Tart, fresh cranberries are layered between a soft, light-crumbed vanilla cake and a holiday-spiced streusel in this cranberry crumb cake.
NOTE: I originally developed this recipe for Rodelle last year as part of a holiday baking contest on Instagram, and I loved the cake so much that I asked them if I could publish it here too. This post is NOT sponsored but I do love their vanilla extract and recommend it!
I have plans for your holiday brunch this year. I hope you’re on board with that!
This cranberry crumb cake ticks all the boxes for the “sweet” course of a holiday brunch. You do this too, right? Brunch, that delightful bridge between breakfast, lunch, happy hour, and dessert all in one, is totally indulgent enough for courses.
You have the required coffees and mimosas (or bloodies). The egg course. The sides – bacon, sausage, crispy potatoes, fruits. Even some side pastries or rolls if you’re fancy. But then – there’s the sweet course.
Could be cinnamon rolls (always a weakness for me). Could be muffins. Could be French toast. But you can’t go wrong with a good brunch cake.
And this, my friends, is a great brunch cake.
Also another addition to my growing collection of single layer cake recipes!
Elements of Cranberry Crumb Cake
The Cake. The base of this cranberry crumb cake is one you’ve seen before – I used it as the base of my rhubarb cake. This is a buttermilk-based cake and while you CAN substitute Greek yogurt or sour cream in its place, I highly recommend using buttermilk for best texture and flavor. There is something about that tang that just cannot be replicated!
The Cranberry Layer. Fresh cranberries are preferable for this cake, but you can definitely use frozen, defrosted cranberries instead. Make sure to thoroughly drain them before using or they will add too much moisture to the cake. These little winter jewels will bake down into a tart, jammy layer in the oven and their flavor is perfectly set off by the delicate crumb streusel we’ll sprinkle over top (more on that next!).
The Streusel. This crumb streusel is what really takes the cake over the top. We combine flour, just a bit of granulated sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg together with cold butter to create a crumb topping replete with warming holiday spices. That’s what takes this from a normal brunch cake to a HOLIDAY brunch cake. I’m here for it.
Tips for Success
- Use room temperature butter in the cake, and very cold butter in the streusel. In the cake, butter gives it that light, delicate texture we love. In the streusel crumb layer, it gives the crisp, melt in your mouth texture similar to that of a shortbread. The results will not be the same if you don’t follow the directions – it all depends on the temperature of your butter! It takes at least 30 minutes for butter to come to room temperature – or you can give it 15-20 seconds in the microwave on 50% power.
- Stop mixing the cake batter as soon as the flour is incorporated. You can use a rubber spatula to fold in any remaining bits of flour at the bottom. Over beating cakes causes excess gluten formation, making them dry and tough – no one wants that!
- Use a springform pan with removable sides if you have it – this is definitely the best option for this cake, as having to remove the cake from a regular cake pan would be more likely to damage the fragile topping. If you don’t have a springform pan, you can use a 9″ round cake pan with at least 2 inch high sides, and I’d recommend serving directly out of the cake pan to avoid trying to flip it.
I hope you love this cranberry crumb cake as much as I do, and that it makes the sweet course of your holiday brunch a little brighter!
If you make this recipe, please leave a rating and review (it makes a big difference and allows me to get my recipes in front of more people!), and tag me on Instagram @katiebirdbakes – I love seeing your recipe photos!
Cranberry Crumb Cake
For the cake:
- 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs (100g)
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup (170g) buttermilk*
- 1 ½ cups (150g) fresh cranberries**
For the crumb topping:
- ½ cup (62g) all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 3 Tablespoons (42g) unsalted butter cold and cubed
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 9-inch springform pan and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- Make the cake: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating on medium speed until fully incorporated after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and beat briefly to combine.
- Add a third of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined, then add half the buttermilk and beat on low speed again. Repeat with remaining third of flour mixture, the rest of the buttermilk, and end with the last third of the flour mixture.
- Beat on low speed until the batter is smooth, but do not overmix.
- Scrape batter into the prepared springform pan and smooth it out with a spatula.
- Arrange the cranberries evenly over the top and press down gently to adhere to the batter.
- Make the crumb topping: in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add cold butter and cut into the flour mixture using a pastry blender, two forks, or your fingertips (my preferred method) until the mixture resembles wet sand with some pea-sized crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over top of the cranberries.
- Bake the cake for 45-50 minutes, or until edges are browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely before serving. Optional: dust with a bit of powdered sugar to look like snow!