This week, ovens everywhere are cranking out cookies and more cookies for the holidays. Mine is about to be one of them. I adore holiday cookies, nearly all of them. As wonderful as they are though, a plate of cookies just doesn’t quite meet the mark for dessert after a nice holiday meal. You want something a little more central and a little more showy.

This cake is the answer. No layers, fillings, or careful frosting needed here. It’s very simple to prepare and can be made in advance so you can spend your time on other last minute preparations. I’ve had this recipe saved to try for years and now I’m just sorry I didn’t try it sooner. Better late than never, I suppose! The simplicity of this recipe also makes it a great kitchen project with kids, and it really is a beautiful centerpiece for a holiday meal.


For the cake: 

  • 12 tbsp. (6 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons, divided
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup buttermilk

For the glaze: 

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1½ tbsp. lemon juice


  • 01

    Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Grease a bundt pan with butter. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the bottom of the pan, then layer the cranberries over the sugar. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; whisk to blend.

  • 02

    In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the granulated sugar with the zest from the lemons. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until the sugar is infused with the lemon fragrance. Add the butter to the bowl with the lemon sugar and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

  • 03

    In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk with 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Spread the batter into the prepared pan over the cranberries.

  • 04

    Bake about 50-55 minutes or until golden brown on top and just set. Transfer to a  wire rack and let cool about 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a serving platter, remove the pan and let cool completely.

  • 05

    Combine the confectioners’ sugar with 1½ tablespoons of the lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the cake and let set before slicing and serving.


  • I love how this cake looks like a beautiful Christmas wreath and yet it’s so easy!

  • this definitely makes a great centerpiece for a holiday table! love those bright colors.

  • Shari

    Made this when I saw this on Pink Parsley, very very good!

  • Angela

    Your picture makes this cake look much more enticing than the one on the Williams Sonoma website. I’m not a huge cranberry fan. I love dried cranberries in salads and such. I think your pictures have convinced me to try this.

  • Anna Winston

    You have this labeled as dessert and it looks amazing, Do you think it would be too sweet for a Christmas brunch at all?

  • Diana

    This looks lovely! I agree on the dessert, Christmas needs more than just cookies!

  • Ola

    Can this be done with strawberries?

  • Yana y

    Can this be baked the day before? If so, how can it be stored?

  • annieseats

    Yes. Store in an airtight container.

  • annieseats

    Strawberries would not do well in this recipe, as they have a much higher water content than cranberries and become a liquidy mess when baked. The cranberries are great here, plus they are in season now and strawberries at this time of year are not worth your time :)

  • Ola

    Thank you for your reply. I also thought it would be a mess. It’s just that cranberries are not available where I live and strawberries are in season.

  • This looks so delicious! I have quite a few bags of cranberries in my freezer and this would be a good way to use them.

  • annieseats

    Are blueberries in season? Those might work.

  • annieseats

    I mean, it’s definitely dessert but in my experience, no one minds a little extra something sweet around a brunch table. I think it would be a great addition to help balance out the savory :)

  • Chatelaine

    made this last night to bring to work this morning to share with everyone before the holidays. it’s a big hit and i had to walk away from eating seconds to make sure everyone else had a chance too!

  • SO pretty! And I agree. Cookies are just for dessert pregaming..cakes like this are where the real dessert is!

  • Jenn V

    This was a perfect addition to our Christmas Day meal. Looking forward to trying it with blueberries in the summer.

  • Beauty Follower

    So delicious!

    Merry Christmas :)

  • Elizabeth

    We had this for breakfast on Christmas Eve and it was a huge hit! We’re already planning to make it again next week for a New Year’s brunch. I loved the sweet/sour combination. When we put the cranberries in the pan we were worried that there were too many, but they cook down and the cake filled the pan perfectly.

  • Alina

    looks delicious

  • Tracy

    Beautiful cake! I wish I would have made it for Christmas Eve dinner!

  • Carolyn Johnson

    Beautiful and delicious! I made it for the family Christmas dinner and it was perfect after a heavy meal: the lemon and cranberries cleansed the palate and I love the sweet/tart combination. Will make again and love the idea of doing it with blueberries in the summer. Apricots slightly underripe would be worth trying too. Thank you!

  • Tia

    This is simply a Williams Sonoma recipe reproduced here.

  • annieseats

    See the bottom of the post, where I linked and cited the source.

  • Janny Stratichuk

    Could you sub orange for the lemon flavors in this recipe? I made it as is and it’s excellent but want try orange. Anyone done this?

  • annieseats


  • Amanda Brewer

    I brought this to my family’s Thanksgiving celebration and had multiple requests to make it again for Christmas.

  • Stephi

    Hi Annie! I would love to do this recipe, but cranberries are not available where I live. What could be a good sustitude? Thanks a lot!
    (Also, does a normal pan work?)

  • Annie

    Blueberries would be a good alternative here. You can definitely use some other type of pan but the baking time may need to be adjusted accordingly.

  • Stephi

    Thank you so much!!

  • Brittany

    Was so looking for this kind of combination. I have to say I read comments just to see if anyone questioned burnt sugar since it goes on the bottom of the pan with the butter as grease? I see no one here saying it was an issue, so I feel better

  • Annie

    Don’t worry, I’ve made this many times and it has never burned for me. It will be great!

  • Annie @ Annie’s Cooking Lab

    I’ve made it with orange in place of lemon and loved it!

  • Rosie

    Hi this looks great! Planning to make for thanksgiving. Does it make a difference whether using fresh or frozen cranberries? Thanks!

  • Annie

    No, you can use either and both work beautifully. Enjoy!

  • Kristen Speice Grein

    You have baking soda crossed out on the ingredients, but say you need it in the instructions/recipe. Do you need it?

  • Annie

    You crossed it out by clicking on it. If you click it again, it will be back to normal. It’s a feature available so you can cross ingredients off as you cook. Enjoy!