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Cranberry Apple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

by Haley
Cranberry Apple Cake with Crea

Celebrate the holidays in style with a cranberry apple cake! This beautiful and festive cake is filled with cranberry apple pie filling and decorated with cream cheese frosting and sugared cranberries.

Growing up, it was my family’s tradition to make cranberry apple pie every year on Thanksgiving. And only on Thanksgiving! Getting to have this dessert just once a year definitely helped make it extra special. But aside from that fact, the sweetness of the apples and the tartness of the cranberries in the pie made for the perfect match. We would serve each slice warm, with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, and it was always the part of the meal that I looked forward to the most.

Bowl of fresh cranberries - Cranberry Apple Cake

Back in those days, there was no such thing as Pinterest. So, the recipe for our cranberry apple pie can be found on a page torn out of one of my grandmother’s favorite housekeeping magazines. We kept it tucked away in our pantry so we could find it each year on Thanksgiving. Of course, I am absolutely obsessed with Pinterest, but there’s something so wonderful about family recipes that are scribbled on index cards, or torn from a magazine and tucked away to be used again and again. Don’t you think?

Traditions are such an important part of the holidays, and I always love hearing about how different individuals and families make this time of year special. Being recently(ish) married, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the traditions my husband and I want to maintain, and how we can put our own twist on them too.

Three layer cranberry apple cake with cream cheese frosting

Which brings me to this cranberry apple cake, my own twist on my family’s favorite pie recipe! Just like our tried and true cranberry apple pie, I wanted to create a cake that would be perfect for you to share with loved ones at Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season. Who knows, perhaps this is the year that Thanksgiving cake becomes a tradition in your family! 🙂

The layers in this cranberry apple cake are spiced with a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. These spices provide an absoultely wonderful aroma and flavor, in addition to the cranberries and apples that are baked into the cake itself. I also wanted to bring in some element of the pie, so I made a simple cranberry apple pie filling to go between each layer.

Sugared cranberries for a cranberry apple cake with cream cheese frosting

The finishing touches on this cake are a smooth, white cream cheese frosting and a sprinkle of sugared cranberries. I love how they make this cranberry apple cake feel so festive! Even though this recipe was actually inspired by Thanksgiving, I couldn’t help but play lots of Christmas music as I was baking (I know, I know, I started early this year – November 1st).

Personally, sugared cranberries remind me of the moment I fell in love with layer cakes, which was when I made a semi-naked gingerbread layer cake topped with sugared cranberries for a friend’s goodbye party. They are beautiful, and surprisingly simple to make. If you’re whipping up a festive cocktail, pie, cheesecake, etc. this holiday season, these cranberries are actually the perfect garnish for a variety of treats.

Sugared cranberry garnish on this cranberry apple cake with cream cheese frosting

I hope this cake becomes a tried and true family favorite, I know it will be for us! I’d love to hear what other traditions you are keeping or starting this holiday season! Find @flourcoveredapron on Instagram or Facebook and let me know! You’ll find lots more holiday baking inspiration there as well; this week, I’m sharing all my Thanksgiving-worthy cakes with you!

Happy Baking!

Slices of cranberry apple cake with cream cheese frosting

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Cranberry Apple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Cranberry Apple Cake - Flour Covered Apron
5 from 2 votes
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Cranberry Apple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This festive cake has three layers of cranberry apple cake with cranberry apple pie filling, cream cheese frosting, and sugared cranberries.

Course Dessert
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings 1 8-inch cake

Ingredients

Cranberry Apple Cake

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teasposson baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk*, room temperature
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, halved
  • 2 cups apples, peeled and small diced

Cranberry Apple Pie Filling

  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, halved
  • 2 cups apples, peeled and small diced
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 dash nutmeg
  • 1 dash cloves
  • 1 dash allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Sugared Cranberries (optional)**

  • 1/4 cup + 1/2 cup granulated sugar, separated
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries

Instructions

Cranberry Apple Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line the bottom of three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper. Then, grease and butter the cake pans.

  2. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.

  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together oil and sugar until well incorporated. Add vanilla extract. Then, with mixer on low speed, add eggs one at a time.

  4. Alternate adding one third of the flour mixture and one half of the milk, starting and ending with the flour, and mixing until incorporated after each addition. You will have three additions of flour and two additions of milk.

  5. Gently fold in apples and cranberries.

  6. Divide batter evenly between three cake pans and smooth tops with a spatula. Place cake pans on top of a baking sheet and place in oven. Bake at 350 degrees for 33-37 minutes, or until cakes pass the toothpick test.

  7. Remove cakes from oven and let cool in pans for 5-10 minutes. Then, turn each cake out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Cranberry Apple Pie Filling

  1. Combine cranberries, apples, brown sugar, spices, and cornstarch together in a medium size bowl and mix gently with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.

  2. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium size skillet over medium-low heat. Add fruit mixture to saucepan and cook for 5-8 minutes, until apples are tender and cranberries have broken down.

  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy and completely incorporated.

  2. Add pinch of salt and vanilla extract, then gradually add powdered sugar (about a cup at a time), mixing on low speed until completely incorporated.

  3. Chill for about 15 minutes to help frosting thicken up slightly.

Sugared Cranberries

  1. Heat 1/4 cup sugar and water over medium heat, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved.

  2. Remove from heat and stir in cranberries until they are coated in the syrup mixture.

  3. Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer cranberries to a wire rack with a baking sheet underneath. Let dry for about an hour.

  4. Place 1/2 cup sugar in a shallow bowl and roll cranberries a few at a time in the sugar until coated. Return to wire rack to dry.

Assembling the cake

  1. Once layers are cool, level each cake using a large serrated knife. Place bottom layer on a cake board, using frosting to adhere.

  2. Use cream cheese frosting to fill a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe a dam around the edge of the bottom layer of cake and fill the center with about half of the cranberry apple pie filling. Spread the filling evenly with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.

  3. Top with the second cake layer and repeat step #2. Top with remaining cake, cut side down.

  4. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining cream cheese frosting. Garnish with sugared cranberries. Keep cake chilled.

Recipe Notes

* Substitute for buttermilk: a scant cup whole milk mixed with one tablespoon vinegar OR fresh lemon juice. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes before adding to the recipe

**If making sugared cranberries, start them before or while the cake is baking so they have time to dry before being used to decorate the cake.

A slice of cranberry apple cake with cranberry apple pie filling

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16 comments

Albert Bevia November 16, 2017 - 8:57 am

Such a beautiful cake that you have created, this is stunning in everyway, it´s more like a piece of art!

Reply
Haley November 16, 2017 - 7:03 pm

Thanks, Albert! I love baking layer cakes because it combines my love for baking and art.

Reply
Bethany November 16, 2017 - 12:01 pm

This is such a pretty cake!

Reply
Haley November 16, 2017 - 7:02 pm

Thank you, Bethany! 🙂

Reply
Sabine November 16, 2017 - 2:15 pm

What a beautiful cake! I’m sure that mine won’t be that pretty.

Reply
Haley November 16, 2017 - 6:59 pm

Thanks so much Sabine! I’m sure you could make one just as pretty, if not moreso! Plus, sparkling cranberries are such an easy way to make any holiday dessert beautiful!

Reply
Georgia A Ipsen November 21, 2017 - 4:12 am

Would love to see a picture of a slice of the cake to see what it looks like on the inside!

Reply
Haley November 30, 2017 - 9:10 pm

Hi Georgia, thanks so much for your comment! I’ve updated the post with a photo of a slice at the very end of the post. 🙂

Reply
Ellen November 21, 2017 - 6:31 pm

What type of apples do you recommend?

Reply
Haley November 23, 2017 - 8:44 am

Hi Ellen, thanks for the question! A variety of apples could work well in this cake! I usually bake with either honeycrisp, gala, or fuji!

Reply
Cleo @ Journey to the Garden December 20, 2017 - 12:15 pm

5 stars
Oh my, what an amazing looking cake and fantastic photos! This is definitely going on my to-bake list!

Reply
Haley December 20, 2017 - 1:23 pm

Hi Cleo, thank you! That’s so exciting, I’d love to hear how it comes out!

Reply
Raven December 18, 2018 - 6:58 am

5 stars
I made this cake for thanksgiving this year and it was delicious! I wanted a maple flavor in the frosting, but I didn’t have maple extract, so I added a little maple syrup. And while the flavor was nice, I wish I had just left well enough alone because that change made the frosting too sweet in my opinion. Next time I’ll stick to your recipe and/or add maple extract if I want a maple factor. But the cake and the filling were perfect! I’ve never halved a cranberry before – they’re so cute inside! I didn’t halve them for the filling though since I knew they would cook down. Thanks for the delish recipe Haley!

Reply
Haley December 22, 2018 - 9:06 pm

Hi Raven! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! 🙂 I love maple frosting too, but I do love the slight tang of a classic cream cheese frosting.

Reply
Georgia A Ipsen February 2, 2019 - 12:57 pm

Can I use frozen cranberries?

Reply
Haley February 16, 2019 - 8:51 am

Hi Georgia, I haven’t tried it myself, but it should work fine!

Reply

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