It has been quite awhile since I whipped up a cupcake recipe and now all I want to do is write more cupcake recipes! They’re just so fun and so quick to throw together. These sugared cranberry cupcakes are no exception – perfect for taking to your next holiday party or baking on a whim. And they look so festive with those sugared cranberries on top that who could resist?
I love a good surprise swirl, so these sugared cranberry cupcakes have a vanilla cupcake base with a cranberry swirl baked right inside. The swirl is made from fresh sweetened cranberries boiled with orange juice, orange zest, and a little cornstarch for thickening. When those cranberries heat up, they burst out their juices and the whole thing thickens into a jam-like consistency. Once it’s room temperature, you’ll add the cranberry mixture into each filled cupcake tin and swirl it right into the vanilla cupcake batter with a toothpick. They bake up so beautifully and are the perfect holiday flavor!
For the frosting, I could not stop thinking about topping these cupcakes with white chocolate buttercream and it turned out to be a delicious idea! I love this frosting because it has the perfect white chocolate flavor without being too sweet and it pipes like a dream. It’s silky smooth and just dreamy with those cranberry swirled cupcakes.
The white chocolate buttercream is super easy to make, but there is one thing that can end up going wrong if you’re not careful: the temperature of the melted white chocolate. I always melt my white chocolate chips in the microwave in 30 second intervals (it takes 3 to 4), stirring after each one. Once melted, you have to wait to add the white chocolate until it’s slightly above room temperature. Too hot and it will start melting the butter, too cold and it will harden, leaving you with little bits of white chocolate throughout your buttercream instead of it being silky smooth. As long as you melt the white chocolate right when you start whipping up the butter, it should be the perfect temperature when it comes time to add it in. Just check it first and re-melt it if you need to.
Even though the sugared cranberries seem quick to throw together for topping cupcakes at the last minute, they’re actually the first thing you want to make. You’ll need to boil a simple syrup together, wait for it to come to room temperature, then coat the fresh cranberries in it. Then, you’ll need to wait for those cranberries to dry a little bit (45 minutes) before coating them with granulated sugar. Since there’s a little bit of waiting in the process, I always like to make them the day before I do the rest of the baking so they’re ready to go.
For decorating, I used Wilton Tip 6B to pipe a swirl of white chocolate frosting on top of the cupcakes, then added three sugared cranberries onto each one. Feel free to get creative with your decorating – the sugared cranberries could look really cute accented with some edible leaves to look like holly! No matter how you decorate, these are sure to be a hit for the holidays and I hope you love them as much as I do.
Sugared Cranberry Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream
- 3/4 Cup (150g) granulated sugar, divided
- 1/4 Cup water
- 1/2 Cup (48g) fresh cranberries
- 1 Cup (95g) fresh or frozen cranberries
- 2 tsp orange zest
- 2 tsp fresh orange juice
- 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp water
- pinch of salt
- 1 1/4 Cups (132g) sifted cake flour* DIY recipe in notes
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 Cup (113g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 Cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg + 1 large egg white, room temperature
- 1/4 Cup (60g) sour cream, room temperature
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 Cup (120ml) whole milk, room temperature
White Chocolate Buttercream
- 6 Oz (170g, 1 scant cup) white chocolate chips
- 1 Cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 Cups (180g) powdered sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
Make the Sugared Cranberries (Ahead)
- In a small saucepan, create a simple syrup by mixing together the water and 1/4 Cup of the granulated sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then allow it to simmer for 2 minutes on low. Remove the syrup from the heat and cool to room temperature.
- Place a piece of parchment paper onto a cookie sheet, then place a cooling rack on top. Stir the cranberries into the saucepan to coat them in the syrup, then use a slotted spoon to remove them from the saucepan and place them onto the cooling rack to dry for 45 minutes.
- Roll the cranberries through the remaining sugar to coat them. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Make the Cranberry Swirl
- Add the cranberries, orange zest, orange juice, sugar, cornstarch, water, and salt into a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to boil and the cranberries begin to burst, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and place into an airtight container in the refrigerator to let cool for about 30 minutes, or until room temperature. It will thicken into a jam-like consistency as it cools.
Make the Vanilla Cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare a cupcake or muffin tin with cupcake liners. Add the sifted cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer (a handheld mixer works fine too!), beat the butter on high for 2 minutes until it's light and creamy. Add in the sugar and continue to mix on medium-high for another 2 minutes. Turn the mixer to low and add the egg and egg white, mixing until just combined and scraping down the bowl and paddle as needed. Add the vanilla and sour cream, turn the mixer to high, and beat for 1 full minute. It will look curdled at this point, but don’t worry – it will become smooth cake batter at the end.
- Add in the dry ingredients all at once and turn the mixer to low speed. Mix until just combined, then slowly pour in the milk. Continue to mix on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and give it a few stirs with a whisk to make sure there are no lumps. The batter will be slightly thick.
- Pour the batter evenly into the prepared cupcake liners. Add a spoonful of cranberry swirl onto the top of each cupcake and use a toothpick to gently swirl it around. Bake for 15-18 minutes. They're done when they spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Make sure they're entirely room temperature before applying any frosting.
Make the White Chocolate Buttercream
- Melt the white chocolate chips in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each one until there are no lumps. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high until light and creamy, about 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, add the powdered sugar, and mix until well combined. Scrape down the bowl and paddle, give the melted white chocolate a few stirs (make sure it’s not hot enough to melt the butter OR is too cool and starting to harden. It should be just slightly above room temperature) and add it in. Turn the mixer to medium speed and beat for 2 minutes, until the mixture is smooth. Add the vanilla and salt and mix on low for another minute, until fully combined.
- Once the cupcakes are cooled to room temperature, fit a piping bag with Wilton Tip 6B and fill it with the white chocolate buttercream. Top each cupcake with a swirl, then garnish with sugared cranberries.
- The sugared cranberries can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container. After that they may start to weep.
- The cranberry swirl can be made up to one week ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- The cupcakes can be baked ahead and stored covered with plastic wrap at room temperature up to 2 days ahead of decorating. You can alternatively store the cupcakes in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- The white chocolate frosting can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for one day. Alternatively, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to use it, bring it back to room temperature and re-whip with your stand mixer to bring it back to piping/frosting consistency.
I hope these sugared cranberry cupcakes are a total hit for the holidays! Let me know what you think in the comments below and feel free to tag @sugarandsparrowco on Instagram if you post a pic! I love to see what you create.
Yesssss! I was looking for a good Christmasy flavor to use for wreath cupcakes, and this is perfect! Can’t wait to make these
Yay! I hope you love them!
These sound amazing – would it be possible to use the cranberry swirl as a swirl in a cake or as a filling layer?
Hi Amy! Yes – you can absolutely use this swirl in a cake or as a filling layer. It’s basically a thick cranberry sauce! If you want to make this as a cake recipe I recommend doubling the cranberry swirl and using this as the cake portion of the recipe (it’s the same, but written for a layer cake): https://sugarandsparrow.com/vanilla-cake-recipe/. Hope that helps!
Hi. Can’t find white chocolate chip where I live. Can I go with a white chocolate candy bar or use cream cheese frosting?
Hi Ginger! You can chop up a white chocolate candy bar to make the white chocolate frosting or go with cream cheese frosting as an alternative!