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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!

butter cream sauce being spooned over a piece of cranberry cake

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.

Aunt Donna and Uncle Dale, 2005
Aunt Donna and Uncle Dale (Santa), 2005

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!!

piece of cake with cranberries and butter cream sauce in a shallow dish

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!

bowls of fresh cranberries, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, plus butter, milk, and heavy cream

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
  • sugar
  • baking powder
  • salt
  • whole fresh cranberries – I LOVE how they soften and burst in the cake when they’re baked!
  • milk
  • butter
  • heavy cream
a mixing bowl of cranberry cake batter

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.

cranberry cake batter in a pan

Spread: Pour cake batter into pan.

cranberry Christmas cake baked in a metal pan, with Christmas ornaments on the side

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.

butter cream sauce in a white saucepan

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.

a spatula lifting a piece of Christmas cranberry cake out of the pan

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.

pieces of cranberry Christmas cake in serving bowls

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!

butter cream sauce being spooned over a piece of cranberry Christmas cake

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!

sugared cranberries on top of pieces of cranberry cake with butter cream sauce

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 forkful of cranberry cake

A new Christmas tradition for you? I sure hope so!

pieces of cranberry Christmas cake with butter cream sauce and sugared cranberries

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.

Like this recipe? Save it to Pinterest!

Pinterest image of cranberry Christmas cake
pieces of cranberry Christmas cake with butter cream sauce and sugared cranberries

Cranberry Christmas Cake with Butter Cream Sauce

Yield: 15 servings
prep time: 15 minutes
cook time: 45 minutes
total time: 1 hour
This beautiful cake is a longtime Christmas family tradition at our house. Tender, tart cranberries + sweet butter cream = irresistible!
4.4 Stars (51 Reviews)
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Ingredients

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:

  • ¾ c. butter
  • 1.5 c. sugar
  • 1 c. + 2 T. heavy cream

optional garnish:

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

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

Nutrition Information:

Serving: 1 Calories: 462kcal Carbohydrates: 78g Protein: 5g Fat: 16g Saturated Fat: 10g Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g Trans Fat: 1g Cholesterol: 41mg Sodium: 414mg Fiber: 2g Sugar: 48g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Spoonacular. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your own favorite calculator.
Did you make this recipe?Please leave a comment below. And share a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #afarmgirlsdabbles or tag @farmgirlsdabble!

Photos by Molly from Yes to Yolks.

This post was originally published in 2010, and then updated in 2020.

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73 comments on “Cranberry Christmas Cake with Butter Cream Sauce”

    1. Hi Kira – I would highly recommend pouring the sauce over individual pieces, right before serving. I’ve never poured it over the entire cake, but I think the sauce pooled around the cake is part of the presentation and fun, and allows different textures.

  1. Very easy to make. I can’t stop eating this!! Moist and sooo delicious. Definitely will make again but next time I’ll be giving it away

  2. Any recommendations for ways to use extra butter sauce? It’s so yummy but the cake it gone, and I don’t want to see it go to waste!

  3. I grew up eating this dessert too. My Mom made it. I’m going to print this recipe and make it for the holidays so my mom can enjoy it. 

  4. Lerin Hendrickson

    I also make this cake.. have you ever made it as a Bundt? I think it would be beautiful but not sure it would hold up.

  5. This recipe is my husband’s favorite and we make it every year for his birthday. He complains we only make it for his birthday but it will kill you if you eat more than once a year :)

    We call it “Cranberry Pudding” and it was a favorite recipe of my MIL from Wisconsin. Outside of the Midwest no one has heard of it, but everyone loves it! 

    1. I’ve seen other recipes like this for bundt pans and they are just double this one. They are baked at 325° for 50 to 60 minutes or until done. I wouldn’t double the butter sauce recipe though, it makes plenty.

      1. That’s exactly how I’ve been doing it for many years, Lana. I’m not allowed to come to family holidays without it ;)

  6. 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.

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

  7. 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!!

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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 :)