Cranberry Christmas Cake with Butter Cream Sauce
This Cranberry Christmas Cake with Butter Cream Sauce recipe is a longtime family tradition. Tender, tart cranberries + sweet butter cream = irresistible!
Cranberry Christmas Cake is a Family Tradition
I 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 Christmas Cake with Butter Cream Sauce is the perfect example.
My uncle and aunt, Dale and Donna, just celebrated 50 years of marriage. Wahoo!! And this cranberry dessert recipe goes way back to when they were dating.
The story goes that Dale’s aunt Evel made this cranberry cake for Thanksgiving. And it left quite the impression on Donna. She 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 me!!
The holidays just wouldn’t be the same without this pretty, festive Christmas cake.
The cake is dense and moist, with bites of tender, tart cranberries. And while it isn’t particularly sweet all on its own, the simple butter cream sauce is where you can sweeten up this dessert – add as little or as much as you like over your own individual piece. Trust me, you’ll want to drink the sauce – it’s sweet and creamy and absolutely yummy!
Wouldn’t this be a great addition to your holiday gatherings, too? Please give it a try. I know that aunt Donna would smile to know the Cranberry Christmas Cake trail lives on!
Ingredients for this Recipe
You’re going to appreciate this. A super easy homemade cake recipe that uses common baking ingredients, plus a very special holiday guest – fresh cranberries! I love this time of year!!
For the cranberry Christmas cake and the butter cream sauce, you will need:
- all-purpose flour
- baking powder
- whole fresh cranberries – I LOVE how they soften and burst in the cake when they’re baked!
- heavy cream
How to Make This Cake
Prep: Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly spray a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
Mix: In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add cranberries, milk, and melted butter to dry ingredients and mix well. The batter will be quite thick.
Spread: Pour cake batter into pan.
Bake: Place in oven for about 45 minutes, or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack.
Time to Make the Butter Cream Sauce: So exciting! While the cake is cooling, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and cream, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
How to Serve this Cranberry Dessert
Cut: Slice the cake into individual pieces. I like to be fairly generous with the portions (because everyone loves this cake!), often cutting a 9″ x 13″ pan into 15 pieces. But you could cut the pieces smaller if you like, to easily create 20 servings.
Grab dessert dishes: Place individual pieces of cake onto small plates or dessert bowls. If you have dishes with a shallow bowl shape, that is perfect. This allows the warm butter cream sauce to pool around the cake and soak into it more!
Pour: I LOVE this part! Pour that wonderful warm butter cream sauce over each piece of cake. Let it pool around the base of the cake. Some people will like less, some people will like more.
Me? I’m definitely in the “more” category!
Garnish: And the grand finale. Garnish the cake with beautiful pops of Sugared Cranberries.
This is not part of my aunt’s original recipe. It’s something I’ve added in recent years. The cranberries are amazing all on their own, but add an especially festive touch to this Christmas cake…and so many other dishes during the holidays!
A new Christmas tradition for you? I sure hope so!
FAQ’s and Tips
Can I use frozen cranberries? Yes, frozen fresh cranberries will work for this cake. When cranberries are in season, I often buy an extra bag or two and throw them in the freezer for later. Just know that when stirring the frozen cranberries into the dough, the dough will become super cold and will feel very stiff.
Can I use other berries? Blueberries also work well with this recipe. Although, I still highly recommend using cranberries during the holidays – they just beg for Christmas!
Can I add other flavors? I know many people who like to stir some fresh orange zest into their cranberry Christmas cake batter. It’s really lovely, I have to agree.
How to store? If serving this cake the same day it’s baked, just let it sit on the counter, uncovered. Otherwise store in the refrigerator, covered, for a day or two. Let cake come to room temperature before serving. Always store the butter cream sauce in the refrigerator and heat gently on the stovetop or in the microwave until just warmed.
Can I freeze this cake? Yes, you can. Bake, let cool, cover, and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator and let come to room temperature when serving.
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Cranberry Christmas Cake with Butter Cream Sauce
This beautiful cake is a longtime Christmas family tradition at our house. Tender, tart cranberries + sweet butter cream = irresistible!
for the cake:
- 4 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 c. sugar
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 4 c. whole fresh cranberries
- 2 c. milk
- 6 T. butter, melted
for the butter cream sauce:
- 3/4 c. butter
- 1.5 c. sugar
- 1 c. + 2 T. heavy cream
- for the cake: Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly spray a 9" x 13" baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- Add cranberries, milk, and melted butter to dry ingredients and mix well.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Remove pan to a wire rack to cool.
- for the butter cream sauce: Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.
- Add sugar and cream, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
- to serve: Place individual pieces of cake onto small plates or dessert bowls. Pour warm butter cream sauce over pieces of cake. Garnish with Sugared Cranberries, if desired.
From aunt Donna Peterson's recipe box, a recipe passed down from her aunt Evel Peterson.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 15 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 462Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 414mgCarbohydrates: 78gFiber: 2gSugar: 48gProtein: 5g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your own favorite calculator.
Photos by Molly from Yes to Yolks.
This post was originally published in 2010, and then updated in 2020.
Do I need to adjust anything for Denver altitude ? Cake looks fabulous
I love your blog and was very excited to make this cake. I did so this morning, and I have a question. The texture of my cake was rather heavy, is this usual and would eggs change that?
It was still very good though!!!
Hi Sue – this is a heavy, dense cake. So I’m guessing it turned out right! :)