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This Cranberry Swirl Sour Cream Coffee Cake is a festive addition to your holiday breakfast, tea party, or Christmas brunch. The rich butter cake includes a ribbon of cranberry sauce throughout, plus a drizzle of icing and crunchy toasted almonds on top. It’s a show-stopping morning treat that you can easily prepare in advance!
A Delicious Christmas Breakfast
With its tart cranberries, rich flavor, and sweet glaze, this Sour Cream Coffee Cake recipe is the ultimate breakfast or brunch for special occasions. Whether you’re hosting guests for a long weekend, preparing a festive Christmas spread, or just spoiling your family with a special Sunday treat, the easy coffee cake is a guaranteed hit. Best of all, you can bake it ahead of time, sleep in, and pour yourself a warm cup of coffee in the morning. There’s no need to wake up early!
Cranberry Swirl Sour Cream Coffee Cake
The idea for this old-fashioned cranberry coffee cake comes from my mom, who has been baking a similar morning treat for decades. She recently sent me her recipe, which she first found in a November issue of Yankee magazine almost 25 years ago! If anyone knows cranberries, it’s definitely New Englanders — and the suggestion to add cranberry sauce to a classic coffee cake is downright genius.
I used my favorite sour cream coffee cake recipe, but swapped out the cinnamon streusel for a festive cranberry swirl instead. The end result is a moist, dense cake with a smooth, buttery inside and a crisp, golden brown crust. The ribbon of cranberry sauce that you’ll find throughout is the perfect bright, tart balance to the rich cake. The sour cream adds moisture without thinning the batter, adds fat for creaminess, helps to control the browning, and activates the baking soda. The cake is such a perfect little morning (or afternoon) treat!
Why is it called “coffee cake”?
What makes a coffee cake a coffee cake — especially if coffee isn’t one of the ingredients?! In America we often call this type of dish a coffee cake because the traditional sweet pound cake is an ideal complement to a cup of coffee or a foamy latte. When you’ve got a warm beverage and a slice of this decadent treat on your plate, it’s definitely not bad to eat cake for breakfast!
How to Make Cranberry Coffee Cake
Prep ahead for quick grab-and-go breakfasts during the week, serve it for a holiday brunch, or enjoy a slice with a cozy drink for an afternoon snack. Kids and adults all go crazy for this classic coffee cake! Plus, there are a couple of special ingredients that add so much extra flavor to the sweet treat…
- Brown sugar
- Sour cream
- Vanilla extract and almond extract
- All-purpose flour (or cake flour also works well)
- Baking powder and baking soda
- Kosher salt
- Whole berry cranberry sauce (I use Ocean Spray brand, but leftover homemade cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving would also be perfect)
Step 1: Make Batter
Cream together the wet ingredients, add the sifted dry ingredients, and mix just until combined. The batter will be nice and thick!
Step 2: Layer and Swirl
Layer the batter and the cranberry sauce in a greased and floured Bundt pan, using a knife to swirl the cranberries into the batter.
Finish with a layer of batter on top, and spread to seal so that you can’t see any of the cranberry sauce peeking out.
Step 3: Bake
Bake the cake in a 350 degree F oven for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. My cake is typically done by the 50-minute mark, so check it early to make sure that your cake doesn’t burn. After 15 minutes, invert the cake onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Step 4: Glaze
Whisk together the almond icing…
…and drizzle over the cool cake.
If you like, toast some thinly-sliced almonds and sprinkle on top. The almonds add great crunch and a warm, nutty flavor!
How to Serve Sour Cream Coffee Cake
This cake is perfect on its own with a hot cup of coffee, tea or mulled cider. For a bright, fresh touch, garnish with fresh berries.
For a more elaborate brunch spread, try pairing the cake with any of these other morning dishes:
- Fruit salad or just a platter of fresh melon and berries
- A dollop of thick, creamy yogurt
- Fruit Smoothies
- Southern Shrimp and Grits
- Bacon or breakfast sausage
- Scrambled eggs
- Crustless Quiche with Spinach
- Ham and Cheese Baked Omelet
- Sausage Breakfast Casserole
- Quiche Lorraine
- Easy Frittata with Cheddar and Chives
- Wrapped tightly, the cake will last at room temperature for up to 2 days. It does not need to be refrigerated.
- Store the cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- If you’re enjoying cake a day (or more) later, reheat the leftovers to give the slices a nice, soft texture. Just loosely cover an individual slice and microwave for 10-15 seconds (or until warm).
How to Freeze Coffee Cake
Allow the cake to cool completely. Do not glaze. Wrap tightly with a layer of plastic wrap and then a layer of foil. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw on the counter overnight. Once the cake is completely thawed, drizzle with icing, garnish with almonds and serve!
- Instead of all-purpose flour, use an equal amount of cake flour for an even lighter crumb.
- Swap out the almonds and use chopped walnuts or pecans. You can omit the nuts on top, too.
- If you don’t have a Bundt pan, you can prepare this cake in a tube pan.
- Cranberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake Loaf: Bake this recipe in two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Instead of icing, dust the top of the coffee cake with powdered sugar.
- If you don’t care for the flavor of almond extract, you can omit that ingredient. Use vanilla extract in the icing in lieu of the almond extract.
Tips for the Best Sour Cream Coffee Cake Recipe
- Grease the Bundt pan really well by coating with butter and then dusting with flour. Alternatively, you can use a cooking spray that’s specifically made for baking (like this one). These options will ensure that your cake pops right out of the pan when it’s done!
- Make sure that the ingredients are all at room temperature before preparing the batter.
- Do not overmix the batter, or the cake will become dense and dry. Just combine all of the ingredients until they come together, then stop.
- The batter is supposed to be very thick, so don’t be alarmed. This will yield a rich, buttery cake for breakfast — what could be finer?!
- A light-colored or gold Bundt pan is always best to ensure even baking and color. Dark metal pans tend to cause the exterior of the cake to burn before the center is cooked through.
More Coffee Cake Recipes to Try
- Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Cinnamon Streusel
- French Farmhouse Breakfast Cake
- Aunt Mary’s Blueberry Coffee Cake
- Honey Bun Cake
Cranberry Swirl Sour Cream Coffee Cake
FOR THE CAKE:
- ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 ¼ cups (10 oz.) sour cream, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 (14 oz.) can whole berry cranberry sauce (about 1 ½ cups total)
FOR THE GLAZE:
- 1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- Optional garnish: ¼ cup thinly-sliced almonds, toasted
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a Bundt pan.
PREPARE THE CAKE BATTER:
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together softened butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy (about 4 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, beating until completely combined. Mix in sour cream, vanilla extract, and almond extract.
- In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. While the mixer is running on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix just until combined – do not overmix.
- Scoop the cranberry sauce out of the can and stir it in a small bowl, breaking up any large clumps.
- Spread ⅓ of the batter in the prepared pan. Add ½ of the cranberry sauce and swirl gently with a knife. Top with another ⅓ of the batter and then the rest of the cranberry sauce. Gently swirl again with a knife. Top with remaining batter.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes; invert cake onto wire rack, and let cool completely before glazing (about 2 hours).
PREPARE THE GLAZE:
- Combine confectioners’ sugar, milk and almond extract in a bowl. Whisk until smooth. If the glaze seems too thin, add more powdered sugar. If the glaze seems too thick, add a small amount of milk.
- Drizzle glaze over the top of the cool cake. Sprinkle with sliced almonds, if desired.
The cake is so delicious!! I did make some modifications. First, I made as 2 loaves so I could freeze one for later. (A whole cake is too much for our family of 3.) I also used our local grocery store (Publix) deli’s Orange Cranberry Relish instead of the canned cranberry sauce (almost as good as homemade.) We love nuts, so I added pecans on each of the cranberry layers. This was so good, I did not even add the glaze. I think it would have been too sweet. My only disappointment is that they sunk down the center after they completely cooled, which only effected it visually. Otherwise, this is a favorite that I will give out as gifts.
Thanks for your note, Laura! I’m so glad that it worked well for you. Your changes sound great!
Can I use fresh or frozen cranberries?
Hi, Gail! It wouldn’t have that cranberry swirl, but instead would be studded with berries. It would probably work fine, but you should definitely toss the cranberries with flour before adding them to the batter so that they don’t all sink to the bottom. You also might want to cut larger cranberries in half.