This cranberry almond cake is wonderfully moist, has a lovely slightly dense texture, and is topped off with a simple almond glaze. It’s surprisingly easy to make and can be made traditionally, gluten-free or dairy-free.
A few years ago, I posted this Whole Orange Cake with loads of orange flavor with cranberries for added tartness.
It’s an easy cake, but more time-consuming than a regular cake because you have to boil an orange. Today’s recipe is much easier!
And I think the cranberry almond combination is even better than cranberry orange. If you’re with me on that, you might want to check out these Cranberry Almond Bars.
When the cake comes out of the oven, it’s quite fluffy. I almost didn’t post it because I didn’t want a fluffy cake.
And once it cools, this is what you get! It’s absolutely perfect and I warn you, terribly addictive.
Here’s a look at all the ingredients you’ll need to make this cake.
Note that 2 cups of cranberries was used in the photos. I later made it with 2 1/2 cups, decided that was better, so that’s what I’ve listed in the recipe.
How to make it
This is a one-bowl recipe and no mixer is needed. Cakes don’t get much easier than this.
The batter is quite thick, by the way. Don’t be surprised.
And if you’re new here, the full directions for this recipe are at the bottom of the post.
I love the top of this cake. It’s crisp, sugary and and crackly.
It almost feels wrong to cover it up with a glaze. The last time I made this cake, my husband pleaded with me to not add the glaze.
I see his point, but I can’t resist glaze with almond extract in it. I’d happily pour it over almost any stone fruit dessert.
Because of the lovely crackly crust at the top of the cake, I wanted it to stay at the top of the cake. But if you want most of the cranberries to be at the top of the cake, you need to flip the cake over after it’s cooled.
Make sure to let the cake cool completely before glazing. If the cake is warm, the glaze will melt, and you won’t get that crisp shine. Instead, it’ll be sticky and tacky.
Can I use frozen cranberries?
You can, but they they stay at the bottom of the batter where you place them. When you use fresh cranberries, they rise a bit and spread throughout the batter.
If your frozen berries have some frost on them, use a paper towel to rub it off. Then put the cranberries into the pan frozen.
I’ve also made this cake with frozen cherries and it worked great! You’ll need to add just a few minutes to the baking time if using frozen cranberries.
And if you still have cranberries to use up after making this cake, try this Christmas Morning Punch.
Can I omit the cranberries?
I think this cake needs some kind of fruit. Fresh raspberries or blueberries would be great in combination with the almond flavor.
Frozen tart cherries worked well. The red wasn’t as bright as with cranberries, but it was still nice and Christmasy.
I probably wouldn’t dare with other types of juicier fruit like peaches, plums, apples, etc. I’d be worried that the cake wouldn’t bake through.
Can I make it ahead?
Yes! Once the cake has completely cooled, you can wrap the unglazed cake in plastic wrap and place it in a freezer-safe plastic bag. Letting it cool helps prevent condensation from forming and ruining the cake’s texture.
You can freeze it for up to 3 months. To defrost, just place it in the fridge overnight. Glaze and then it’s ready to serve.
Where are the almonds?
When I was working on this recipe, I didn’t know that I was going to call it a cranberry almond cake. I also apparently wasn’t thinking about how boring it’d look with just the glaze on top.
So this cake gets all its almond flavor from almond extract, but if you want, you can lightly toast some almond slivers or sliced almonds and sprinkle them over the glaze. It would make the cake much prettier!
But now that I think about it, almond extract doesn’t really taste like almonds, so this cake is more almond extract-flavored.
Almond flavor vs. almond extract flavor
Almond extract doesn’t taste like raw almonds because it’s usually made from bitter almonds or apricot pits, which contain compounds not found in sweet almonds – the almonds that we eat.
The process of extracting bitter almond oil and diluting it results in a distinct, intense flavor that differs from the milder taste of sweet almonds.
Bitter almonds contain cyanogenic glycosides, which can release cyanide when metabolized. Case studies indicate that the ingestion of 6–10 raw bitter almonds can lead to serious poisoning in the average adult, and consuming 50 or more may result in death.
I was recently snacking on some almonds while preparing this Blanched Almond Butter and was taken aback because one tasted just like almond extract. It was way tastier than a regular almond, but it didn’t taste bitter like it’s supposed to. Or maybe it was, but I don’t remember it because I was so in love with the almond extract flavor. 😬
Anyway. If you’re eating almonds and get one that tastes like almond extract, spit it out!
Can I use a different pan?
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Yes, but your baking time will be different. And I have no idea what your baking time will be without trying it myself. So just keep a close eye on it!
I used a springform pan because it’s easier to transfer the cake from a springform to a serving plate. I use this cake lifter to do that.
If you want to flip the cake over, then it doesn’t matter whether or not you use a springform.
Do I have to line it with parchment paper?
I would really recommend it. I’ve made this cake several times and it didn’t leak, but when I made it yesterday to try out the dairy-free version, there were about 4 drops of batter that leaked out.
Luckily, I had put a baking pan at the bottom of the oven, so it wasn’t a big deal. But why risk it? Just line it with parchment paper.
And if you’re not using a springform pan, it’s still best to line your pan with parchment paper. Some cranberries might stick to the bottom of the pan otherwise.
The size and temperature of the eggs matter. The recipe calls for 3 large eggs at 50 grams each, out of the shell.
I find a lot of people will use the eggs they have, so if they don’t have large eggs, they’ll use small eggs, which will throw the whole batter off. So, if you’re worried about the size of your eggs, whether medium or small, you can use a digital scale to ensure you’re getting the right amount.
Eggs are crucial in providing structure and moisture to the cake batter. Small eggs contain less liquid, resulting in a denser and drier cake.
They also play a role in the leavening of cakes. Proteins in eggs trap air bubbles, which expand as the cake heats, causing the cake to rise. Smaller eggs have less leavening power, meaning the cake may not rise as high or bake as evenly as intended. It can also lead to a crumbly and less moist and fluffy cake.
So instead of adding additional liquid to make up for small eggs, increasing the mixing time to get more air in the batter, lowering the baking temperature to bake longer and monitoring the cake closely, just use 3 large eggs. ;)
Room temperature eggs
Eggs must also be at room temperature to promote better mixing, sugar incorporation, and air bubble formation.
When eggs are cold, the sugar crystals clump together, making it harder to incorporate evenly. And room temperature eggs have more flexible proteins that can trap the air bubbles to help the cake rise and become light and airy.
When cold, eggs can give off a slightly eggy flavor or leave a gritty texture. Using room temperature eggs ensures the eggs are fully incorporated into the batter, leaving a more consistent flavor and a delicate crumb.
So, let those large eggs sit on the counter before making the batter.
You can use all-purpose flour. If you’re gluten-free, use Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 gluten-free flour. It’s the one in the blue bag. It works great in this recipe!
I have no idea if other brands will work as well. Sometimes Brand A works fantastically in a specific recipe and Brand B works terribly. In other recipes, it’s switched.
Can I make it vegan?
Egg subs won’t work in this recipe. Sorry about that. And I don’t recommend experimenting with it.
I have some festive vegan cheesecake recipes that are perfect for the holidays, though.
I almost didn’t try this because there’s no way a butterless version could taste as good as the butter version.
You need to use quite a bit less coconut oil than butter, and then you need to add 7 teaspoons (yes, 7 ;)) of water.
Make sure to use refined coconut oil so that you don’t have a coconut almond cranberry cake. Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t sound super appealing.
You can probably use any type of neutral oil in place of coconut oil, but I haven’t tried it. If you do that, use the same amount given for coconut oil. That means you also need to add the water.
This version took much longer to bake than the butter version! Instead of 35 minutes, it was more like 45-55.
I thought it’d be disappointing with the lack of butter, but I had no issue eating “just one more bite” until half of the cake had disappeared before it even cooled.
So I can definitely recommend the dairy-free version. If you want to use vegan butter, then use 3/4 cup, which is the amount of butter called for.
Can I reduce the butter and sugar?
I just did a double take on that butter amount above. That’s a lot of butter!
And sugar. This cake actually calls for the same amount of sugar as flour.
And that’s why it’s so delicious. Don’t change a thing about the recipe if you want it to work! You can use a different type of extract or berry, but please don’t mess with proportions of flour/butter/sugar in the batter. :)
More holiday treats
- Vegan Hot Chocolate Bombs
- Pecan Clusters
- Santa Hat Brownies
- Christmas Hot Chocolate
- Cranberry Bliss Cookies
I hope you’ll like this cranberry almond cake. If you try it, I’d love to hear about it. Just comment below to share your experience. Thanks! :)
Cranberry Almond Cake
- Prep Time:
- Cook Time:
- Ready in:
- Yield: 8-12
- 2 1/2 cups (250 grams) fresh cranberries
- 3/4 cup (168 grams) unsalted butter or 9.5 tablespoons (133 grams) refined coconut oil + 35 grams (7 tsp) water for dairy-free, melted
- 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
- 3 large (50 grams each, out of shell) eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 cups (188 grams) all-purpose flour or for gluten-free, 1 1/2 cups (207 grams) Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free 1-to-1 Baking Flour
- 1 cup (120 grams) powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 teaspoons milk (almond/cashew milk for dairy-free)
- pinch of salt
For the cake:
For the glaze:
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F (175 °C) and line a 9" springform pan with a piece of parchment paper to guarantee that there's no leakage during baking and that the berries don't stick to the pan.
- Rinse and pat dry the cranberries. Pour over the bottom of the pan.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together the melted butter or coconut oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and salt until well combined.
- Pour the flour on top and the baking powder over that. Give the baking powder a little stir so that it incorporates in with the flour a bit.
- Then use a silicone spatula to fold in the flour.
- When no more streaks remain, evenly scoop the batter over the cranberries.
- Bake for 35 minutes or 45-55 minutes for the dairy-free version. The cranberries will float to the top of the batter. It will be a nice golden brown, have formed a nice crisp thin layer of crust at the top and a toothpick inserted in the middle will come out clean.
- Let cool completely.
- If serving the cake today, prepare the glaze.
- In a small bowl, mix together the powdered sugar, almond extract (use 1/4 teaspoon if you don't want a strong almond flavor), vanilla extract, salt and 4 teaspoons of milk.
- Pour over the cake.
- Cover and store at room temp for up to 1 day or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Let it come to room temperature before serving as it hardens in the fridge. Letting it come to room temp will make it soft again.