Donna’s Cranberry Cake with Butter Cream Sauce

This Cranberry Cake with Butter Cream Sauce is a Christmas family tradition at our house. Tart cranberries + sweet butter cream = irresistible!

Cranberry Cake with Butter Cream Sauce - #cranberry #buttercreamsauceI love how favorite recipes get handed down through family and friends, leaving a trail of happy tummies along the way. Sharing recipes is a wonderful thing.  And this Cranberry Cake with Butter Cream Sauce is the perfect example.

Aunt Donna and Uncle Dale (Santa), 2005

My uncle and aunt, Dale and Donna, just celebrated 40 years of marriage.  Wahoo!!  And this recipe goes way back to their dating, when Dale’s Aunt Evel made this Cranberry Cake for Thanksgiving.  Donna liked it so much that, after marrying Dale in 1970, she started a family tradition of making this cake for her own side of the family.

MY side of the family.  Lucky, lucky me!!

Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without this pretty and festive cake.  It’s extremely dense and moist, and not particularly sweet, especially with all of the tart cranberries.  Although the cake is great on its own, the Butter Cream Sauce is what really makes a person swoon.  Warmed up and poured over the Cranberry Cake, its sweet and creamy yumminess is completely irresistable.

Wouldn’t this be a great addition to one of your holiday gatherings?  Please, give it a try.  I know Aunt Donna would smile to know the Cranberry Cake trail lives on!

Donna’s Cranberry Cake with Butter Cream Sauce

Yield: 9 larger portions (from the 8-inch square pan)


for the cake:

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. whole fresh cranberries
  • 1 c. milk
  • 3 T. butter, melted

for the butter cream sauce:

  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. heavy cream


for the cake:

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spray an 8'' square pan and set aside.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add cranberries, milk, and melted butter. Mix well. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until the top is golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove to wire rack to cool.

for the butter cream sauce:

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add sugar and cream. Bring to boiling and cook for 1 minute.

To serve, pour warm Butter Cream Sauce over individual pieces of cake.

*Note: This can easily be made in a 9'' x 13'' pan by doubling the cake ingredients. It will just require a bit more time in the oven. I don’t think the butter cream sauce requires doubling, however. I would just do a recipe and a half of the sauce.

From Aunt Donna’s recipe box, a recipe passed down from her Aunt Evel Peterson.

Cranberry Cake with Butter Cream Sauce - #cranberry #buttercreamsauce


51 Responses to “Donna’s Cranberry Cake with Butter Cream Sauce”

  1. #
    Kelli — December 10, 2010 at 9:25 am

    My Aunt Judy says she got my Uncle Paul to propose to her after making this cake for him. They call it the “Engagement Cake” Yum. It’s a winner. Thanks for sharing your story and the recipe!!

    • farmgirl replied on December 10th, 2010 at 8:46 pm

      Hmmm…I’ll have to ask Dale and Donna if that’s what prompted their engagement! :) Thanks for stopping by, Kelli!

  2. #
    citymouse — December 10, 2010 at 10:19 am

    I love this story! The cake looks pretty awesome too!

    • farmgirl replied on December 10th, 2010 at 8:50 pm

      Hello Debi – thank you, and thanks for visiting!

  3. #
    Leann — December 10, 2010 at 11:06 am

    This cake is beautiful and so festive looking. I can’t wait to try it. If it’s Donna’s recipe, it’s delicious!

    • farmgirl replied on December 10th, 2010 at 8:52 pm

      “Delicious” is really an understatement – I’m so glad Donna has made this recipe what it is to our family. Great to hear from you, Leann!

  4. #
    Paula — December 10, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    A lovely story and a beautiful cake. Loved your sentence …*leaving a trail of happy tummies…*

    • farmgirl replied on December 10th, 2010 at 8:52 pm

      Hello, dear Paula!!

  5. #
    Phoo-d — December 10, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    What a delightful cake! I love cranberries and the butter cream sauce sounds perfect.

    • farmgirl replied on December 10th, 2010 at 8:53 pm

      Hi Annie – thank you, and great to hear from you!

  6. #
    Sanctuary Charteryacht — December 11, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!!! No eggs, no vanilla or any other extract…amazing that it’s this delicious. With no eggs, I was wondering what was going to hold this cake together – pure magic, that’s what! This recipe is a keeper for sure! It’s so simple, too. No mixer/beaters to wash. Just mix it in a large bowl with a big spoon. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe with some other fresh berries, but I gotta say, the FRESH cranberries really, really make this cake! Our charteryacht guests are sure to enjoy. Thanks for sharing.

    • farmgirl replied on December 11th, 2010 at 3:19 pm

      Thanks Angela – enjoy!

  7. #
    Donna — December 11, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Hi Brenda, What a lovely surprise to see the beautiful cranberry cake. You do such an awesome job. I’m making it to take to Patsy and Elroys’s for Christmas. Have a great trip.

  8. #
    Tiffany @ Conor & Bella — December 11, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Butter cream sauce?? Sounds perfectly decadent!

    • farmgirl replied on December 12th, 2010 at 4:35 pm

      Thanks for visiting, Tiffany!

  9. #
    Tanya — December 12, 2010 at 11:41 am

    What an absolutely scrumptious dessert! Cranberries and a butter sauce – I’m in love. I can’t wait to give this a try.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • farmgirl replied on December 12th, 2010 at 4:35 pm

      You’re welcome, Tanya – enjoy!!

  10. #
    ZDubb — December 12, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    This looks like it will be yummy. Can I use frozen cranberries instead?

    • farmgirl replied on December 12th, 2010 at 4:40 pm

      I have never tried frozen, but I think it would be worth a try. I would try the cranberries straight from the freezer (don’t thaw). Thanks for visiting!

  11. #
    Weekend Cowgirl — December 15, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    I love the idea of the vanilla almond alternative to hot chocolate. I love anything vanilla so think when this next cold front hits I will be making this!

    • farmgirl replied on December 17th, 2010 at 3:23 pm

      Thanks – great to see you again!

  12. #
    Leann — December 17, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    I made this yesterday and it was sooo easy and sooo delicious! It’s a do-over for sure!!

    • farmgirl replied on December 18th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

      Wonderful! Thanks for letting me know, Leann.

  13. #
    MEGHAN KELL CORNELL — December 21, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    My Mom has been making this same cake every Christmas. I just finally made it myself for the early family Cornell Christmas. Never leaves anyone unsatisfied…..except asking for more of the same thing! I think it’s my favorite dessert. Even before Tres Leches cake!

    • farmgirl replied on December 22nd, 2010 at 9:28 am

      Wow, Meghan, I had no idea we enjoy the same cake every Christmas! (And now I’m hungry for Tres Leches!!) Merry Christmas, dear friend.

  14. #
    Frank — December 24, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Thank you for sharing the story and the recipe. My wife from St. Cloud MN introduced me to this cake when we were married. It was something her mother made every Christmas. We now have it every year. I have played with the receipe a bit but it really is perfect just they way you have it here.

    • farmgirl replied on December 27th, 2010 at 8:19 am

      I’m so happy to hear everyone who loves this cake as much as I do!! Hope you were able to enjoy some for Christmas.

  15. #
    Amanda — December 15, 2011 at 10:23 am

    What a beautiful recipe and post!

    • farmgirl replied on December 18th, 2011 at 1:04 pm

      Thank you, Amanda! Seems like alot of people have this recipe in some form or another, but it’s one of my favorites, just the same. Such a special family recipe. Merry Christmas to you and your family!! xoxo

  16. #
    Lindsay @ Pinch of Yum — December 15, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    This is so funny…. Earlier today I put all the ingredients on my grocery list to make a similar version of this cake from my aunt. :) Including butter sauce. That’s the best part!

  17. #
    Debbie — December 16, 2011 at 6:51 am

    Another recipe I have to make! Yesterday I made my third batch of your Mom’s Butter Toffee recipe to give to friends and family this weekend. I’ll be making this cake later today. I just love being in the kitchen this time of year! Thanks~

    • farmgirl replied on December 18th, 2011 at 1:10 pm

      Wow, Debbie! Your third batch?! I LOVE it!! It’s so wonderful to hear that you’re gifting that butter toffee goodness. Hope you enjoyed the cranberry cake, too!

  18. #
    Becky — December 9, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    This is a recipe that has been in my family as well! The only difference is mine has vanilla in it. I think it may be a Minnesota thing :) originally from SW Minnesota, live in Colorado now and love sharing the recipe with friends! Had a pinterest party and this was my favor, made it in little bread pans!

    • Brenda replied on December 13th, 2012 at 10:10 pm

      I love the idea of baking these in small bread pans, thanks! And I love vanilla…can’t believe I haven’t just added that myself! Just staying true to my aunt’s recipe. ;)

  19. #
    Linda — December 22, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    This sounds wonderful. I love anything cranberry!! But where’s the “save” button for this one? I must have this in my file!! :o) Thanks for the awesome recipes…..I can’t get enough.

    • Brenda replied on December 27th, 2012 at 5:18 pm

      Hi Linda! I just updated the recipe to include the save function. Hope you like it!! :)

      • Linda replied on December 27th, 2012 at 6:29 pm

        Thanks Brenda! I am going to make it this weekend! Happy New Year!

  20. #
    kh — May 5, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Excellent recipe, thank you! :)

  21. #
    sarah — November 24, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    I have been looking for a cranberry cake recipe for the last few years. My mama used to make one (though I believe her sauce had sweetened condensed milk? I could be wrong) She passed away in 2009 and, while I have found other wonderful recipes in her box, her cranberry cake was not in there. What a wonderful surprise to find it here! I’m fairly certain this is the same recipe, with no eggs. I think I do remember her saying that. Thank you for sharing. This Thanksgiving will be a little sweeter, having another little part of my mama here :)

    • Brenda replied on December 1st, 2013 at 6:39 pm

      These are the comments that I especially love to receive. Thank you so much for writing. Enjoy the cranberry cake!

  22. #
    Mary Fagan — December 22, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Wonderful recipe…but a whole cup of sugar?? I realize cranberries are super tart, but I cut the sugar to half cup and prepared the cranberries first in a ziplock, splitting each with a small tack hammer, sprinkling with maybe a tsp. of Stevia, and shaking before adding to batter. Also used finely milled whole wheat flour instead of white. Totally approve of real butter, though!

  23. #
    Sandy @ Reluctant Entertainer — December 23, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Love love love this, Brenda! :) That picture … :)

  24. #
    Suzy Whitten — December 25, 2013 at 11:02 am

    I’m making my third cranberry cake this morning! This really is a hit with the butter cream sauce and tastes like a more complicated reecipe! Thank you for posting, you make my Holiday baking so much easier this year.

  25. #
    Kim — December 31, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    I agree with Becky, this is definitrly a MN or st least Midwest thing. My family has also been making it for at least 3 generations. We love it and tonight I am sharing it with friends for a New Years celebration. The bitterness of the crsnberries with the sweet thick butter sauce is amazing!!

  26. #
    monicki — January 1, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    I made this today to have after New Year’s Day dinner… after full bellies of glazed ham, fennel potato gratin, collard greens, black eyed pea salad and cornbread. It was a hit and so delish! Thanks for sharing. The recipe was requested by everyone, so I sent them here! Thanks again.

    • Brenda replied on January 3rd, 2014 at 5:22 pm

      I love this! Thanks for coming back to let me know, and for sending people my way for the recipe. Much appreciated! :)

  27. #
    Bj smith — November 22, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    Its been on my holiday radar for 38 yrs! It’s in the over now. I hope they make this in heaven..

    • Brenda replied on November 25th, 2014 at 1:43 pm

      Wonderful! Hope you liked it!

  28. #
    Bj smith — November 22, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    You know I meant oven!!!! Sorry for the type-o


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