Cranberry Cake with Mascarpone Frosting is a gorgeous holiday cake consisting of layers of vanilla cake with chopped walnuts and cranberries, creamy frosting, and sweet and tart cranberry filling.
The cake is a semi-nude cake which is a modern style for decorating cakes and provides a beautiful rustic look. The cake is topped with candied cranberries and rosemary sprigs - perfect for holidays or special occasions!
🗝️ Recipe's key points
- This cranberry cake is stunning - perfect for special occasions and holidays, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, or both!
- Easily reduce the preparation time by making certain elements of this cake, such as the sugared cranberries, cranberry filling, and frosting ahead of time.
- This holiday cranberry cake is light and fluffy with great texture and moisture!
Don’t skip making this cranberry cake for your next special event or holiday! It’s a real show-stopper and will have your guests leaving raving reviews!
This is an overview of the ingredients. You'll find the full measurements and instructions in the recipe card (printable) at the bottom of the page.
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- White Cake mix -- may also use chocolate.
- Walnuts -- swap with your favorite nut.
- Cranberries -- we use fresh
This is an overview of the instructions. Full instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
- Combine the white cake mix, water, eggs, canola oil, and 1 tablespoon of orange zest in a mixing bowl.
- Beat on a low speed for 30 seconds using a hand mixer, followed by medium speed for 2 minutes.
- Stir in the cranberries and 1 cup of the walnuts.
- Transfer the batter to two greased pans.
- Bake the cakes for 30-35 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes.
- Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Combine the cranberry juice and cornstarch in a separate bowl. Set aside.
- Combine the cranberries, water, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan.
The mascarpone frosting
- Allow the mixture to simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved and the cranberries soften with a few bursting open. Pour the cornstarch slurry in and mix well.
- Continue cooking, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange juice and vanilla extract.
- Beat the butter and mascarpone cheese using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides occasionally.
- Reduce the speed and gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, beating well before adding more. Next, add the salt, vanilla, and milk.
- Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add more milk (about a teaspoon at a time) if the frosting is too stiff to spread.
- Combine ½ cup sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a rolling boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
- Add the cranberries and bring it back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for a minute.
- Remove the cranberries and transfer them to a wire rack.
- Add the rosemary to the sugar syrup and cook for a minute.
- Transfer the rosemary to the wire rack to sit for 10 minutes or until slightly tacky.
- Add the remaining sugar to a wide, shallow bowl. Add a few cranberries at a time and roll them in sugar until coated on all sides. Transfer them back to the wire rack and repeat this process for all cranberries and the rosemary sprigs. Leave to dry at room temperature for 2 hours before using.
- Now it’s time to assemble the cake! Trim the top of each cake to create an even surface.
Assembling the cake
- Carefully transfer one layer of the cake to a large plate or cake stand. Spread an even layer of frosting on top.
- Top with cranberry filling.
- Add the second layer of cake and spread another layer of frosting and cranberry filling.
- Top the final layer of cake with the remaining frosting and cover the sides of the cake.
- Decorate the cake with cranberries and rosemary. Allow the cake to set at room temperature for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving.
Store this cranberry cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week or in the fridge for longer.
You can also freeze this cake for up to 3 months. I recommend wrapping individual slices with plastic wrap for freshness. You’ll also be able to thaw the exact number of slices desired at any time!
- White cake mix is used in this recipe. You can use chocolate cake mix for rich decadence.
- Sprinkle a little orange zest on the top of the cake as garnish.
- Omit the nuts in this holiday cake when catering to allergies.
- Make this cake gluten-free with a gluten-free cake mix.
- Don’t rush when making this beautiful cake as some of the elements require time to sit and cool or set. You can make some components of this cake the day before to reduce recipe time when assembling your cake.
- Eat this cake all year round by freezing excess seasonal cranberries!
- Since all ovens differ you can check that the cakes have cooked by inserting a toothpick into the center of each cake after 30 minutes of baking. The toothpick should come out clean.
- Don’t worry if the frosting is still too stiff to spread once made. Adjust the consistency by adding more milk to the mixture, a teaspoon at a time, until the desired consistency is achieved.
Christmas fruit cake is a traditional Christmas dessert with nuts, dried fruit, and marzipan.
No. The cranberries cook in the cake in the oven.
Christmas cake is often called fruitcake. This cake is also known by other names depending on the region with some variations including alcohol such as whiskey.
The oldest known existing fruit cake was baked in 1878 while Rutherford B. Hayes was president of the United States. These cakes can last for many years due to the sugar, low moisture and alcohol.
Most Christmas cakes are made with pudding while classic fruit cake calls for butter.
📗 Related Recipes
- Hummingbird Cake - A rich and soft cake with banana, pecan, and coconut flavors. The cream cheese frosting adds even more decadence!
- Italian Cream Cake - Another layered cake with chopped nuts and frosting. The egg-rich yellow cake provides moisture while the toasted coconut provides that classic Italian Cream Cake flavor!
- Toasted Pecan Praline Cake With Caramel Glaze - A beautiful butter-rich pound cake that’s studded with toasted pecans and heath bits. It’s another cake that you’ll want to show off on holidays and special occasions!
🍽 What to serve with Holiday Cranberry Cake
Enjoy a slice of this cranberry cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for dessert. A slice of this cake is also great with a hot mug of coffee or Affogato made with Cappuccino ice cream as a sweet and indulgent treat during the day! And for the adults, how about a delicious creamy glass of Homemade Irish Cream.
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This scrumptious holiday cranberry cake has the perfect balance of tart and sweet, and the rich, fluffy mascarpone cream frosting elevates this dessert to a whole new dessert level. Cranberries are a classic flavor during this time of year, and what better way to celebrate than with a cranberry cake that will leave your guests and loved ones spellbound!
The simple garnish of sugared cranberries and rosemary sprigs on your festive dessert will have your guests marveling at your culinary skills. It's so beautiful you may want to make it your dessert table centerpiece.
Tutti a tavolo, è pronto!
If you love this recipe please give it 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
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Holiday Cranberry Cake With Mascarpone Frosting
For the cake:
- 16.25 oz white cake mix
- 1 ⅓ cups water
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- ⅓ cup canola oil
- 1 tablespoon orange zest grated
- 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries thawed and coarsely chopped 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
For the Cranberry Filling:
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch 16 grams
- 1 Tablespoons unsweetened cranberry juice 14 grams
- 3 cups cranberries 298 grams fresh or frozen, if using frozen do not thaw
- ¾ cup water 170 grams
- 1 cup granulated sugar 198 grams
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ Tablespoons orange juice 21 grams
- 1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Mascarpone Frosting:
- 1½ cups unsalted butter 340 grams at room temperature
- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese 227 grams at room temperature
- 5 cups confectioner's sugar 567 grams sifted
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons whole milk 28 grams at room temperature, more if needed
For the Sugared Cranberries and Rosemary:
- 1½ cups granulated sugar 299 grams, divided
- ½ cup water 113 grams
- 1½ cups fresh cranberries 149 grams
- 8 sprigs of fresh rosemary
For the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Grease two 9-inch round baking pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Grease the paper.
- In a large bowl, combine the white cake mix, the water, the eggs, the canola oil, and 1 tablespoon of the orange zest.
- Using a hand mixer, beat the mixture together on low speed for 30 seconds, then on medium speed for 2 minutes.
- Stir the cranberries and 1 cup of the walnuts into the batter.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared pans.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.
- Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the cakes to wire racks to cool completely, making sure to remove the parchment paper.
- Allow the cakes to cool completely.
For the Cranberry Filling:
- Combine the cornstarch and cranberry juice in a small bowl and whisk well until completely combined. Set aside until needed.
- Combine the cranberries, water, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, and cook until the sugar has dissolved about 5 minutes. Continue cooking until the cranberries soften, and some have begun to burst, about 5 more minutes.
- Pour in the cornstarch slurry and mix well to combine. Continue cooking, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, until the mixture has thickened, about 4 to 5 more minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in the orange juice and vanilla extract.
- Scrape into a bowl and cool completely before using.
For the Mascarpone Frosting:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter and mascarpone cheese on medium speed, until smooth and creamy, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low, and gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar, beating each addition well before adding the next. Once all of the sugar has been added, beat in the salt, vanilla, and milk.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until light and fluffy. If the frosting appears too stiff to spread, add more milk, a teaspoon at a time, until the desired texture is achieved.
For the Sugared Cranberries and Rosemary:
- Combine 1⁄2 cup of granulated sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar has completely dissolved.
- Add in the cranberries and bring the mixture back to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 minute. Remove the cranberries and transfer them to a wire cooling rack using a slotted spoon.
- Add the rosemary to the sugar syrup and cook for 1 minute, then use a slotted spoon to transfer to the wire cooling rack.
- Allow cranberries and rosemary to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes, or until still slightly tacky to the touch.
- Add the remaining granulated sugar to a wide, shallow bowl. Add a few cranberries at a time, and roll them in the sugar until they’re completely coated on all sides. Transfer the cranberries back to the wire rack. Repeat with all the cranberries and rosemary sprigs.
- Leave to dry at room temperature for 2 hours before using.
To assemble the cake:
- Using a long serrated knife, carefully trim the raised top of each cake, making each one an even, level surface. This will only be a thin layer, as the cakes don’t rise too much in the oven.
- Carefully transfer 1 layer to a large plate or cake stand. Spread an even layer of frosting on top, aiming for it to be 1⁄4” in thickness, then top with half of the cranberry filling. Top with another cake layer, and repeat, adding the same ratio of frosting and cranberry filling.
- Top with the final cake layer, then use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake. Aim for a 1⁄4” thickness of frosting on top, then spread whatever is left around the edges. This is a semi-naked cake, so don’t be alarmed if the sides aren’t totally covered with frosting.
- Decorate the cake with sugared cranberries and rosemary. Allow cake to set at room temperature for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving.