Cranberries are the star of the show in this Lemon Cranberry Coffee Cake. The easy-to-make cake is a great brunch option for any holiday entertaining – and it is indulgent enough that you could even serve it for dessert!
I love the combination of citrus and cranberries. Cranberry and orange is a common pairing, but lemon and lime can be just as delicious with the tart fruit. In this case, I used lemon zest to bring in a nice dose of lemon flavor, which sets off the brightness of the berries very well. Fresh lemon zest is going to give you the best lemon flavor, so try to use the fresh fruit instead of an extract. If you happen to have oranges on hand and want to use them, you can substitute orange zest for lemon zest easily in this recipe.
The coffee cake batter is dense and buttery, thick enough to prevent the berries from sinking to the bottom of the pan in the oven. It is just sweet enough to balance out the tart flavor of all the cranberries packed into it. There is a nice amount of streusel on top of the cake, adding some extra sweetness and crunch. While most streusels include some cinnamon or other spice, this one only includes a bit of vanilla extract. The vanilla streusel blends in a bit better with the cake, letting the cranberries – and not the streusel (even though it is delicious!) – be the focus of each bite.
This coffee cake is a favorite all winter long in my house, but I serve it even more often during the holidays because the cranberries make it so festive! This recipe is relatively small, so if you’re planning to serve a larger group (and you can expect that people will want seconds of this dish, I’m warning you now), you can double the recipe and fill a 9×13-inch sheet pan instead of an 8×8-inch square pan. You can also use an 8-inch cake pan for a slightly different look without having to change the baking time at all.
Lemon Cranberry Coffee Cake
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
5 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole cranberries
1 1/2 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
Make the streusel: In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Add in butter and vanilla extract, then stir until mixture resembles wet sand. Squeeze the mixture together to form larger clumps.
Make the cake: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add in eggs, lemon zest, butter and vanilla extract and stir until completely combined. Stir in whole and dried cranberries.
Transfer batter to prepared pan and spread it into an even layer using a spatula. Sprinkle streusel evenly over the top.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool before slicing.