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.

  • Yield about 12-16 servings


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.