe Card, for more tips on making this recipe. You'll also find Step-by-Step photos, as well.
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Course: Dessert
Serving: 1serving, Calories: 317kcal, Carbohydrates: 55g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 54mg, Sodium: 173mg, Potassium: 134mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 37g, Vitamin A: 340IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 53mg, Iron: 1mg
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