When the holiday season arrives I am all about baking beautiful desserts to serve at home or take to parties. These cranberry cupcakes are always one the prettiest desserts on my holiday spread.
They look delicate and simple with their white cake and buttercream icing but the sparkly cranberry on top makes them special. Plus, when you bite into them there’s the surprise of more cranberry flavor as well as white chocolatey goodness.
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While this is the base recipe, you can add plenty of your own variations. One of my favorites is to add orange flavor to the batter or the icing because it complements cranberry so well.
If you’re looking to add a little sparkle in dessert form to your holiday table, try this simple recipe. It is sure to wow your guests!
Common Questions about Cranberry Cupcakes
What is the difference between buttercream and frosting?
Buttercream uses butter (of course) whereas frosting contains cream cheese or shortening instead.
What is the best way to transport cupcakes?
You can mold foil into your cupcake tin and then place the finished cupcakes in the holes. Or, you can line a box with a silpat mat or non-skid shelving liner to keep them from moving around while carrying them or driving.
Can boxed cake mix be used instead?
You can certainly use boxed cake mix but this recipe is so easy it’s not necessary. If you do, though, try doctoring it up with your own twists (like using milk instead of water or adding a dollop of sour cream) so it tastes homemade.
Don’t miss these other great cranberry recipes
- Sparkling Cranberries
- Cranberry Orange Mimosa
- Cranberry Salad Recipe
- Easy Cranberry Sauce Recipe
- Cranberry BBQ Meatballs
- Cranberry Quick Bread
- Crockpot Cranberry Cider
- Apple Cranberry Spritzer
- Cranberry Cake
Making Cranberry Cupcakes Ahead of Time
Storing prepared cupcakes unfrosted is the best way to make them ahead of time so that you can frost just before serving.
Cranberry cupcakes can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days or in multiple other ways, either frosted or unfrosted.
Refrigerator: Store frosted or unfrosted cupcakes in the refrigerator for 4-6 days in an airtight container.
Freezing: Store unfrosted cupcakes in the freezer for up to 3 months. Wrap them tightly in plastic wrap.
Tips For The Best Cupcakes With Cranberries
- Mixing – Be sure not to overmix the batter which will result in denser cupcakes.
- Temperature – Ensure that all ingredients for the batter are at room temperature to make sure that they mix easily and result in the right texture.
- Icing – Using a piping bag (or ziploc bag) makes it easier to apply the icing for a prettier presentation.
- Granulated sugar
- Whole cranberries frozen
- All-purpose flour
- Granulated sugar
- Baking powder
- Unsalted butter
- Vanilla extract
- Fresh cranberries (chopped)
- White chocolate chips
White Chocolate Buttercream
- White chocolate chips
- Unsalted butter (room temperature)
- Confectioner’s sugar
Kitchen Supplies You’ll Need
- Microwave-safe bowl
- Large bowl
- Medium bowl
- Small bowl
- Wooden spoon
- Hand mixer or stand mixer with a paddle attachment
- Piping bag (pastry bag) or ziploc bag with the tip snipped off
- Food processor (optional)
How to Make Cranberry Cupcakes
- Pour water and sugar into a saucepan.
- Simmer the sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved.
- Allow the mixture to cool slightly.
- Next, add the frozen cranberries.
- Let the cranberries sit in the mixture before storing in a container and refrigerating overnight.
- The next day, drain the berries, and allow them to dry.
- Combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt) in a large mixing bowl. Whisk the mixture until all ingredients are entirely incorporated.
- To the flour mixture, add softened butter, buttermilk, butter, eggs, and vanilla extract. Using a hand mixer, stand mixer, food processor, or wooden spoon, mix all ingredients until smooth.
- Gently fold in the chopped cranberries and white chocolate chips. Be sure not to overmix.
- Spoon the cupcake batter into the muffin tin prepared with paper liners.
- Bake until the cupcakes pass the toothpick test (insert a toothpick in the center and ensure that it comes out clean).
- After removing the muffin pans from the oven, allow the cupcakes to briefly cool in the pan. Then, transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
White Chocolate Buttercream
- Pour the white chocolate chips into a small bowl (make sure that it is microwave-safe).
- In 15 second intervals, microwave the white chocolate chips until they are fully melted. Stir after each interval to ensure that the chips melt uniformly.
- In a separate bowl, cream butter until it is smooth and creamy.
- While continuing to mix on high speed, slowly pour the melted chocolate in until it is fully combined with butter.
- Adjust the mixer to medium speed and slowly add the powdered sugar. Mix until it is completely combined and the mixture is fluffy — be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl while mixing.
- Spoon the buttercream into a piping bag (or ziploc bag with the tip snipped off).
- Frost the cooled cupcakes by moving the bag in an upward swirling motion.
- Garnish the cupcakes with the sugared cranberries. You can also add a sprig of rosemary for a festive look if desired.
What to Serve with Cranberry Cupcakes
These pretty cupcakes are already a delicious dessert but if you’re looking for something to serve with them, here are a few ideas.
- Coffee – These festive cupcakes pair perfectly with regular coffee or with a boozy Christmas coffee.
- Hot chocolate – Cupcakes always pair well with a steaming cup of hot chocolate.
- Cocktails – A cosmopolitan or espresso martini is a great accompaniment to this sweet treat.
- Ice cream – Serve these in big bowls with pistachio or mint ice cream for a festive presentation.
- Apple Cider – Warm up some apple cider (or serve it cold) for double the festivity.
Why You Should Make This Recipe
- Delicious – The tart cranberries mixed with the sweetness of the cake and buttercream make this a delicious dessert.
- Portable – You can easily transport these to any party or bake sale.
- Pretty – The sparkly cranberry atop the piped icing make these a beautiful addition to any holiday spread.
- Festive – With the cake dotted with bright red cranberries and the icing topped with the sparkling cranberries, these are a hit at any holiday party.
Variations and Add-ins
- Craisins – Add dried craisins to the batter to bring on more cranberry flavor.
- Orange – Add orange juice or orange zest (use a large orange) to the icing to make an orange buttercream to complement the cranberry.
- Icing – Instead of buttercream, try cream cheese frosting instead.
- Mini cupcakes – Use a small muffin tin to make tiny cupcakes instead of full-size.
- Cranberry sauce – Try garnishing the top with a small dollop of homemade cranberry sauce on the icing before adding a sugared cranberry.
- Extract – Orange complements cranberries so well — adding a dash of orange extract to the batter for some citrusy flavor.
More Holiday Cupcakes to Try
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If you love this cranberry cupcake recipe, you’re going to love these other holiday treats too. Please click each link below to find the easy, printable recipe!
Other Seasonal Dessert Dishes
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups whole cranberries frozen
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup buttermilk
- ½ cup butter unsalted – softened
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups cranberries fresh – chopped
- ½ cup white chocolate chips
White Chocolate Buttercream
- 12 oz white chocolate chips
- 1 cup butter unsalted – room temperature
- 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
- In a small pot add the water and 2 cups of sugar. Let simmer for 3 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved.
- Allow the mixture to cool for 5-10 minutes, then add the frozen cranberries.
- Submerge the cranberries in the syrup, and let sit for at least 2 hours or store in a container and refrigerate overnight.
- Drain the berries from the syrup, and roll them in additional granulated sugar. Then set them aside to dry for an hour for best results.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and line a 12-count cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
- In a large mixing bowl add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together.
- Add the softened buttermilk, butter, eggs, and vanilla extract. Mix together until completely combined and smooth.
- Fold in the chopped cranberries and white chocolate chips.
- Fill each cupcake liner ⅔ of the way full. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until an inserted toothpick can come out clean.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before transferring the cupcakes to a cooling rack.
White chocolate buttercream
- Melt the white chocolate chips in a small bowl in the microwave and set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, beat the butter until smooth.
- Slowly pour the melted chocolate in until combined with butter.
- With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add the confectioner’s sugar until completely combined. The buttercream should be smooth and fluffy.
- Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag, and frost the cupcakes.
- Top with the sugared cranberries, and a sprig of rosemary for a festive look if desired.
Nutritional information for the recipe is provided as a courtesy and is approximate. Please double-check with your own dietary calculator for the best accuracy. We at Taste of the Frontier cannot guarantee the accuracy of the nutritional information given for any recipe on this site. Erythritol carbs are not included in carb counts as it has been shown not to impact blood sugar. Net carbs are the total carbs minus fiber.