Fluffy and soft vanilla cupcakes studded with tart cranberries, topped with a decadent white chocolate buttercream frosting, and simple homemade sugared cranberries! Holiday baking has never been more delicious!
This is one of my Cupcake recipes I know you’ll want to keep on hand!
As impressive as massive layer cakes are, I definitely prefer cupcakes. They’re so cute, easy to decorate, easily feed a crowd, and are actually easily freeze-able!
This recipe marries a few great holiday flavors… warm vanilla, sweet white chocolate, and tart cranberry.
Plus the topping of sugared cranberries takes these cupcakes from good to great!
Sugared cranberries are actually a lot easier to make than you may think, and they have that show-stopping winter-y look.
I know you’ll love these cranberry cupcakes as much as we do… so let’s learn how to make them!
How to make cranberry cupcakes with white chocolate buttercream?
This is just an overview; the full ingredients and directions are in the recipe card toward the bottom of this post.
- Whisk dry ingredients. This removes any potential lumps from the flour, as well as combining everything.
- Add wet ingredients. No need for a separate bowl for this, add them right to the dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
- Add chocolate and berries. This is best done with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, rather than a mixer.
- Fill and bake. Using a cookie scoop to transfer the batter is easy, but you can also use a spoon.
- Cool. Make sure the cupcakes are cooled before you try to frost them.
- Beat butter. Make sure the butter is at room temperature, or it won’t get nice and creamy.
- Melt chocolate and add. You can melt the white chocolate how ever you’d like, then add to the butter and mix.
- Add sugar. Make sure to whisk the powdered sugar before beating it into the butter/chocolate, otherwise you may end up with lumps in your frosting.
- Pipe. You can use a decorating tip and piping bag (for a look like shown here), or add the frosting to a large zip-top bag and snip the corner off.
- Dissolve sugar. Just combine in a saucepan and simmer for a few minutes, until the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Let cool. This doesn’t have to be completely cool, just let it sit off the heat for 5-10 minutes.
- Add cranberries. No need to heat them, just add to the syrup and let sit.
- Drain and roll. Drain the syrup, then roll in some granulated sugar.
For the perfect cupcakes, have all the cold ingredients at room temperature before you start mixing. Room temp ingredients will always mix together better and more fully, than cold ones will.
Variations of this recipe
- Fresh berries – if you’re making this recipe during a time of year that you can source fresh cranberries, please feel free to use them.
- Orange – orange and cranberry go together SO well, so for a fun extra flavor, try adding the zest of 1 orange to the batter, frosting, or some to both!
- Buttermilk substitute – if you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can make your own! Mix 1 Tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar with whole milk and let it sit about 10 minutes. It will look a bit curdled, but that’s what it’s supposed to look like. Stir and use.
- No buttermilk – you could also just use whole milk, but I do highly recommend the buttermilk or buttermilk substitute, because of the way it works with the other ingredients (chemically speaking).
- Other frosting – if you’re not a white chocolate fan, you can use a regular vanilla buttercream instead.
Yes, for up to 3 months. See the section below titled “Freezing” for all the directions.
To have enough batter to make cakes, you’ll need to double the recipe. You can bake the batter in traditional round cake pans – bake times will vary depending on size, but in general, two 8” rounds will bake for about 25-30 minutes or a sheet cake (9×13) will bake for about 30-35 minutes.
Making cupcakes ahead of time
Cupcakes are great to make ahead of time, because when stored properly, they can last a couple of days before frosting.
I don’t usually like to make mine more than a day ahead of time, just because I want the ultimate fluffy and moist texture.
Leftover, frosted cupcakes can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days, in an airtight container.
Unfrosted cupcakes can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days, in an airtight container.
Unfrosted cupcakes can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
To freeze unfrosted cupcakes, add cupcakes to a baking sheet and place the whole thing in the freezer for about 2 hours, or until hard.
Wrap frozen cupcakes individually in plastic wrap, then transfer to an airtight freezer-safe container, label it with the date, then freeze.
Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before frosting.
Tips for perfect cupcakes!
- Room temperature ingredients. As I mentioned earlier in the post, the ingredients will all mix together better if they’re room temperature.
- Be careful with how much you’re mixing. Over mixing can leave you with a tough, overly dense cupcake. Just mix the dry ingredients into the batter until no flour streaks remain as you stir.
- Pay attention to how much you’re filling the cupcake liners. Follow what the recipe suggests for how full to make them. Fill them too much and they can overflow, too little and they won’t even reach the tops of the liners.
- For optimal results, bake one pan at a time. I know it’s a hassle, and most of the time, I’m guilty of cramming two pans in there side by side (but then rotating and switching sides halfway through baking). But when you’re starting out, or want perfect cupcakes, bake one pan, and put the pan right in the middle of the center rack.
- Let them cool. Don’t try to frost a cupcake that’s still warm, it’ll end up a big ol’ mess. Let the cupcakes cool, then pile up that frosting as high as you’d like!
- Follow the recipe. This may seem like a no-brainer, but there’s a reason the recipe is written the way it is; because it works that way. With cooking you may be able to swap out ingredients, guess on the measurements, etc, but with baking you really don’t want to do that. Only use any substitutions specifically mentioned, and follow everything to the letter.
Cookie scoops are perfect for scooping the perfect amount of batter every time. This size is perfect for muffins/cupcakes!
Did you make this? Be sure to leave a review below and tag me @the_chunky_chef on Facebook and Instagram!
- 2 cups water
- 3 cups granulated sugar divided
- 2 cups frozen or fresh whole cranberries
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries chopped
- 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
White chocolate buttercream
- 12 oz white chocolate chips
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
Make the sugared cranberries
- To a saucepan, add water and 2 cups of the sugar. Heat over MED LOW and let simmer for about 3 minutes, or until all the sugar is dissolved, making a simple syrup.
- Let the syrup mixture cool for 5-10 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar to a bowl or rimmed plate.
- Add cranberries to the semi-cooled syrup, and let sit for at least 2 hours, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.
- Drain the cranberries, then roll them in the sugar in the bowl (or plate). Set berries aside to dry for at least an hour.
Make the cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line a standard muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.
- To a large mixing bowl, add the flour, baking powder, salt, and granulated sugar. Whisk together to combine.
- Add the softened eggs, butter, vanilla, and buttermilk. Beat together with a hand mixer until just combined and smooth, with no flour streaks remaining.
- Stir in the chopped cranberries and white chocolate chips.
- Transfer batter to prepared cupcake liners, filling them about 2/3 of the way full.
- Bake in preheated oven for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs.
- Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 5-7 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to continue cooling completely.
Make the buttercream frosting
- Melt the white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl on 50% power, in 20-30 second intervals, stirring in between each interval, until just melted and smooth.
- In a mixing bowl, add butter and beat with a hand mixer until creamy. Pour in the melted white chocolate, mixing until smooth.
- Add the powdered sugar, beating until frosting is smooth and fluffy.
Assemble the cupcakes and serve
- Transfer frosting to a piping bag fitted with your desired tip (the one I use is a closed star tip), and pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes. ** Alternately you can transfer the frosting to a releasable plastic bag, and snip the corner off. This won't give you the texture shown in the photos, but is easy and you don't need special tools. **
- Top the frosting with a few sugared cranberries and a sprig of fresh rosemary (purely for garnish and decoration – and optional).
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- This recipe makes 12 cupcakes, which you can divide into as many (or as little) servings as you’d like.
The Chunky Chef is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.