Go Back
+ servings
Cranberry cake with pink buttercream decorated with sugared cranberries and rosemary.

High Altitude Cranberry Christmas Cake with Sugared Cranberries

Heather Smoke
A beautiful cranberry Christmas cake, with layers of soft and moist vanilla cake filled with homemade cranberry jelly, cranberry buttercream, and sugared cranberries and rosemary.

All recipes on Curly Girl Kitchen are developed for high altitude at 5,280 feet.

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 35 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Inactive Time 2 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 15 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American


  • Stand Mixer with Whisk Attachment
  • Medium-Sized Saucepan
  • Baking Sheet + Parchment Paper
  • 6-inch Round Cake Pans (x3)


Sugared Cranberries and Rosemary

  • cup water
  • cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary sprigs

Cranberry Jelly Filling

Vanilla Cake

  • 1 ½ cups + 2 tbsp cake flour, spooned and leveled
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white (save the extra yolk for another use)
  • ¾ cup whole buttermilk, room temperature
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp meringue powder, optional
  • tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp cranberry jelly (Don't add the jelly unless you want the buttercream to be pink. For a white/ivory buttercream, simply leave out the jelly and add a small amount of milk if needed for desired consistency.)


Sugared Cranberries and Rosemary

  • TIP: Make these one day in advance.
  • In a saucepan, combine the water with half the sugar. Bring to a boil, then simmer on medium heat for 3 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat. Stir in the cranberries, and stir for about a minute to thoroughly coat the cranberries in the simple syrup. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cranberries, and spread them out in a single layer on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
    Dip the sprigs of fresh rosemary in the simple syrup, then place those on the baking sheet.
    Let the cranberries and rosemary dry for 1 hour.
  • Pour the remaining half of the sugar into a bowl. Working in small batches, toss the cranberries and the rosemary in the granulated sugar, until evenly coated with sugar. Place them back on the baking sheet.
    Let the sugared cranberries and rosemary dry for 1 hour.
  • Once dry, store the sugared cranberries and rosemary in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, or refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
  • Before decorating your cake, you can freshen up the cranberries and rosemary by tossing them in the sugar again.

Cranberry Jelly

Vanilla Cake

  • TIP: You can make the cake layers one day in advance, let them cool until warm, and wrap individually in plastic wrap, if you're going to assemble and frost your cake the following day. The wrapped cakes can also be frozen for up to 3-6 months.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F and spray the bottoms of three 6-inch cake pans with non-stick spray.
  • In a bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the egg, egg white, buttermilk, melted butter, oil and vanilla extract, and whisk for about 10-15 seconds until smooth and well combined.
  • Divide the batter between the cake pans.  Tap a few times against the counter to pop any large air bubbles. Bake the cakes for about 17-18 minutes, or until a cake tester or a toothpick comes out clean, and the tops spring back when lightly touched.
  • Set the pans on a wire rack, cover them loosely with a clean kitchen towel, and cool completely before frosting.  When ready to frost and assemble the cake, remove the cakes from the pans.


  • In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for 1 minute until smooth.
  • With the mixer running on low, add the powdered sugar by spoonfuls, the meringue powder and the salt, mixing until thick and combined.
  • Add the vanilla and the cranberry jelly. Increase speed to medium and whip for 4-5 minutes, scraping the bowl down several times, until light and fluffy. Turn the speed down to "stir" and mix for 2 minutes to get rid of air bubbles.


  • Place one of the cake layers on a cake board or cake pedestal. Snip the end off a piping bag (or just a quart-sized zip bag), and fill with about a cup of the buttercream. Pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge of the cake; this will be the "dam" to keep the jelly from spilling out when you frost your cake.
  • Spread 1/4 - 1/3 cup of the jelly inside the ring of buttercream.
  • Repeat stacking and filling the remaining cake layers, ending with the 3rd cake layer on top.
  • Frost the cake all over with a thin "crumb coat" of buttercream. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set the crumb coat.
  • Frost the cake with a final layer of buttercream. Decorate with the sugared cranberries and rosemary.
Keyword Cake, Christmas, Cranberry
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!