Pear & Cranberry Cake with Orange Buttermilk Glaze

Welcome to December! Welcome to the madness of the Hellidays!

Now, I know I promised cookies. I know you know that this is not cookies. I know you know that I know that this is not cookies. This cake is better than cookies.

And cookies are still coming — very, very soon.

So, I’m going to tell you about this mean awesome hobby that I have. Actually, it’s more like a game than a hobby — it’s called the “Who Can I Trick Into Eating Something They Hate?” game. Totally awesome.

Especially because I tend to win!

The latest victim of this game was my buddy, Jordon.

Jordon says she hates pears, won’t touch a pear, pears are gross, terrible texture, blah blah crazy talk. Anyways, Jordon may hate pears, but Jordon loves pear and cranberry cake.

Maybe it’s the sweet, delicately spiced flavour… or maybe it’s the luscious and moist texture… it could be the tart punctuation of the fresh cranberries… or possibly the tangy orange buttermilk glaze that soaks the top of the cake.

It’s often the case with cakes that have fresh fruit in them that they taste even better the day after you bake them. This recipes makes a lot of cake, but you don’t need to worry about the cake drying out or going stale anytime soon. It’ll get eaten up far too fast for that anyways!

This cake turns out best if you bake it in a tube pan or a bundt pan, but if you don’t have either of those I’d recommend using two large loaf pans.

Pear & Cranberry Cake with Orange Buttermilk Glaze

*adapted from Southern Cakes


Pear & Cranberry Cake

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • 2 cups peeled and grated fresh pears (4 pears)
  • 1 heaping cup fresh cranberries

Orange Buttermilk Glaze

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest


For the cake

Preheat your oven to 350°F (or 175°C).

Grease and flour your cake pan really, really well — this cake can be a little stubborn when it comes time to turn out.

Sift together your flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside about 1/4 of a cup of flour mixture.

In a large bowl, whisk together your vegetable oil, eggs, white sugar, vanilla extract, and brandy. Blend together until completely smooth. Set aside.

Now is the time to grate your pears. You don’t want to grate them too soon before they go into the batter because pears, like apples, will quickly go brown when exposed to air. To get 2 cups of grated pears I used about 4 of the firmest Anjou pears I could find. Yep — 4 pears was more than enough, even with all the bits I ate in the name of “quality control”!

Once your pears are grated, whisk them into the wet ingredients.

Next, take the 1/4 cup of flour mix you set aside and toss the fresh cranberries in it. This will coat them so that their red juices won’t run everywhere and stain your cake a funny colour.

Now, gently mix your flour mixture into the wet ingredients. Stir until just incorporated. Fold in your fresh cranberries and extra flour.

Pour the cake batter into your prepared bundt pan and do your best to poke any cranberries sitting on top of the batter back down. This should help keep the cranberries from bursting in the oven and dribbling all over your cake.

Bake at 350°F for 65 ~ 75 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before turning the cake out of the pan to cool completely.

For the glaze

Once the cake is about half-way done baking, make the orange buttermilk glaze.

Whisk the cornstarch into the cold buttermilk — over medium-low heat, combine cornstarch + buttermilk, white sugar, butter, orange extract, and orange zest in a sauce pan.

Stirring frequently, bring to a gentle boil and then remove the pot from the stove top.

Allow to sit and cool, stirring occasionally to break up any “crust” that forms on the top. Drizzle over the top of the pear and cranberry cake.

This cake is perfect kick-off for the holidays!

Not only can it convert the most die-hard of pear-haters, but it looks gorgeous when it’s all dressed up with glaze and sugar. Yum!

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One thought on “Pear & Cranberry Cake with Orange Buttermilk Glaze

  1. Oh my god–this is the PERFECT Christmas cake. We already have pears and cranberries–the taste of winter. Cranberry is a classic winter fruit, and, well, pears make me think of the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. I’m going to make a gluten-free version of this for Christmas dinner!

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