Gingerbread Cake With Cranberry-Vanilla Frosting


Layer after impressive layer.

Gingerbread cake with cranberry-vanilla frosting on white cake stand

Antonis Achilleos; Food Stylist: Ruth Blackburn; Prop Stylist: Lydia Pursell

Active Time:
35 mins
Chill Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
2 hrs 35 mins

Christmas is the time for pulling out all the stops—inviting all the family, fixing all the festive foods, and yes, baking and decorating the most showstopping holiday cakes! This Gingerbread Cake With Cranberry-Vanilla Frosting is just the ticket, combining the classic holiday flavors of warmly spiced gingerbread and sweet-tart cranberries in a layer cake that will take folks’ breath away.

Three tender cake layers are layered and frosted with cranberry-spiked vanilla buttercream, which is a gorgeous shade of poinsettia pink. As if this stunner needed any more help, we added a crown of sugar-crusted sparkling cranberries around the top—making it even more impressive.

Even if baking isn’t your biggest strength, you can knock it out of the park with this cake. Simply break the project into small, manageable pieces, like baking the cake layers and making the cranberry puree (and even the sugared cranberries) a few days ahead of time, then whip up the frosting and assemble the cake the morning before you plan to serve it.


Cake Layers

  • 1 cup butter, softened

  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 tsp. baking soda

  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves

  • 1 1/2 cups whole buttermilk

  • 1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

  • Baking spray


  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 cup butter, softened

  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

  • 2 (16-oz.) pkg. powdered sugar

  • 6-8 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream

  • Sugared Cranberries, for garnish


  1. Prepare the Cake Layers: Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat butter with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add brown sugar, and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cloves in a medium bowl. Add flour mixture to brown sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat on low speed just until blended after each addition. Gently stir in ginger. Spoon batter into 3 (8-inch) round cake pans coated with baking spray. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks; let cool completely, about 1 hour.

  3. While cakes bake and cool, prepare the Frosting: Combine cranberries, granulated sugar, and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium, stirring often, until cranberries begin to pop and mixture is thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool 10 minutes. Place mixture in a food processor or blender, and process until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer cranberry puree to a small bowl; cover and chill at least 1 hour or up to 5 days.

  4. Beat butter, vanilla, salt, and 1/4 cup of the chilled cranberry puree with a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Gradually add powdered sugar alternately with 6 tablespoons whipping cream, beating on low speed until blended and smooth after each addition. Beat in additional cream 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed, to reach desired consistency. Increase speed to medium, and beat until light and fluffy.

  5. Assemble the cake: Spread Frosting between Cake Layers and on top and sides of cake. Garnish with Sugared Cranberries.

Test Kitchen Tip

If you end up with extra puree, stir it into butter for morning muffins and biscuits, or serve it with your holiday ham.

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