After the dog eats, after we drink our first cups of coffee, after the boys plunder their stockings and we unwrap the presents, we sit down to this:


A cranberry coffee cake that has become our Christmas morning centerpiece.

The recipe hails from December 2008’s issue of Gourmet. Because it’s adaptable to both fresh or frozen cranberries, I could make it any time. But I pull it out just once a year.

It’s a perfect breakfast cake: Tightly crumbed and moist; slightly crunchy from its sugared topping. Best, though, it avoids the cloying quality of most coffee cakes. Those cranberries keep it tart and bright.

I make our cranberry coffee cake on Christmas Eve afternoon. Wrapped in plastic, it keeps beautifully until the next morning, when we dig in after our first-of-day festivities.

We’ll snack on it all the day. Then it’s back to the recipe drawer.

Until next year.

Cranberry Coffee Cake (adapted from Gourmet magazine)


  • 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
  • 2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
  • 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Butter a 9-inch cake pan, then lay a circle of parchment paper on the bottom. Butter the parchment.

Place 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and the cranberries in the bowl of a food processor. Using on-and-off turns, process until the cranberries are finely chopped. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the 2 cups of flour, the baking powder and the salt. Set aside.

Beat the stick of butter with 1 cup sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

Slowly add the flour mixture and the milk,  starting with the flour and alternating between the two.

Spoon half the batter into your prepared pan.

Place the cranberries atop the batter, leaving a 1-inch batter border. Carefully spoon on the remaining batter, smoothing it to cover the cranberries.

Combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1/8 teaspoon vanilla, 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon butter in a small bowl. Using your fingers, rub the mixture together until it resembles wet sand. Sprinkle it on top of the cake.

Bake the cake for 45 minutes. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then remove the cake, crumb side up. Serve immediately or save for the following day.