Cranberry-Spice Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Spice cake is one of my favorite things to bake with, from the beginning of fall all the way through Christmas. You can add in pumpkin for a fall cake, you can make an apple spice cake, and so many other variations. For the last few years I've used spice-cake mix to make a festive cranberry-spice layer cake for the holidays.
Now, I know this recipe may seem intimidating, but it starts with boxed cake mix and incorporates store-bought frosting, so don't feel too overwhelmed. I've sectioned off each part of it, so you can make it as homemade or semi-homemade as you want. And you could skip the garnish and even use chunky canned cranberry sauce in between the layers, though I encourage you to try the full recipe. It is well-worth the time and effort. If the cake decorating part of it seems like too much, you can just go with the "cake ingredients" below to make cupcakes, and top with any kind of frosting or glaze you like. That is the best part of baking, in my opinion - to make it your own.
You may be on the flip side, thinking why the heck is she using store-bought frosting? Well, half of my family is lactose-intolerant, so I love to use the Duncan Hines Cream Cheese Flavored frosting. It's milk-free and super yummy. But if you are lucky and can have all of these real cream cheese your heart desires, try this easy cream cheese frosting recipe.
- 2 boxes spice cake mix
- 6 large eggs
- 2/3 cup oil
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 tsp maple flavoring
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 14oz can cranberry sauce
- 2 cups fresh or dried cranberries
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 cups dried cranberries
- 1 cups apple cider
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- zest and juice of one orange
- simmer 20 minutes and cool
Maple Spice Cream Cheese Frosting for Filling
- 2 16oz containers of cream cheese flavored frosting
- Dash of nutmeg
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp maple flavoring
*Plus 2 extra 16 oz cream cheese frosting for outside of cake.
I used sugared cranberries and rosemary to create the garnish. *Note: They take overnight or at least a few hours, so don't leave them for the last minute. You can get that recipe here >. I encourage you to give this extra step a try, and you may want to double it. The sugared cranberries aren't just pretty, they're super yummy to snack on as well. The first time I made them, I wished I had made a lot more.
- Prepare the cranberry filling (combine and simmer over the stove for about 20 minutes then let cool).
- Blend cake ingredients, creaming the wet ingredients together, then combining dry ingredients in a separate bowl, and add the dry mix to the wet mixture until blended. (Some small lumps are okay.)
- Preheat oven to 350 and butter your baking pans and coat with flour to avoid sticking, or use a baker's nonstick spray. Use 8 or 9 inch round cake pans.
- Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes three layers.
- While the cake is baking, blend the frosting for the filling.
Assembling the Cake
- Make sure each layer has thoroughly cooled before taking them out of the pans.
- Use a large bread knife to slice the tops evenly if they aren't completely flat on top.
- Place one round on a serving plate or cake stand, then spread a layer of the maple spice cream cheese frosting evenly over the top, followed by a layer of the cranberry sauce filling. Repeat this with the other layers of cake.
- Use a rubber spatula or flat butter knife (and some of the additional cream cheese frosting) to fill in gaps between layers and smooth all the way around with a very thin layer of frosting all over the cake. Refrigerate for a few hours before applying the final coat of frosting. *This is called the crumb coat and will make a world of difference in how your layer cake turns out. I actually used the straight edge of my dough cutter and scraper to smooth out the edges, both on the crumb coat and the final coat. But you could also use an off-set icing spatula.
- After it has set in the fridge, use your offset spatula, or whichever kind you have, to spread the remaining cream cheese frosting over the cake, starting at the center on the top and working your way down the sides, then around the sides to get a smooth finish. This is where my dough cutter also came in very handy, but again, you can also use an offset spatula or even a flat-edged knife if that's all you have.
- To garnish with the sugared cranberries and rosemary, lay the rosemary around the bottom of the cake and place berries around the base, pressing a few into the frosting. Place remaining berries on the top. Enjoy and Happy Holidays! :)
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