On the 5th Day of Christmas: Fresh Cranberry Cake with Hot Butter Sauce

December 14, 2011 — 30 Comments


For some odd reason, this cranberry cake is one of those recipes that I imagine cranberry farmers eating on special occasions back in the olden days, or the Ingalls family anxiously awaiting every holiday season. The cake itself is moist and dense, almost like a shortcake. The cranberries in the batter practically melt while the cake bakes, giving each bite little bits of ruby-red color and a bright, tart flavor that nicely contrasts the simple flavors of the cake. But the real star of the show is the hot butter sauce. Made with melted butter, sugar, and cream, and finished off with a little vanilla, it is so delightfully sinful! No matter how much I put on my cake at the beginning, I always go back for more before my piece is gone.


Fresh Cranberry Cake with Hot Butter Sauce
from my Aunt Shelly

for the cake:
4-5 cups fresh cranberries
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 can (12-oz) evaporated milk
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons baking powder
for the sauce:
2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a standard bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray, preferably the kind with flour in it, especially for baking. Wash the cranberries and set them aside to dry. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar until fluffy. Add milk and beat until combined. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to mixer and stir until just combined. Gently fold in the cranberries, spread batter in prepared pan, and bake for 40-50 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Remove cake from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan.
In a small saucepan, melt butter.  Stir in sugar and cream, and heat until sugar is melted and sauce is hot. Do not boil!  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Serve hot sauce over cake. The cake can be served warm or at room temperature.

30 thoughts on “On the 5th Day of Christmas: Fresh Cranberry Cake with Hot Butter Sauce”

  1. Hi Amykay. I’ve never tried lemon zest, but I’m sure it would brighten up the sauce. I did add rum once and that was super tasty, and I hate rum!

    Yes, wait until the very last minute to add the sauce. I usually put it in a little bowl or pitcher on the side and let people serve themselves.

  2. Hi! I just made a similar cake today, with the same sauce. As an experiment, I separated some sauce and added a little Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum. OMG-it was awesome! Proceeded to flavor the rest of the sauce. Just discovered your blog while searching for a picture of this recipe. Now being added to my favorites. Thanks!

  3. Lulu Help, I have tried to make this cake twice in two days, and batter is like pasta dough or bread dough, it clumps together, is that how it is supposed to be? to me it seems like there is way to much dry to wet ratio. What am I dooing wrong, when I try to mix in the berries the dough is so thick that it is near impossible to fold in the fresh berries. I threw the first one way w/o tasting as the texture was so dense and heavy. This attempt now does not look any better, but here’s hoping the oven has magic powers. Please help

    1. Hi Megan! The batter is thick and you have to scoop it into the bundt pan and spread it, but it shouldn’t be like bread dough. Some quick trouble-shooting ideas:
      –1can evaporated milk, not sweetened condensed milk

      Ok, that’s actually the only one I can think of. I’ll check my original recipe to make sure it’s accurate. Good luck!

    2. Hi,
      I am having the same issue as Megan. I made the battter and it was very thick. I just turned the cake over and it is very “heavy.” Yours looks light with a soft outside crumb. Fingers crossed that once it is cut, it isn’t a brick 🙂

    3. Hey! I just made the cake yesterday so that I could answer your questions. The batter is super thick, almost like a muffin batter, and the cake does turn out very, very heavy. When baked, it completely fills the bundt pan. I wouldn’t describe it as a light cake at all, but it should be soft, moist, and dense. I hope yours turned out! Merry Christmas!

  4. Would it be possible to make the cake in a regular cake pan (instead of a bundt pan) and then use the sauce to make a “poke” cake? I’m trying to prepare it in advance. Thanks!

  5. I just wanted to let you know that I made this cake for the first time for Christmas this year.. and WOW it was soo good! Took half of the butter sauce and added rum to it.. yummo! It was a huge hit.. wanted to thank you for sharing this recipe.. I will be keeping this in my archives for future use!

  6. I’m making this cake right now, and it appears that there are very few wet ingredients…is the evaporated milk mixed with water or just left dry?

  7. I think the recipe is wrong…calls for two Tablespoon s of Baking Powder..are you sure it wouldn’t be two Teaspoons. I taste too much baking powder

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