Cranberry Orange Spice Cake – orange cake studded with cranberries topped with white chocolate orange frosting in festive pink and white buttercream stripes. A new layer cake recipe by our contributor, Tessa Huff.
During a season heavy in gingerbread and rich eggnog, this Cranberry Orange Spice Cake is a bright, fresh surprise. Studded with tart cranberries and a pleasantly yet unexpected hint of ground cloves, this citrus cake is light and playful – a modern take on “sugar, spice, and everything nice,” if you ask me.
Fall and winter baking typically scream warm spices and decadent desserts. While I still crave those types of cake on chilly nights by the fire, I wanted to create something that was 100% fun, fresh, and whimsical for this magical time of year. The candy cane striping really speaks to my inner child (as well as my actual child) and the pink pockets of cranberries within burst with flavor and delight.
I used to bake these flavors together in cupcake form at my old bakery near the holidays. It’s been more than a few years, and I am so excited to be bringing them back and sharing the recipe with you all this season. I like to add a touch of ground cloves, but cinnamon would be a fine substitute. I used to pair the cupcakes with champagne buttercream for a festive twist on a mimosa-inspired flavour combination, but today I opted for white chocolate buttercream with a hint orange. I was a bit hesitant myself, but the smooth, creamy white chocolate pairs quite nicely with just a touch of fresh orange zest. If white chocolate and citrus flavors together don’t appeal to you, then I won’t be mad if you leave one of them out. Or go for the champagne version!
Cranberry Orange Spice Cale
Orange citrus cake studded with tart cranberries and topped with white chocolate orange buttercream, in whimsical pink and white stripes
- Yield: One 8" Round Cake (3 layers)
- Category: ✽ ✽ ✽ ✽
For the Orange Spice Cake:
- 1 ½ cups cake flour
- 1 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 tablespoon + ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- zest of 1 orange
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- 1 ¼ cup buttermilk
- ¼ cup fresh orange juice
- 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
For the White Chocolate Orange Buttercream:
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 cups unsalted butter, cubed, softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- zest of ½ an orange, or to taste
- 5 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled
For the Assembly:
Make the Orange Spice Cake:
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans and set aside.
- Sift together the flours (minus the 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour), baking powder, salt and cloves. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add in the sugar and orange zest. Continue to mix until light and fluffy – 3 to 5 minutes.
- With the mixer on medium-low, add in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Stop the mixer and scrap down the bowl.
- With the mixer on low, carefully add in half of the dry ingredients. Once incorporated, slowly stream in the buttermilk followed by the orange juice. Add in the remaining dry ingredients. Once incorporated, mix the batter on medium speed for no more than about 30 seconds.
- Toss the cranberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. Fold in about ¾ of the cranberries.
- Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared pans. Top the cake with the remaining cranberries. Bake for 24 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.
Make the White Chocolate Orange Buttercream:
- Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Gently whisk until combined.
- Place mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water to create a double-boiler. Whisking constantly, heat the egg mixture until it registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Carefully transfer the bowl back to the stand mixer.
- Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg mixture on high for 8 to 10 minutes until stiff, glossy peaks and the outside of the mixing bowl returns to room temperature.
- Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, slowly add cubed butter and mix until incorporated.
- Add vanilla extract and orange zest. Whip on medium until silky smooth, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add in the melted chocolate and mix until smooth. The buttercream may look like it’s broken at some point. Keep mixing until it is completely smooth.
Assemble the Cake:
- Once the cakes have completely cooled, place one layer on a cake board or serving dish. Spread on 1 cup of buttercream with an offset spatula. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat. Crumb coat the cake with the buttercream and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
- To decorate, split the remaining buttercream in half. Tint one portion of it with pink food gel or the color of your choice. Fit two piping bags with medium, round tips (or plastic couplers) and fill each with a different color of buttercream. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and place it on a rotating cake stand. Starting at the bottom of the cake, pipe a ring around with the plain buttercream by holding the piping bag perpendicular to the side of the cake. Moving up the side of the cake, continue to pipe rings around the cake, alternating the colors.
- Once the sides are covered, smoothly frost the top of the cake with the remaining buttercream. Smooth the sides of the cake to reveal the stripes by using an icing smoother or bench scraper. Only smooth the cake one full rotation at a time, cleaning your scraper in between. Fill in any gaps with the respective colors and smooth again. The more the cake is smoothed, the more the stripes will blend together.
- Fill a piping bag fitted with a large star tip with the remaining buttercream. Pipe “kisses” around the top edge of the cake and top with sugared cranberries.