This is a moist, orange scented cranberry pound cake with pools of tart, jammy cranberries in every slice. The cake is quick to make, simple enough for a late breakfast, and it perfumes the house to smell like the holiday season.
It can be hard to find really good, cranberry-centric desserts. They tend to be really sweet to counteract the tartness of fresh cranberries, or they’re mixed with other fruit that dilute and distract from the cranberry flavor, or they have a tiny smattering of dried cranberries that hardly gets noticed at all.
While there’s nothing wrong with those kinds of desserts, and I’m sure I’ll have all 3 versions on this blog at some point, for this recipe I wanted a cake that highlighted the cranberry without making my teeth hurt from the sugar or bringing on a pucker.
So I started with a classic pound cake, dolloped a chunky cranberry sauce throughout 3 layers of the batter, and gave it a good swirl to distribute as much cranberry flavor as possible. The result was a moist pound cake with pools of tart, jammy cranberries in every slice.
The cranberry pound cake is quick to make, simple enough for a late breakfast, and it perfumes the house to smell like the holiday season. Like most pound cakes, it gets better with a day or two as the flavors deepen and meld, so it makes a wonderful holiday gift for friends, neighbors, teachers and family.
Best of all, you can use leftover cranberry sauce to speed up the process (and to figure out once and for all what to do with it). Just make sure to thin it with a bit of water or juice until it’s the consistency of a loose jam, which will help the swirling process.
notes about the cranberry pound cake recipe:
- make sure you beat air into the first three stages of the cake: butter until pale and fluffy, then the butter sugar mixture, and finally when the eggs are mixed in one at a time. The more air bubbles that are mixed in, the lighter the final cake will be.
- use a parchment paper sling for this cake, in case any of the cranberry sauce leaks out of the sides and sticks to the pan. The sling is the most reliable way to get the cake out of the pan in one beautiful piece!
- like any recipe, this can be tweaked and adapted however you feel— stir in toasted, chopped nuts, substitute other berries or fruit jams, or my personal preference, drizzle it with Grand Marnier glaze (powdered sugar and a splash of liqueur, whisked until smooth).
swirled cranberry pound cake
This is a moist, orange scented pound cake with pools of tart, jammy cranberries in every slice. The cake is quick to make, simple enough for a late breakfast, and it perfumes the house to smell like the holiday season.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
- Yield: 8 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Cuisine: American
- 1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1 cup (16 tablespoons or 2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- zest of 1 orange
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (optional)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a small saucepan, bring cranberries, brown sugar, orange juice and salt to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook, stirring and mashing the cranberries against the side of the pan, until the cranberries are soft and the sauce has thickened, 10- 12 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat when it has thickened to the consistency of a loose, chunky strawberry jam (too watery will make the cake soggy, while too thick will be hard to swirl). Set aside to cool while you start on the cake.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. To make a parchment paper sling, cut a 9” x 14” piece of parchment paper and lay it in a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan, trimming the sides if necessary for a smooth fit. Lightly grease the paper and exposed edges of the loaf pan.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter until very light. Beat in the sugar gradually and then the eggs, one by one. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, add the orange zest, and beat until the mixture is very light and fluffy.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In another small bowl, whisk together the milk, Grand Marnier (if using), and vanilla.
- Alternately add the wet and dry ingredients to the butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour. Stir to combine after each addition.
- Pour a third of the batter into the prepared pan and spoon a third of the cranberry sauce on top in small, separate dollops. Repeat this process 2 more times, ending with dollops of cranberry sauce on the very top of the cake (I tend to go with bigger dollops on the top, so there’s more jam to see on the surface when the cake puffs and bakes). With a skewer or thin knife, swirl the cranberry sauce and batter together for a marbled effect (this article has a good figure-8 technique).
- Bake the cake for 60 to 65 minutes, until it springs back when pressed on lightly, and a long toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. If the cake appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with foil.
- Remove the cake from the oven, and loosen its edges with a sharp knife. Wait 5 minutes, then carefully lift the parchment paper sling out of the pan onto a rack to cool.
makes one 9″ x 5″ loaf cake
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 499
- Sugar: 34g
- Sodium: 453mg
- Fat: 26g
- Saturated Fat: 16g
- Unsaturated Fat: 8.5g
- Trans Fat: 0.9g
- Carbohydrates: 60g
- Fiber: 1.3g
- Protein: 7.3g
- Cholesterol: 155mg
Keywords: cranberry pound cake