Cranberry Frosting

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Tart and not-too-sweet cranberry buttercream frosting is a beautiful way to decorate cakes, cupcakes, and anything in between!  Fresh cranberry sauce and a mix of cream cheese and butter make the creamiest and prettiest frosting.  Perfect on a classic batch of vanilla cupcakes or a festive decoration on frosted butter cookies!

Pretty vanilla cupcakes frosted with holiday berry frosting.

Fresh Cranberry Frosting Recipe

Given the time of year, chances are you may be full-on holiday baking right now.  Or at least planning!  And if you’re like me, you have about 3 different kinds of sugar cookies you want to bake; different shapes to make your gingerbread cookies; and all the different holiday flavors you can add to a classic chocolate or vanilla cake!

The good news with the last two on that list – this frosting would be divine on either and certainly bring on the holiday vibes!  I mean, not only does it feature a classic holiday fruit, but the color is so vibrant and beautiful!

Why You’ll Love This Frosting

  • Fresh Cranberries – Just like my cranberry pecan crumble bars, holiday cranberry granita, and no-bake cranberry mousse cheesecake, I use fresh cranberries so I can control the flavor.
  • Extra Creamy – This frosting is made with butter and cream cheese.  Using both makes the frosting super creamy.  
  • Less Sweet Buttercream Frosting – The cream cheese helps to make the frosting thick, so we don’t have to rely on excessive amounts of powdered sugar as a thickener.  Which means, this cranberry buttercream is less sweet than traditional buttercream!
  • Easy – Even though we make our own cranberry sauce, it really is as simple as reducing them on the stovetop to make a jam.  From there, the frosting whips up in a matter of minutes.
  • Versatile – I mention how great this would be atop cakes and cupcakes.  But how about inside a chocolate sandwich cookie or as a filling in pumpkin whoopie pies!
Bowl of cranberry buttercream set on a table.

Everything You Need To Make Cranberry Frosting


  • Fresh Cranberries – Frozen will work too.  You can use canned (or homemade leftover) cranberry sauce- just keep in mind the flavor that will impart. 
  • Water – The water helps to reduce the cranberries without scorching them.
  • Cream Cheese – I recommend a brick of full fat cream cheese.  Low fat and carton cream cheese may result in a runny frosting.
  • Unsalted Butter – Always, so we can control the salt!
  • Powdered Sugar – Powdered sugar in frosting serves two purposes:  to make it sweet, and to make it thick and stable.  Thanks to the cornstarch in the powdered sugar.
  • Vanilla extract – For a subtle layer of flavor.
  • Salt – A wonderful flavor enhancer!

Kitchen Equipment

  • Small Saucepan 
  • Hand Held Mixer 
  • Strainer 
  • Mixing Bowl

Can I Add Additional Flavor And Spices To The Cranberry Frosting?

You certainly can!  Another reason to love this frosting – because it is pretty versatile. 

You can spice it up by adding cinnamon, cloves, or pumpkin pie spice.  Or give it stronger vanilla undertones with vanilla bean paste.  Vanilla and cranberry is a beautiful combo and why I use both in the cranberry granita pudding parfaits!

Just keep in mind the flavors and spices you add and how they will go with the cake, cupcake, or cookie you pair it with.

How To Make Frosting With Cranberries

  1. Reduce the cranberries to a sauce -Add the cranberries and a little water to a small saucepan.  Cook until the cranberries burst and the mix turns into a jammy sauce. 
  2. Strain the cranberries – This is only required if you don’t want chunks of cranberry in your frosting.
  3. Beat the vanilla, salt, butter, and cream cheese until smooth – Make sure the butter and cream cheese are at room temperature so they mix easier!  Use a hand held mixer and and beat until the mix is creamy and smooth.
  4. Add the powdered sugar in increments – To avoid a powdered sugar mess!  Sift the powdered sugar into the butter mix – in increments – and beat after each addition until the frosting is light, thick, and creamy.
  5. Add the cranberry sauce with the last addition of powdered sugar – Mix until well incorporated, then taste the frosting.  For more cranberry flavor, add a little more cranberry sauce.
Holiday vanilla cupcake with a bite, set on a small cupcake stand.

FAQ’s: Cranberry Frosting

Can I double the recipe to make a larger batch?


Can I use low-fat or spreadable carton cream cheese?

I don’t recommend it. Otherwise, you may end up with a runny frosting.

Do I have to strain the cranberries?

You do not if you prefer a frosting with chunky bits of cranberry!

How many cakes/cupcakes can I frost with this recipe?

4 to 6 cupcakes – depending on how much frosting you like on your cupcakes. Or 1 6-inch layer or single layer cake.

Does the frosting need to be refrigerated?

The frosting will be fine if left at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours. Beyond that, I recommend refrigerating it because of the cream cheese.

Can I pipe intricate flowers or designs with this frosting?

Probably not pretty buttercream flowers, but you can probably do pretty swirls or swags.

Can I freeze the frosting?

You can – for up to 1 month and thaw in the refrigerator. Though, I’m not a fan of freezing frosting because I think it changes the consistency.

Single vanilla cupcake decorated with cranberry frosting and sugared cranberries on a small cupcake stand..
Pretty vanilla cupcakes frosted with holiday berry frosting.
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5 from 2 reviews

Cranberry Frosting

Yield: 2 Cups
Tart and sweet small batch cranberry buttercream frosting is a beautiful way to decorate cakes, cupcakes, and anything in between!  Fresh cranberry sauce and a mix of cream cheese and butter to make the creamiest frosting.  Perfect on a classic batch of vanilla cupcakes or a festive decoration on frosted butter cookies!
Prep20 minutes
Total20 minutes


Cranberry Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • cup powdered sugar


Cranberry Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • In a small saucepan, add the cranberries and water. Cook the cranberries over medium-low heat until they start to burst and the mixture starts to resemble jammy sauce. This may take about 5 to 7 minutes.
    1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, 1 tablespoon water
  • Strain the cranberries through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl. Be sure to scrape the underside of the strainer to get all of the sauce – you should get about 1 to 2 tablespoons. Note – If you prefer a chunky frosting, you can skip straining the cranberry sauce and add about 1 to 2 tablespoons to the frosting. Set aside to cool.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract, and salt. Using a hand held mixer on medium speed, beat the mix until it is light and creamy.
    2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature, 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, pinch salt
  • In increments (to avoid spraying powdered sugar everywhere), sift the powdered sugar over the butter mix, beating after each addition. Tip – Sifting the powdered sugar will avoid lumps and grainy frosting.
    1¼ cup powdered sugar
  • With the last addition of powdered sugar, add 1 tablespoon of cranberry sauce, and continue beating until incorporated. Taste the frosting and if you prefer a stronger cranberry flavor, add more sauce. Additionally, if you prefer a thicker frosting, add more powdered sugar in 1 tablespoon increments.
  • Frost the cooled cupcakes, garnish with any decoration you like, and Enjoy!
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  • Serving Size – This recipe will yield enough frosting for 4 to 6 cupcakes (depending on how much frosting you like on your cupcakes) or 1 6-inch cake (single or double layer).
  • Double The Recipe – This is an easy recipe to double if you need a larger batch.
  • Cream Cheese – Use full fat cream cheese for the best results.  Low fat and spreadable carton cream cheese may result in a runny frosting.
  • Cranberries – I prefer to use fresh cranberries for fresh, pure cranberry flavor.  However, you can use leftover cranberry sauce from the holidays or even canned cranberry sauce if you prefer.
  • Sift Powdered Sugar – For smooth and not-grainy frosting, use a small sifter to sift the powdered sugar into the butter mix.  
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Erin Cernich


Calories: 93kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 0.3g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 16mg | Potassium: 11mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 153IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 0.02mg
Nutrition information is calculated by a third-party and should only be considered an estimate and not a guarantee.
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about the author ...

I'm Erin and I'm all about desserts - and a little bit of butter!

I've tested, written, and photographed hundreds of recipes on my website. Here you'll find the tastiest small batch gluten free and traditional desserts - all homemade, all simple, and all for you!

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