Cranberry Layer Cake

Cranberry Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

If you're looking for an alternative to pie on Thanksgiving, give this sweet/tangy cake a try. Read our post for more info...
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1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 cups sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (about 1 orange)
1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
8-ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
3/12 – 4 cups powdered sugar



  • Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Generously grease and flour the bottom and sides of two 9″ round cake pans.  Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper.  Set aside.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.
  • In a measuring cup, combine the milk, buttermilk and vanilla.  Set aside.
  • Chop the cranberries and nuts (separately).  Set aside.
  • In a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and shortening until smooth and creamy.  Slowly add the sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each is incorporated before adding the next one.
  • Add 1 cup of the flour mixture to the butter/shortening, and mix until incorporated.  Then add half the milk mixture, and mix well.  Repeat, ending with the flour mixture.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Once all the flour as been added, add the orange zest.  Mix until smooth and well combined.  Fold in the chopped cranberries and nuts.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and smooth the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 55 – 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and cool about 10 minutes on a cooking rack.  Run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake and then invert and transfer to a cooling rack, and cool completely before frosting.
  • Prepare the frosting.


  • In a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and cream cheese.  Mix on medium speed until creamy.  Add the vanilla, orange extract and orange zest and mix well.  Gradually increase the speed to high and continue beating until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  • Add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating after each addition until smooth.  Continue to add the powdered sugar until the desired consistency is reached.
  • Add a little milk or cream if necessary.  Gradually increase the mixer speed to high and continue beating until light and smooth, about 2 minutes.

Using a spreading knife, frost the top of one layer.  Place the second layer on top of the first.  Frost the top and sides of the cranberry layer cake.

*Note:  Total time includes about an hour for the cake to cool after baking.

Total time: 3* hr | Prep: 1 hr | Cook: 1 hr

5 responses to “Cranberry Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting”

  1. Liz Brown says:

    This sounds wonderful! I’m guessing I could substitute a white cake mix (since I do have one!)and add the orange zest, cranberries, and walnuts listed in the cake section of the recipe, right?
    Your narrative mentions orange juice, but I don’t see it in the list of ingredients. Details please!

    • Hostess says:

      Liz, good catch on the orange juice! I actually just used orange zest and orange extract. The original recipe (from Taste of Home) that called for using a cake mix said to use combine the cake mix, 1- 1/3 cups water, 1/3 cup canola oil, 3 eggs and the orange zest (beat for about 2 minutes), and then add the cranberries and walnuts. The recipe said to bake at 350 F for 30 – 35 minutes. Can’t vouch for it as I haven’t made the cake that way, but from the sounds of it, I think it should work. Let me know if you make it and how it turns out. Thanks again for the comment. Appreciate it! Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Debbie says:

    This looks and sounds amazing! Can’t wait to try it! Thanks for sharing the recipe and pics. 🙂

  3. Wanda Raley says:

    This cake was absolutely delicious. However, there was far, far too much batter for 2 9″ layers. I could have easily made 3 9″ layers, but instead I made 10 cupcakes.

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