Cranberry Spice Cake

Cranberry Spice Cake

Let me tell you a story where I desperately searched for cranberries in France, somehow ended up finding them, and make a cranberry spice cake. I was rather committed to the idea of doing a cranberry lemon curd tart for a Thanksgiving pastry class in Dallas but had no way of trying it out. It’d been four years since I’d seen cranberries in France after all. So I called up a friend that happened to be going to CostCo (yes they have CostCo outside of Paris, it’s new, not sure how I feel about it), because my thinking was, if it was easily going to be found, it would be here! Pumpkin and Cranberries, that was my list. Both though were sadly a no-go. So what did I do but call up my mom in Texas and send through the recipe to her and my Recipe group testers on Facebook, as surely I wasn’t going to find them and I was dying to see how this would go.

Molly Wilkinson of MollyJWilk making a cake

Several days later I went to our local Monoprix to buy 3 kilos of butter as one does and happened to peek in the area where they keep berries thinking hmm maybe I’ll get some raspberries? And what did I find but 7 boxes of cranberries!? FRESH! GROWN IN FRANCE. I bought 3. As I was leaving the store, bags full to the brim, I’d carefully placed the cranberries on top, as I heaved the bag on to my shoulder (walking, as you do, looking very cool), I didn’t realize that with this action the cranberries started rolling behind me in Hansel and Gretel breadcrumb fashion. Did I stop – nope, keep walking Molly!!! Look straight ahead!! Might have had a massive grin on my face and done a happy dance earlier in the store. They already thought I was a bit crazy, so why make it worse. I got home tried the curd two times- nailed it, and then had some cranberries leftover. What to do? Well make a cranberry spice cake, bien sur!

Cranberry Apple Spice Cake

Below is a cake that I fashioned using a Smitten Kitchen recipe – I’m really loving her recipes right now. I Moll-ified it a bit adding a gorgeous rosemary apple compote I’ve been making in my class and yes, some cranberries aka… cranberry spice cake!

The filling, another recipe that’s been gracing the class rounds right now- spiced pastry cream. holy mother of goodness! It tastes like a pumpkin spice latte without the pumpkin. SO ridiculously good!!!!

See below for the recipe! And a huge thank you to Claire Emmaline for all the gorgeous photos!

Molly Wilkinson | MollyJWilk Pastry Making an Apple Spice Cake

Cranberry Spice Cake

Makes a gorgeously good 8" cake good for 10 or so slices.


Apple Rosemary Compote

  • 3 apples, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 branch fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup water

Spice Cake (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 12 tbsp (170g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cup (330g) dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1 1/2 cup (430g) rosemary apple compote
  • 1 cup (100g) fresh cranberries (chopped)
  • 1 cup (120g) buckwheat flour (or regular flour)
  • 2 cups (270g) AP flour

Spiced Pastry Cream

  • 1 cup (200ml) whole milk
  • 1.5 tbsp (20g) butter
  • 1 tbsp (10g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50ml) whole milk
  • 2 tbsp (15g) flour
  • 2 tbsp (15g) cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) heavy whipping cream

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 10 tbsp (140g) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 2 1/4 cup (380g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp (10ml) whole milk (maybe more)


Rosemary Apple Compote

  1. Place everything in a saucepan and cook on low-medium heat until the apples are soft (15-20 minutes). Add more water as necessary.

Make the Cake

  1. Coat three 8" round cake pans with baking spray. Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

  2. Cream the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment and then beat in the eggs and egg yolks. Add the spices, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and scrap down the bowl. Mix to combine.

  3. Beat in the apple compote (be sure to measure the right amount). The paddle will break up and mush the apple to incorporate it. Then add the fresh cranberries.

  4. Mix in the flour and then divide between the three cake pans.

  5. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool completely.

Spiced Pastry Cream

  1. In a saucepan, add the first 6 ingredients (up until the egg yolks).

  2. In a large bowl, add the remaining ingredients in order. Start with the egg yolks, then whisk in the sugar, then the milk, then the cornstarch and flour.

  3. Heat the milk mixture in the saucepan until it starts to simmer. Remove from the heat and slowly pour into the egg mixture while whisking. Return everything to the saucepan, and whisk until the mixture thickens and boils for about 30 seconds.

  4. Pour into a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap touching the surface and chill.

  5. After the pastry cream has cooled completely, whisk it vigorously – this will change the texture to where it is smoother.

  6. Whip the heavy cream and then whisk into the pastry cream.

Make the Buttercream

  1. In an electric mixer, beat the butter until it resembles mayonnaise.

  2. Slowly add the powdered sugar, beating at low speed.

  3. Add the milk, a cap full at a time until it is a spreadable texture.

Assemble the cake

  1. Place the first layer on a cake platter and encircle the top with the buttercream, then fill the inside of the circle with pastry cream. This will help contain the pastry cream and like a dam, prevent it from coming out the sides.

  2. Place another layer on top and repeat the above.

  3. Place the final layer on top (bottom side up!), then gently press down to make sure the top is nice and flat.

  4. Chill 20-30 minutes (or longer).

  5. Ice the outside of the cake with the remaining vanilla buttercream.

  6. Enjoy!

3 thoughts on “Cranberry Spice Cake”

  • This sounds terrific. By the way, girlfriend– if you ever need a recipe tester for cranberry ANYTHING, please call on your old neighbor. Here on Cape Cod, I buy cranberries in a 3# sack at the bog up the street, and I’m always looking for new ways to use them.

  • Perfect!!!!! Oh my goodness – I forgot to put in the story that they were actually grown in France – couldn’t believe it! I haven’t seen them since!

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