Recipe: Cranberry Orange Cupcakes

Happy Holiday Week!  Yes, I just made up an artificial week to welcome you, but I just don’t know what to call this week.  I love this time of year when the holidays are just around the corner.  It’s not quite Thanksgiving yet and Christmas is still on the horizon.  But the spirit of the holiday season is already here!  I’m itching to start decorating for Christmas and it’s taking every ounce of my willpower to wait until after Thursday.  But my Christmas shopping is another story all together!  I’ve been rocking check marks on my list for about a week now and it feels pretty good.  I’m never this early with my shopping but I vowed that THIS would be the year!  And if I’m being completely honest… a few rogue Christmas pillows have made their way into my living room.  Yes, they make my turkey feel awkward and overshadowed but he is adjusting nicely.  Perhaps I’m just excited to share all of the sparkling goodness that is coming to the blog over the next four weeks!

Cranberry Orange Cupcake Recipe | by Carrie Sellman

So I think we should officially get things started with a new cupcake recipe!  Delicious Cranberry Orange Cupcakes with orange cream cheese frosting and candied cranberry garnish.   A holiday classic is paired with fresh citrus for a flavor combo that is bright and refreshing.  It all starts with the sweet tart tang of candied cranberries.  Cranberries soaked in orange-infused syrup and then coated with a sparkling crunch of sugar, creating little bite-sized pieces of natural candy.  Then we start baking and things really get festive!

Cranberry Orange Cupcake Recipe | by Carrie Sellman

If you’ve never made candied cranberries before, they may sound intimidating.  But seriously, they could not be simpler.  The key is to start them one day in advance and then you’re home free.  This recipe makes more than enough cranberries to top all of the cupcakes, which leaves some for you to pop.  Be warned, they are a tad addicting.  Make even more for an unexpected hostess gift that can easily be wrapped up in a mason jar and enjoyed later.  They add a little touch of sparkle to holiday cocktails and appetizers!

Cranberry Orange Cupcake Recipe | by Carrie Sellman

Cranberry Orange Cupcake Recipe | by Carrie Sellman

a recipe by Carrie Sellman
(makes 36)

For the Candied Cranberries

3 3/4 cups sugar, divided
1 3/4 cups water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
12 ounces fresh cranberries

  1. In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine 2 1/2 cups sugar, water, vanilla and orange zest.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved.
  2. Add cranberries and stir.  Remove from heat and let rest until pan is cool enough to handle.
  3. Cover cranberries with a small plate to push berries down into the syrup.  Once pan is completely cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Fill a rimmed dish with remaining 1 1/4 cup sugar.   Strain cranberries and reserve the syrup.
  5. Add strained cranberries into the sugar dish and shake until well coated.  Remove from sugar and let dry on a baking tray for at least one hour.

TIP:  Start candied cranberries at least one day in advance.  Make extra to share as a gift or enjoy later.  They are delicious on their own or as a garnish for holiday appetizers and cocktails.  They can be stored for about one week.


For the Cranberry Orange Cupcakes

3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon reserved syrup from candied cranberries
zest of 1 orange
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin tins with cupcake wrappers.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. Gently toss cranberries in a tablespoon of flour, lightly coating each berry.  Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high using the paddle attachment.  Beat until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. With the mixer on low, add eggs one at a time.  Mixing well after each egg.
  6. Add vanilla extract, reserved cranberry syrup and orange zest.  Mix to combine.
  7. Add one third of your dry ingredients and mix on low, just until combined.
  8. Add one half of your milk.  Mix gently.
  9. Add in remaining ingredients, alternating dry, wet, dry.  Do not over mix.
  10. Gently fold cranberries into finished batter.
  11. Fill cupcake liners 1/2 full with batter, diving evenly to make 36 cupcakes.
  12. Bake 17-19 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.


For the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

16 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
2 lbs powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons orange juice

  1. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Add vanilla, orange zest and juice and mix until combined.
  3. Gradually add powdered sugar until completely combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix again.


To Assemble

Once cupcakes are cool, swirl cream cheese frosting onto each cupcake using a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip.  Garnish with candied cranberries .  Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

TIP:  If the icing is not holding its shape while decorating, refrigerate icing 20-30 minutes.  The chilled icing with pipe nicely into a soft swirl.

Cranberry Orange Cupcake Recipe | by Carrie Sellman

PRESENTATION TIP:  Package cupcakes in an ornament box for portable gift giving.  This recipe makes 36 delicious cupcakes, begging to be shared!

Cranberry Orange Cupcake Recipe | by Carrie Sellman

If you’re excited and ready for the holidays like me, be sure to hop over and catch The 2013 TomKat Studio Holiday Gift Guide.  My friend Kim always puts together the greatest lineup of gift ideas, recipes and inspiration.  Not to mention a slew of free printable gift tags from some of our very favorite bloggers and party girls.  I’m honored to be included again this year, sharing this very Cranberry Orange Cupcake Recipe.  Now, off to browse and click through some gorgeous holiday fun.  Perhaps this calls for Christmas music!

Carrie Sellman , Founder & Editor

Carrie Sellman is the Founder & Editor of The Cake Blog. Her work has been published in BRIDES Magazine, Country Living Magazine and featured online at People, Today, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Redbook, Real Simple, TLC, The Cooking Channel and more.


  1. 1

    Trisha says

    Last year I was big on a recipe I found for orange vanilla cranberry cookies. This year I will be making these cupcakes and I can’t wait. Just something special about baking with cranberries in the fall. Thanks for sharing!

  2. 6

    MichelleB says

    These sound yummy! I will definitely be making these for some holiday get together. And looking forward to trying the candied cranberries too!

  3. 7

    Katie says

    I made these over Thanksgiving and even without the cake flour, they were flawless. A huge hit. Thanks for posting!

  4. 10

    Ann says

    I have them in the oven now and am very excited. They smell wonderful and the cranberries look grand. One small question re. method, however. (or maybe two). Do you mean for the syrup to be added with the milk and for the cranberries to be folded into the batter last? I’m hoping I haven’t misunderstood a crucial part. Thanks so much for this festive recipe! Happy holidays!

    • 11


      Great questions Ann! I’ve updated the recipe to help clarify and include these important details that I missed. Sounds like you’re right on track. THANK YOU for asking!

      Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

  5. 12

    Heila says

    Hello, this sounds absolutely amazing. But since fall is over and there’s no cranberries available, can I use blueberries instead?

  6. 14

    Kayla says

    I tried this recipe not really knowing how they would turn out. I was overjoyed to find everything about these cupcakes is perfect from the cranberries to the cake and finally the icing. I will definitely be returning to this blog for more recipes.

  7. 16

    Brittney says

    I had a Christmas party a few nights ago, and had already started baking my cupcakes when I came across this recipe, (Wish I would have come across it sooner). I went ahead and made the cranberries to top off my cupcakes and put the rest in bowls as finger food. And what an amazing success! They were the hit of the party, I had people asking to take the left overs home, and for the recipe! We also used a little bit of the syrup to mix in with our cider, it was great! So thanks for the great recipe, I’ll definitely be keeping up with your blog, and referring people :-).

  8. 18

    Cassi says

    i just finished making these! My home smells fantastic! I am noticing though that my cakes are a little dense. Did I do something wrong? Or are they just supposed to be that way? They taste amazing, but it’s just not the texture I’m used to. Thank you!

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