Cranberry Buttermilk Breakfast Cake

buttermilk cranberry breakfast cake

I’m starting to panic. Family will be arriving any moment (9 more days), and I am so not prepared. The biscotti jar is empty; the granola bin, bare. No gifts have been assembled. The house is a sty, getting messier by the day.

Somehow, however, I’ve crossed one to-do off my growing list. In an effort to figure out what to bake on Christmas morning, I turned to an old standby and swapped cranberries for the blueberries, orange zest for the lemon, and increased the sugar a teensy bit. It worked beautifully! Not too sweet, festively studded with cranberries, this cake will be wonderful on Christmas morning. Best of all, I made the batter the night before and baked the cake in the morning. If you’re not a cranberry fan, you could stick to frozen blueberries, a substitution many of you have had success with — thanks for all of your tips and suggestions.

One last thing, I’ve made a new page, “The Essentials” (see above), where I’ve collected all of my favorite recipes, techniques, how-to’s, etc. The “recipe archive” page was getting a bit unwieldy, and my hope with this page is to provide an easier way to find just what you might be looking for.

And one very last thing, be sure to check back Monday if you are interested in winning a free download of the Food52 Holiday Recipe & Survival Guide iPad app. I’m partaking in this contest.

cranberry buttermilk breakfast cake

cranberries and orange zest

Cranberry Buttermilk Breakfast Cake
Serves 6-8

Notes: This recipe is essentially the Buttermilk Blueberry Breakfast Cake recipe but with cranberries swapped for the blueberries. I increased the sugar to 1 cup (from 7/8 cup) b/c cranberries are a bit tart and substituted orange zest for the lemon zest. If you don’t like cranberries, many people have had luck with frozen blueberries — glance through the comments over here for tips.

Also, this batter can be prepared the night before. Don’t store it in the pan you plan on baking it in — store it in tupperware of some sort, then transfer to a greased pan in the morning.

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
the zest from 1 orange zest
1 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups fresh cranberries
½ cup buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cream butter with orange zest and 1 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Meanwhile, toss the cranberries with 2 tablespoons of flour, then whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt.

3. Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in the cranberries.

4. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan (or something similar) with butter or coat with non-stick spray. Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle batter with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 35 minutes, then check for doneness by touching the top gently or by inserting a toothpick. If necessary, return pan to oven, check every five minutes or so — it took my cake a little bit over 45 minutes to cook. (Note: Baking for as long as 50 minutes might be necessary, especially if you made the batter in advance.) Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

One of the most frequently asked questions about the buttermilk blueberry breakfast cake was if the batter could be prepared the night before. Several of you attempted and had success, so I tried it with this one. It worked perfectly — thanks!

Store batter in a tupperware overnight, then transfer to prepared pan in the morning:

batter for buttermilk cranberry breakfast cake

16. December 2011 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Baking, Breakfast | 109 comments

Comments (109)

  1. I made this on Sunday morning for breakfast and it was ridiculously amazing! I did it in the 13 x 9 pan with the recipe doubled and it came out perfect. I’m still working on the leftovers. Btw, my dad couldn’t wait for it to cool down so he ate it warm with a little butter and said it was delicious that way. I can’t wait to try out the blueberry version!

  2. I have this is in the oven now, and it smells wonderful! Going to have it with my afternoon cup of tea :) Thanks so much for sharing. Look forward to trying the blueberry/lemon version this summer.

  3. I made it today, it’s amazing :). But i made it with red grapes b/c we don’t hv cranberries in my country and blueberries are so expensive. My family loved it. Thanks

  4. I made this and it is definitely tart! I would have preferred more sugar/sweet! I will try again with blueberries or other berries.

  5. This cake is divine! I have made it several times now, today, with half fresh berries, half frozen. So easy, so great! Thank you!

  6. I was wondering if when you wait for the next day, do you let the batter come back to room temp before baking? I’m assuming it’s been in the fridge overnight…

    • Susiejeanne — no need to let the batter come back to room temp before baking. I always let it sit at room temperature while the oven preheats, but not for any longer. You might have to add 5 to 10 minutes to baking time if you store the batter in the fridge overnight. Hope that helps!

  7. Can I use Sour Cherries in light syrup instead of cranberries?

  8. Made this cake this morning !! It was a hit with my boys. So delicious !! Thanks, now to get some wild blueberries and make the blueberry version !!

  9. You had me at cranberry. My favoritist breakfast food in the whole word is cranberry orange bread, so I can’t wait to try this!

    I saw this picture on Pinterest, not pinned from this original blog post, and I searched to find the source. So glad I did! Pinning…from HERE…now. :-)

  10. Excellent. Excellent. Excellent. Perfectly cooked in 35 minutes in a heavy non-stick pan buttered and lined with parchment paper creating handles on two sides, then buttered again. Cut before removing from pan. Thank-you!

  11. this was my first time making this, is the batter supposed to be pretty thick almost like biscuit or bread dough? i followed the recipe exact, i hope it turns out perfect!

  12. I made this cake with cranberries yesterday and oh my…………… we loved it! It came out beautifully tart, moist, and not overly sweet. I could actually taste all the flavor of the cranberries instead of loads of sugar. I think this may be my new favorite cake! I am further thankful that because it says the word “breakfast” in the title, we must be allowed to eat this yummy cake for Brekky!!!! . What a great surprise. I now have a new favorite cake and food blog.


    • Oh Cheryl, you are too kind! Thank you for your sweet words. I am so happy to hear that this came out well for you. And yes, cake for breakfast is nothing unusual around here :) I do love the flavor of the cranberries in this as well. Happy Holidays!

  13. I was wondering how it would be if in the cranberry version of this recipe you added chopped walnuts? I love fruit and nuts together in a recipe. Let me know if anyone has tried this.:)

  14. Should’ve doubled this! I forgot to add orange zest, so I made a glaze with fresh squeezed orange juice and powdered sugar. Poked holes with a fork and drizzled while still warm. Yum yum!!!

  15. This was great, thank you! I used 1/2 c. ww flour and 1 1/2 cups white flour, and only 3/4 cup sugar. The cranberries had a nice tart pop.

  16. I just made this for breakfast, and it turned out amazing!!! I added one cup of buttermilk by mistake, forgot I was supposed to use only 1/2, but it turned out so good! I think I’ll use the 1cup when I make it again. This will definitely be added to my staple recipes! I loved it!!

  17. Loved this! Although I put half cranberries and half frozen raspberries. No one in my family cared for the sour cranberries, so next time I will just use all raspberries.

  18. This is a wonderful recipe! I made it twice the week of Christmas and it was a huge hit with the family. Now, I’m heading into the kitchen to make it for myself with a few alterations to cut some of the fat. We’ll see how it goes. ;-)

  19. I just made this for breakfast and it is amazing! It was very moist and bursting with cranberries. I was worried that my 3 year olds wouldn’t like it because it was a little more tart than I expected but they are currently gobbling it up. So happy with it! I can’t wait to try the blueberry version too! Thanks :-)

    • Wonderful to hear this Edie! My 3-year old loves the blueberry one, and I haven’t tried the cranberry one on her yet, because she’s a picky one, but you are inspiring me to give it a go. I might have to just once before blueberry season arrives.

  20. Aloha, I am wondering if I can use packaged (vs. fresh) cranberries? Fresh cranberries aren’t the cheapest here in Hawaii. :) Thank you!

  21. This was a really good premise for a breakfast bread. I tweaked the recipe with what I had on hand plus made it a little healthier. I used a combination of dried cranberries with a can of whole berry cranberry sauce to replace the sugar. Subbed out the butter for cinnamon applesauce, added yogurt instead of buttermilk (same ratio), and added fresh sliced strawberries in a layer between the batter when filling the pan. Man, when I tell you how awesome that was! Thanks!

    • Wow, amazing! Nice work on all of those healthy substitutions. I love the texture of yogurt and applesauce in cakes — so moist and delicious. Thanks for writing in!

  22. Love this! I’ve had it pinned for months, but my weekly standards of make-ahead breakfast kept winning out each Sunday. Finally got to it today.

    I followed the tips of upping the orange zest and pressing the zest into the sugar before creaming w/ butter.

    I put in half AP flour, 1/4 c. almond meal, 1/4 c. WW flour which altogether made a terrific texture.

    This cake is addictive!

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