Cranberry Cake with Butter Sauce

A white cake studded with bright red cranberries and coated in butter sauce, with a bite taken out of it

Jordan: Oh man, what a year.

Kitra: Y I K E S

Do we actually need to say anything about 2020?


Great. Moving on.


We make this cake pretty much every year. It’s a good cake!

Tradition cakes are good, but they’re better when you pour hot sweet butter over them.

This is a very simple white cake with beautiful pockets of cranberry. It’s simple, not outrageously sweet, and—most importantly—is a great vessel for butter sauce. (Which is the less disconcerting name for “hot sweet butter.”)

Basically, it’s an antidote to the complicated winter foods. You toss it all in the mixer and then bake it in a rectangle.

We see your yule logs and frosted bundts and raise you a one-bowl sheet cake.

It takes as long to make as the oven takes to preheat, and there is truly no more easily transported cake. Gift it! Leave some on a doorstep! Put a lid on your pan and cut slices off for days on end!

If you truly want to eat this in the traditional fashion, that last one is the way to do it.

I eat mine sliced in half horizontally with the sauce over them, and treat it as a breakfast/lunch/snacking cake.

More surface area = more butter sauce.

I’m usually staunchly anti fresh fruit in cakes, but this is my exception. Cranberries are self-contained in a way that most fruit is not, so they don’t make everything mushy and gross or wind up flavorless husks. They stay pretty, and are a great fresh burst of tartness. I love them in this.

Cranberries are strongly underutilized in their non-jellied forms, honestly. And while this is a great Christmas cake, it’s also a great New Year’s Eve cake. Or a great “I want to make cake but it needs to include fruit for the people around me who are on ‘diets’” cake.

Is it though? Because again, B U T T E R   S A U C E.

This is like the time my roommate did the “Master Cleanse” (where you only have lemon water and cayenne pepper) and one day in I made brownies and she gave up. You’ve got to have some sort of an in to get people back on your side, and here the “in” is fruit and the “side” is eating cake.

Can you tell we’re… not really diet people? Happy New Year, I will serve this year with butter sauce.

Last year we set the goal of “do less” for 2020.

In many ways, I feel like we did that. I work from my couch now and haven’t worn mascara since March. But also we did more of things that are good! And we worried more, probably. Whatever, this year was a whole lot and I refuse to judge anyone for it.

Look, in 2021, just do what makes you happy. If you really want to diet? Sure, whatever. Do it, but promise you’ll stop if it makes you miserable.

What makes me happy? B U T T E R   S A U C E.

Life is not a binary choice between Master Cleanse and butter sauce. It’s a spectrum, and somewhere in there is the spot that’s best for you. In 2021, we hope you find that spot.

A white cake studded with bright red cranberries and coated in butter sauce

Cranberry Cake with Butter Sauce


This cake can easily be scaled down—a half batch fits well in a square pan or 9-inch round cake pan. If you want to spike the butter sauce, feel free to add your choice of liquor, either right at the end of the sauce-making process (for more booziness) or at the start (to cook off the alcohol).


For the cake:

  • ¼ cup (4 tablespoons, 2 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1⅓ cup (270g) sugar
  • 1½ cup milk
  • 3 cups (400g) flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups (12 oz) fresh cranberries, washed and dried

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • ½ cup (1 sticks, 4oz) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup half-and-half
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9×13 baking pan with butter, nonstick spray, or baker’s spray.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add half the milk to the butter/sugar mixture and beat on low until roughly combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix again, then the remaining milk, and mix until the batter comes together. Use a spatula to fold the cranberries

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, make the sauce:

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients over low heat. Whisk until the butter has melted and the sugar is dissolved. Set aside until you’re ready to serve the cake.

To serve:

Cake can be served warm or room temperature with plenty of butter sauce. Leftover sauce should be refrigerated, and can be scooped cold onto leftover slices of cake before microwaving the whole thing.

2 thoughts on “Cranberry Cake with Butter Sauce

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