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Spice Cake with Orange-Vanilla Frosting and Cranberries

  • Author: Bowen Close
  • Yield: Makes enough frosting to moderately frost a double-layer cake (around 3 cups), Makes two 8-9? cake layers, and about 2 cups of cranberries


This buttermilk spice cake is a beautiful holiday treat. Follow Bowen’s solid baking tips to learn how to create delicious cakes all season long.




  • 2 cups (14 oz.) sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 8 oz.) butter, room temperature
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 cups (13 1/2 oz.) flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cloves
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. nutmeg
  • 2 cups (16 oz.) buttermilk


  • 8 oz. cold cream cheese
  • 6 Tbsp. (3 oz.) butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • Zest of 1 orange

Orange-vanilla sugared cranberries

  • 1 cup sugar, plus more for coating cranberries
  • 1 cup water
  • Zest of 1/2 orange
  • 1/2 vanilla bean or 2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries



  1. Heat oven to 350F. Prepare two cake pans by greasing them, lining the bottom with a parchment circle, and greasing the parchment (I generally use softened butter or canola oil spray for greasing). (To make the parchment circle, trace the pan on a piece of parchment and cut the circle just slightly inside that border so that it will fit.)
  2. Combine dry ingredients Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer or using electric hand mixers, beating on medium-high for 3-5 minutes.
  4. Beat in eggs and vanilla, adding one egg at a time and waiting until incorporated before adding the next and then the vanilla.
  5. Add dry ingredients and buttermilk Reduce mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients and buttermilk in 5 alternating batches, starting and ending with dry (1/3 dry, 1/2 buttermilk, 1/3 dry, 1/2 buttermilk, 1/3 dry). Turn off the mixer just before the final dry ingredients are incorporated, then finish with a rubber spatula. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 38-42 minutes, until a cake test or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or until the top springs back when lightly pressed. Rotate pans halfway through the baking time. Cool in the pans for at least 10 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan and invert onto a wire rack to continue cooling.


  1. Combine cream cheese and butter in a food processor, stand mixer, or bowl with electric hand mixer, until well combined.
  2. Add sugar and flavoring and continue mixing until completely smooth. If frosting seems really thick, mix slightly longer. Don’t mix more than needed!

Orange-vanilla sugared cranberries

  1. Soak cranberries in syrup Combine sugar, water, orange zest, and vanilla in a small pot (if using 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scrape seeds into the pot along with the pod). Heat over medium-high, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Turn off heat, add cranberries, toss to coat the berries, and let sit at least 8 hours.
  2. Drain and coat berries Drain the cranberries of their syrup and toss with more sugar. Spread on a baking sheet or other surface to dry for at least 1 hour (preferably 2) before using.


Cake Making ahead/storage: Cake layers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 72 hours, wrapped well in plastic wrap. If you need to store any longer than that, wrap in plastic wrap and foil and freeze – let sit in the refrigerator at least overnight before using. Cake layers will freeze well up to 1 month.
Frosting Storage/making ahead: Frosting can be made up to 5 days ahead, but will be difficult to spread any colder than room temperature – let stand out to soften.
Cranberries Storage/making ahead: Sugared cranberries will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for at least a few days.

  • Category: Dessert, Baking
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