Cranberry Coffee Cake is soft, moist, bursting with fresh cranberries and is covered in crunchy, buttery crumb topping. This easy coffee cake recipe can be easily transformed into muffins too!
Coffee cake is one of those things where it’s just good at any time of day, for any social gathering or entertaining situation. Whenever there was something going on, there was coffee cake.
My mom always made blueberry coffee cake, which we never grew tired of. However, in my adult years I started experimenting with other flavors. This coffee cake recipe is very versatile, so you can really swap out any fruit you wish. I’ve also done a fabulous Strawberry Coffee Cake, packed with fresh chopped strawberries.
Cranberries are a perfect fruit to add to this cake given the holiday season. The the tender flavor from the cake and tart bite from the cranberries is absolutely delightful. I added a bit of orange zest to brighten up the cake just a bit more (cranberries + orange is SO good) but this is totally optional. The fresh cranberries have plenty of zing on their own.The cake itself is insanely soft and moist. It has a really nice, delicate flavor which allows the fruit to really shine through. I like to use buttermilk in this cake if I happen to have it on hand which adds a little more tartness, but this cake will come out just as moist and delicious with regular whole milk.
I slightly changed the cinnamon crumb topping from the original recipe I have from my mom. This time, I threw in some oats, which I really liked. Because cranberries have such an intense taste, I felt that the topping should be more hearty.
The buttery, cinnamon crunch of the streusel pairs so well with the delicate cake. The crumb topping makes enough to completely cover the top of the coffee cake; there’s nothing worse than receiving a slice of cake with a stingy layer of crumb topping!
Why is this coffee cake baked in a round pan?
Part of this family recipe is to bake off the coffee cake in two round, 9″ cake pans. My mom would slice this cake into triangle pieces and that’s the way it was!
Today, I decided to just use one, 10″ pan. I like a really thick, tall slice and this gives you a VERY thick slice of cranberry coffee cake.You can certainly use a square pan, or a brownie pan instead, if you want thinner, square slices. Totally fine!
You can also make these into muffins using a cupcake pan. This recipe would make BEAUTIFUL muffins. Because this is such a moist cake, I would definitely recommend using foil cupcake liners. Moist cakes have a tendency to stick to the paper ones, even bakery-style parchment muffin liners.
How to bake with fresh or raw cranberries
Adding fresh cranberries to this recipe and other baked goods is really easy.
The first thing you’ll want to do is sort out the berries. When you open the bag, I find it’s easiest to dump them all out onto a cookie sheet. Pick out and sort through the bad cranberries; those that are wrinkled, split or soft. You only want to use the hard cranberries.If you are unsure, you can always give them a little bounce test on the counter. If the berry bounces, it’s a safe bet that it’s fresh! It’s a possibility that you may end up with a few cranberries on the floor with all that bouncing. 🙂
After sorting the cranberries, give them a good rinse in a colander under cool water. Then, put them in a large bowl and set aside. They are now ready to use in your recipe!
For things like cakes and muffins, I suggest coating the berries in a very light dusting of flour. This will help the berries not sink to the bottom when baking. I do this for any fruit pieces that I add into cakes.You do not need to cook the berries before adding them into the cake. Once you mix all of the ingredients, add in the flour-coated berries and fold them gently into the batter. Once they are incorporated, you can pour your batter into the prepared pan and you’re ready to bake!
Can you Freeze Coffee cake?
Ooooh yes! This coffee cake recipe freezes very, very well. In fact, when blueberry season came around, my mom would bake off a few cakes and freeze them for a VERY quick dessert for entertaining.
All you have to do is, wrap up the cake in plastic wrap and then wrap again in foil. These cakes will hold up in the freezer for about 3 months. To defrost, leave it out on the counter for a couple of hours.
Cranberry Coffee Cake
For the Streusel Topping
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter (softened)
- ¼ c brown sugar (lightly packed)
- ½ c all purpose flour
- ¼ c oats (old fashioned or instant)
- ⅛ tsp salt
For the Cake
- ⅓ c unsalted butter (softened)
- 1 c granulated sugar
- 1 egg (room temp)
- 1 c buttermilk (whole milk can also be used)
- 2 c all purpose flour (plus 2tbsp reserved in a separate bowl)
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1½ - 2 c fresh, raw cranberries (sorted and rinsed)
- 1 tsp fresh orange zest (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Prepare the Streusel Topping
- Combine the butter and brown sugar in a small bowl.
- Add the flour, oats and salt. Once the mixture is completely combined, form into two large dough balls. Pop into the freezer while you prepare the cake batter.
- For the Cake
- In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and combine.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt.
- Add half of the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture. Stir well. Then, add ½ of the milk, mix. Add the, remaining flour, stir and then lastly incorporate the remaining milk. Stir until all of the flour and milk is absorbed. No need to over mix!
- In a separate bowl, take the reserved 2 tbsp of flour and toss it with the cranberries, just enough to coat them (this helps so they don't sink to the bottom of the cake!)
- Gently fold the cranberries into the batter.
- Grease and flour two 9’’ round pans, one 10" round pan or one 9x9 pan.
- Notes on using other pans: I find the cake is too delicate for a loaf pan. It will not slice properly. Making muffins in a cupcake pan would work, but I recommend using the foil wrappers as this cake is so moist it would likely be too wet to uphold the paper ones. Mini cupcakes did NOT work; the batter just melted into a big mess!
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s).
- Remove the streusel from the freezer and crumble on top of batter (if it's too frozen, pop it into the microwave for 5-7 seconds). Gently press it into the batter.
- Bake for about 30-40 min or until a knife in the center comes out clean (there should not be any raw cake batter, and the edges will be a deep golden brown).
- Allow to fully cool in the pan.