Orange Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream and Cranberry Glaze

This beauty is an Orange Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream and Cranberry Glaze that is decorated with sugared cranberries. Seriously beautiful and delicious!

Orange Cake with Buttercream Frosting and Cranberry Glaze on Glass Serving Plate

I make this Orange Cake with Buttercream and Cranberry Glaze every year for a holiday meal. This year it was for Thanksgiving but as often it’s for Christmas Day; it depends on what strikes me as I create a menu. The flavors are fantastic and it is so beautiful. I did post it on my blog previously too; NINE years ago! To say the post needed a redo is an understatement; this cakes deserves some notoriety!

The combination of the orange flavored cake, with the brown sugar and cream cheese frosting layered with a cranberry glaze make a spectacular presentation for this amazingly delicious cake that is so perfect for the season. It tastes as beautiful as it looks too.

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Slice of Orange Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream and Cranberry Glaze Garnished with Sugared Cranberries

I’ve been a single parent since my children were very young and I like to think I know them pretty well; their likes and dislikes. So no one was more surprised than me when I was talking to my youngest daughter Lauren before she headed home one year right before Thanksgiving and shared that I was concerned about getting everything done.

I had neighborhood teens in the house helping me with cleaning and I found that my need to direct them took me away from baking and I hadn’t accomplished all that I had hoped. She asked what I needed yet to do and when among the list I mentioned I needed to get a pie made, she asked, “Why? We don’t need pie, I LOVE that Orange Cake that you make.”

Seriously? She doesn’t like cranberry sauce but loves this cake? Done deal then because I’m with her and it was a relief to know that instead of disappointing her I was doing exactly what she preferred. Whew!

Orange Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream and Cranberry Glaze with a Orange Slice Garnish

I’ve been making and decorating cakes for my family since before I had children. The most elaborate one I ever made was a Blue Selectric Typewriter cake for my ex-husband’s secretary that I only wish I had taken a photograph of. Since then, I’ve done one every year for each girl’s birthday.

Bubble gum machines, ballerinas, music notes…whatever they were into at the time I tried to make a cake that represented them for each birthday. Now it seems easier because there are no shapes to cut or forms to build but I’ve struggled with wanting them to look just a bit more finished; I can never seem to get that icing on the outside edge smooth as, well, you know, the proverbial ‘baby’s butt.’

One invaluable tool I’ve found that make it so much easier for me is a plastic bowl scraper (affiliate link) that I use to smooth the edge; as important as ever with the trend of ‘naked cakes’ that I really love. When I originally made this Orange Cake with Cranberry Glaze I did not ‘go naked’ and I do love this look much more; I think easier too; it’s not supposed to look quite so perfect.

The frosting quantity has been modified from the original recipe to allow me enough to pipe some finishing details on the bottom and top so if you choose not to do that; you will have some leftover frosting.

In the cake I made for these photos that accompany this post, I decided to go for more of a ‘naked cake’ look. Which meant I had a ton of frosting left to garnish the top…If you prefer to frost more on the outside edge, you won’t have that. Just make sure you build a nice ‘dam’ with the piped frosting on top; otherwise that cranberry glaze will run down the sides.

I let it go once and it was fine, but I think it’s way more dramatic and beautiful if the sides are devoid of cranberry syrup. Your call though.

Still one thing I promise you. If you have any leftover frosting, this is so good on my failsafe…a graham cracker. You might even save some on purpose. I might know know someone who has done that!

PIN IT! ‘Orange Cake with Buttercream and Cranberry Glaze’

Orange Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream and Cranberry Glaze on a Cake Plate in Front of Holiday Decor
Orange Cake with Buttercream Frosting and Cranberry Glaze on Glass Serving Plate

Cranberry Glazed Orange Layer Cake

Creative Culinary
A rich orange cake is layered with a cranberry glaze and frosted with a brown sugar and orange buttercream, topped with more cranberry glaze. Beautiful and delicious.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Cakes, Cupcakes & Cheesecake
Servings 12 Servings
Calories 781 kcal


For the Cake

  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt 1 cup 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 6 large eggs separated
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoons orange extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup plain yogurt

For the Cranberry Glaze

  • 1 12- ounce package fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons grated orange peel

For the Brown Sugar Frosting

  • 16 ounces cream cheese room temperature
  • 1 cup butter room temperature
  • 1 cup packed golden brown sugar
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons orange liqueur Substitute 2 Tbsp orange juice concentrate if desired
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

For Garnish (Optional)

  • Orange slice
  • Sugared Cranberries


  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Combine cranberries and sugar in processor. Using on/off turns, coarsely chop cranberries.
  • Transfer mixture to heavy medium saucepan. Add 1 cup water and orange peel and bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; simmer until mixture is reduced to 2 1/3 cups, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
  • Cool to room temperature.
  • Cover; chill overnight or up to 2 days (mixture will thicken).
  • Brown Sugar Frosting
  • Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until fluffy.
  • Add brown sugar; beat until well blended. Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup (scant) at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Beat in orange liqueur or orange juice concentrate and vanilla.
  • Chill until firm enough to spread, about 30 minutes.
  • Makes about 4 cups.
  • Cake Instructions and Finished Product
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides.
  • Sift flour, baking powder and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until creamy. Gradually add sugar; beat until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Add egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Beat in orange peel, vanilla extract and orange extract.
  • Whisk milk and yogurt in small bowl to blend.
  • Add dry ingredients to yolk mixture in 3 additions alternately with milk mixture in 2 additions, beating well after each addition.
  • Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/3 of whites into batter, then fold in remaining whites.
  • Divide batter between pans. Smooth tops. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.
  • Cool cakes in pans on rack 15 minutes. Run small knife around sides of pans to loosen cakes. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in plastic and store at room temperature.
  • Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Spread top of cake with 3/4 cup Creamy Brown Sugar Frosting. Spread 1 cup Cranberry Glaze over frosting, leaving 1/2-inch border all around cake.
  • Top with second cake layer, flat side down; press slightly to adhere. Spread 2 cups frosting over sides of cake
  • Spoon remaining frosting into pastry bag fitted with medium-size star tip. Pipe decorative border around top and bottom edges of cake. Refrigerate until frosting is firm, about 1 hour.
  • Spread remaining Cranberry Glaze over top center of cake. Chill until glaze is set. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate.)
  • Garnish Top with an orange slice and the bottom with whole cranberries.


For Sugared Cranberries, visit this page with a pumpkin roll decorated with the berries.
Adapted from original recipe in Bon Appetit Magazine.


Nutrition Facts
Cranberry Glazed Orange Layer Cake
Serving Size
1 grams
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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  1. Hi

    Just wanting to be sure I am reading this correctly. The main cake calls for icing sugar and not regular sugar?

  2. Wow- I feel like baking today and this looks like it wants me to bake it. Not sure mine will look as great as yours, but will be giving it a go, thanks!

    1. Be sure to let me know Amanda; I’ll tell you one thing…I have to be careful to not finish off that brown sugar cream cheese frosting before it ever gets on the cake!

  3. Boy, any one of us who thinks that cranberry-orange holiday combo begins and ends with quick bread should take a gander at this beauty! I’m thrilled that your daughter paid you this compliment because you deserve it! And serioulsy, with a cake this fabulous, does any holiday dessert table need anything else?

  4. GORGEOUS! I’m totally jealous and I want to make this cake. My only question is how to make it as beautiful as yours. I will have my elementary school age daughters helping and we aren’t yet fabulous with frosting. Also, I’ve never yet been able to make a layer cake that didn’t somewhat resemble the leaning tower of Pisa.

  5. Wow.. when the page first popped up I thought I had the RSVP site… that cake looks perfect and I know tastes incredible – how could it not when it’s got all of my favorite flavors in it!!!
    It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how well I think I know my boys, they still manage to surprise me.
    So glad that your daughter loves this cake too!!

  6. This looks like a cake one would see in a bakery shop window and if I saw it, I’d buy it! You did an awesome job decorating it and love the clementine garnish on top.

  7. I’m not a whiz in the kitchen, but when I see something I want, I can usually figure out how to get it. I’m starting by making my shopping list.

    I will give this recipe a try this week (thank you for the high altitude instructions), and let you know how it goes. If all goes well, I’ll be adding a picture to my Facebook picture album – Debi’s Kitchen. It’s a little sparse right now, but I’ve been waiting for something good to come along. I think this is it!

    1. Debi, Though a lot of steps, it’s not difficult, I’m sure you’ll do fine.

      I live at altitude in Denver but but my recipes are not adjusted for high altitude so using that information is a good idea. I’ve had issue with this cake falling in the middle the first couple of times I made it but this year, made these adjustments and it came out perfect:

      Preheated oven to 360 degrees
      Used 2 tsp of baking powder
      Baked for 30 minutes and wished I had done 25!

      Because the products we put in are already drier and the oven temp is higher, I always test about 10 minutes before the recommended baking time. This was fine but I honestly think it could have come out a few minutes earlier so watch those minutes and test early; as soon as a toothpick comes out clean, take the layers out of the over.

      Hope it turns out wonderful for you too; please let me know.

      1. The cranberry sauce and and brown sugar frosting are made and in the fridge. I probably won’t get to bake the cake until tomorrow (Wednesday). I’m really looking forward to this turning out well, so your tips are much appreciated. Thank you!

        I’ll keep you posted — with pictures, too!


        1. The first thing I noticed when I took the cake from the fridge was that it was HEAVY. Mine came out very “solid;” like pound cake. But it was moist. The cake isn’t terribly rich, and is nicely complemented by the cranberry sauce and the brown sugar frosting . . . the best frosting I’ve ever tasted! I served it with vanilla tea. Quite a treat. In fact, I think I’ll go have another piece right now!

  8. Barb, that cake is gorgeous. You didn’t need a thing from me. And, thank you for including the photo of the cookie. This was one of my most favorite projects, ever!

    1. Thanks Gail; coming from you, that is high praise indeed! I’ve always struggled with those doggone sides; nothing has ever really helped so I’m looking forward to my new toy when my shipment from King Arthur gets here!

    1. You and my daughter! It why I was so surprised at how much she loved this cake; she doesn’t particularly love cranberry sauce. Guess mixing it with a brown sugar and cream cheese frosting makes a difference!

  9. just beautiful as usual, Barb – i’m sooooooo not the cake decorating type as i do not have the patience for the detail work. Cranberry & Orange is a match made in heaven!

    1. Thanks Mardi…I’m not being too hard on myself but now have something to strive for. I don’t make a lot of cakes but next time I do hope to eradicate those lines…though in our real life experience, no one notices them; they are just intent on a slice!

  10. Then do! One thing I learned; not to worry if some of the cranberry glaze drizzles down the side; I think it looks beautiful. Will do my own picture this year; this one from BA does not do it justice.

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