Glazed in pink icing and crowned with sparkling cranberries, this Cinnamon Swirl Bundt Cake is super festive and ready to celebrate the holidays. Adding brown sugar and cinnamon to a portion of the batter creates the two-toned, marbled effect inside.
And the pink icing? It gets its color from the cranberries!
This bundt starts with a basic but always delicious buttermilk cake recipe. It is tender yet sturdy and extremely versatile. Creaming the butter with sugar adds lightness while the addition of oil keeps the cake extra moist.
The waves of cinnamon and brown sugar-spiked batter add extra flavor and spice. To create the perfect marble effect, the batter is divided into the two different flavors then layered and swirled into the pan before baking. A hint of cocoa powder adds a bit of flavor and emphasizes the color contrast even more.
How to Make a Marble Cake
The perfect marble cake has a clearly defined swirls when sliced and unfussy in preparation. A thicker batter like this one helps keep the flavors separate.
I find it most helpful to use mechanical ice cream or cookie scoops to add the batter to the pan. The recipe will result in about 2 parts buttermilk batter and 1 part cinnamon batter. Start by adding a layer of buttermilk batter to the bottom of the pan. Next, scoop on some of the cinnamon batter. Continue to layer the different batters.
Before baking, use the tip of a butter knife to gently swirl the batters together. Be sure the swirl the batter on to and the layers underneath by gently poking the knife down into the batter. Do not overmix or everything will blend together.
How to Make Frosting for Bundt Cakes
The key to frosting a bundt cake is all about consistency. You need to make sure that the glaze is thin enough that it flows beautifully over the intricate textures and shapes that the bundt pan leaves behind. However, it needs to be thick enough to cling to the cake and not pool at the bottom.
Tart cranberry juice is used to create the glaze without adding any sweetness to the confectioners’ sugar. The fact that it makes everything naturally pink is a bonus! A knob of butter gives the glaze just enough body to cling to the cake.
The great thing about bundt cake glaze is that you can adjust the ingredients until the perfect consistency is achieved (to an extent). Too thin? Whisk in a bit more confectioners’ sugar. Too gloppy and muddling the beautiful textures of the cake? Stir in a bit more cranberry juice, milk, or even water.
Not sure if the glaze is the correct consistency? Try a few test drips on one side before pouring it all over the cake. The glaze should be applied to a cooled cake.
Be sure to thoroughly grease and flour the inside of the bundt pan. You don’t need special baking spray, but if you have it, it does help get into all of the nooks and crannies. If using a spray, however, only lightly spray the inside or too much flour will stick and become goopy.
I recommend using extra soft, almost melted butter to grease the inside of the pan. Use a pastry brush to make sure even the tinniest crevasses are covered in butter.
Sprinkle the inside of the buttered bundt pan with flour. Be sure to shake it all around until ever bit of surface is covered before flipping the pan upside down and tapping out any excess flour into the sink.
Remove the cake from the pan before it cools. Set a timer when the cake comes out of the oven for 20 minutes. You do not want to forget! If the cake cools in the pan, it will be very difficult to get out of the pan without tearing.
To unmold the cake, place a cooling rack or cutting board on the top of the pan. Using oven mitts (the pan will likely still be hot), flip everything upside. Gently wiggle the pan until the cake releases
Cinnamon Swirl Bundt Cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup canola or grapeseed oil
4 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour (see Baker’s Notes) the inside of a 10 to 12-cup capacity bundt pan and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter until smooth. Add the granulated sugar and mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 4 minutes. Turn the mixer down to medium. Add the oil and mix until combined.
With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, allowing for each to fully incorporate before adding the next. Add the vanilla and mix to combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Add about half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Stream in the buttermilk and mix until combined. Add in the remaining flour and mix until just incorporated. Do not over-mix. It is okay if there are still a few streaks of flour remaining.
Remove about two cups of the batter and place it in a separate bowl. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa powder until combined.
Using a mechanical cookie or ice cream scoop, dollop about a third of the plain buttermilk batter into the bottom of the pan. Add a layer of cinnamon batter on top and repeat. Gently swirl the batters together with the tip of a butter knife.
Bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a wooden skewer or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool the cake for 20 minutes then unmold it from the pan. Do not let the cake completely cool in the pan (see Baker’s Notes).
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon very soft unsalted butter, diced
1 ½ to 2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
Place the cranberries in a saucepan along with the water. Heat over medium-high heat until the juices begin to simmer. Lower the heat and cook until the cranberries soften and release their juices easily, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Place a fine-mesh sieve on top of a bowl and strain the cranberries. Press on the berries using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon so that their juices fall into the bowl. Discard the skins and seeds. (Lay a kitchen towel down first, they may splatter just a bit!).
Place the butter and 1 ½ cups of confectioners’ sugar in a bowl. Add a few tablespoons of the warm cranberry juice to the bowl and whisk until smooth. Add more juice and/or sugar until the desired consistency is achieved. If you run out of cranberry juice, a splash of water or milk will thin out the glaze as well.
¾ cup simple syrup
1 cup fresh cranberries
sugar for rolling
Create a simple syrup by bringing 1 part sugar and 1 part water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the cranberries and remove from the heat.
Strain the cranberries with a slotted spoon and allow them to dry on a rimmed baking sheet for about an hour. Sprinkle the cranberries with sugar and roll them around until covered and sparkly.