Cranberry Butter Cake with Warm Vanilla Sauce

A square slice of Cranberry Butter Cake with Vanilla Sauce and fresh cranberries.

I fell in love with this Cranberry Butter Cake with Warm Vanilla Sauce immediately! This rich and moist cranberry cake is out of this world and each time I serve it, my guests bombard me with requests for the recipe.

Cranberry Butter Cake with Warm Vanilla Sauce Recipe

A piece of cake with a bite removed.

Howdy! Chef Alli Here. Let’s Get You Cookin’…..Shall We?? 🙂

This cake is seriously impressive; just looking at it makes my mouth water. We like to let our guests cut their own slice, then pour the warm vanilla sauce right over the top, using as much or as little as they prefer.

My family is cake crazy, and we especially enjoy 9×13-inch cakes since they are easy to make, serve a lot of people, and travel well for gatherings and covered-dish meals.

One of our favorite 9×13-inch cakes is the White Chocolate Strawberry Poke Cake and we are also in love with Honey Bun Cake!

We are also fans of angel food cakes! These Strawberry Lemon-Lave Angel Cakes make very pretty individual desserts for your guests, and who doesn’t adore a light and airy Angel Food Cake with Citrus Glaze?

When my gang is in the mood for some DARK CHOCOLATE, I make these easy (made from a box mix!) Neapolitan Cheesecake Brownies .

Another great crowd-pleaser is No-Bake Chocolate Butterfinger Pie. And when the cooler weather of Autumn rolls around, Golden S’mores Cookie Bars really hit the spot, too.

Why This Recipe is a Keeper

Everybody loves a super moist, rich and dense cake that’s easy to make, am I right? Well, that cake is this one!

I love how beautiful this cake is, as well. You could serve this cake anytime, but it definitely looks like a special Christmas dessert when you make it using the fresh cranberries.

And, the warm sauce simply seals the deal. Talk about putting this Cranberry Butter Cake right over the moon!

I love how this cake can be customized according to the season in which you want to bake it. In the Spring, I like to make it using strawberries.

For summer, I switch to blue berries. (Sometimes I even add a bit of lemon juice and zest to the sauce when I make the Spring and Summer cakes.)

How to Make Cranberry Butter Cake in 3 Easy Steps

  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, beat the melted butter and sugar until well blended, then beat in the eggs.
  2. Alternately add the milk and the dry ingredients, beating after each addition; fold in the fresh cranberries. Transfer the prepared cake batter to a greased 9×13-inch baking pan.
  3. Bake the cake, uncovered, on the center rack of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven, letting it cool slightly.

How to Make Warm Vanilla Sauce in 3 Easy Steps

  1. In a medium sauce pan, combine all the ingredients over medium-high heat.
  2. When the sauce begins to simmer, reduce the heat to medium, simmering for 10-12 minutes, whisking constantly, making sure the sauce doesn’t boil over.
  3. Remove the sauce from the heat, letting it cool so it can thicken.
cranberry cake with sauce

Easy Recipes Tips for Making Moist, Delicious Cranberry Butter Cake

What’s the best way to ensure that a cake is moist and luscious?

  • This is a GREAT question! Don’t over bake the cake. Over baking can cause your cake to be dry and crumbly. Bake the cake just until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

I’ve heard that covering a hot cake with foil is a secret technique. Is this true?

  • Yep, and it WORKS…..like a charm! My Grandma Lucille taught me this trick. The foil keeps all the heat contained and the condensation that’s created goes right back into your cake.

    Keep the cake covered with the foil until it’s completely cooled, then serve as desired. In this case, since this cake also has a vanilla sauce, pour the sauce right over the hot cake, then cover it with foil to cool.

What’s the best and easiest way to serve this cake to a crowd of guests?

  • If you are planning to serve this cake to a large group of people who will be eating the majority of the cake at one sitting, pour the sauce over the entire cake immediately after it comes out of the oven.

    This will ensure that the cake has a very moist and rich texture since the sauce will seal in all the residual heat and moisture from the hot cake. (Once the sauce has been poured over the entire cake, you’ll want to eat it within 2-3 hours; following that time frame, the cake can become too soggy.)

But what if you’re serving this cake to one guest at a time?

  • If your guests will be eating this cake a few pieces at a time, say all throughout the afternoon or evening at their leisure, keep the sauce warm in a separate small pitcher or saucepan so guests can pour it over their piece of cake as desired, whenever they are ready to eat it.

Does the flour really need to be sifted when I make this cake? That’s just more work!

  • I know it’s another step for the recipe, but it’s WORTH it! Be sure to sift the flour before you measure it and add it to the other ingredients, this keeps the texture of the cake nice and light. I just use a fine mesh colander to sift it into a bowl, then I carefully measure out what I need from the bowl.

Can This Cake Be Made in a Bundt Pan instead of a 9×13 Pan?

  • Yeppers! I tested it to be sure and was excited to learn it can be done and I think it look really pretty as a bundt cake. See the specific directions in the recipe for the bundt cake baking time.
Cranberry Butter Cake made into a bundt pan shape, then sliced.

What if I can’t find fresh cranberries for making this cake?

  • If you especially enjoy this cake made with cranberries, be sure to stock up on fresh cranberries throughout the holiday season during November and December. You can toss the fresh cranberries into a freezer bag and store them in the freezer for up to a year.

Can I use dried cranberries to make this cake?

  • I’m so glad you asked this question. Fresh cranberries for this cake will always be the best option, but sometimes they aren’t available – either because it’s the wrong season, or because your local grocer doesn’t stock them.

How can I make dried cranberries work if fresh cranberries aren’t available?

  • To use dried cranberries, place them in a bowl, adding just enough orange juice to cover them; place the bowl into the microwave and cook for 1 minute. Let the cranberries rest so they can absorb the orange juice which will hydrate them, allowing them to plump up somewhat.

How to Customize This Cake

  • Customize this cake by swapping out the cranberries for other berries, such as raspberries, blueberries, or black berries. Even chopped strawberries are delicious in this cake.
  • You can also easily customize the sauce for this cake! Once you remove the sauce from the heat, make a bourbon sauce by omitting the vanilla extract, adding a bit of bourbon instead…I usually add about 1 tablespoon.
cranberry cake with sauce

What Tools Are Helpful for Making Cranberry Butter Cake?

For cakes that mix up quickly like this one does, I prefer using my hand-held electric mixer. However, if you’ve got a stand mixer that you enjoy using, you can certainly use that when making this cake.

When folding the cranberries into the cake batter, I find that a silicone spoonula works really well. I also like using a spoonula for transferring the cake batter from the mixing bowl to the baking pan. You can never have too many silicone spoonulas and spatulas!

I prefer using glass 9 x 13 baking pans since I can see the sides of the cake as it bakes in the oven. However, you can definitely use a metal pan, if preferred.

When whisking the sauce as it simmers, you will find a flat wire whisk essential for making sure the sauce is smooth anlump-free. If you are using non-stick cookware, you will want to be sure you use a silicone-coated flat wire wisk so that you don’t cause damage to the non-stick surface.

Other Favorite Cake Recipes to Enjoy –

A piece of yellow cake with cranberries on a plate.

Cranberry Butter Cake with Warm Vanilla Sauce

I fell in love with this Cranberry Butter Cake with Warm Vanilla Sauce immediately! This rich and moist cranberry cake with with butter sauce is out of this world and each time I serve it, my guests bombard me with requests for the recipe.

5 from 8 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 532kcal
Author: Chef Alli

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries

For the Vanilla Sauce

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream or half-and-half
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract, if using bourbon instead of vanilla, I typically add 1 Tbs. bourbon

Instructions

Make the Cranberry Butter Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
    Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with non-stick spray.
  • Sift the flour into a mixing bowl; gently stir in the baking powder and salt.
    In a separate mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the melted butter and sugar until well blended. Add the eggs, beating again.
  • Alternately add the milk and the dry ingredients, beating after each addition. Using a spatula, fold in the fresh cranberries.
  • Transfer the prepared cake batter to the prepared baking pan, smoothing the batter.
  • Bake the cake, uncovered, on the center rack of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven, letting it cool slightly.

To Make Cranberry Butter Cake in a Bundt Pan

  • Follow the instructions as above for making the cake batter. Spray a bundt pan well with non-stick spray, then spoon the prepared cake batter into the greased pan.
    Bake the cake, uncovered, on the center rack of the oven for 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
    Remove the cake from the oven, letting it cool completely. When the cake is fully cooled, use a knife to loosen the edges of the bundt cake, then flip the cake pan over onto a cake stand or serving platter, then remove the bundt pan. Serve the slices of bundt cake with the warm vanilla sauce.

Make the Vanilla Sauce

  • Meanwhile, make the vanilla sauce by combining all the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When the sauce begins to simmer, reduce the heat to medium, simmering for 10-12 minutes, whisking constantly, making sure the sauce doesn’t boil over.
    Remove the sauce from the heat, letting it thicken as it cools a bit.

Serve the Cake

  • Pour the hot sauce over the top of the cake as soon as it's removed from the oven. Or, keep the sauce separate and warm over low heat, pouring it over individual pieces of cake as they are served.

Notes

Tips for Making Cranberry Butter Cake with Warm Vanilla Sauce 
  • Don’t over bake the cake. Over baking can cause your cake to be dry and crumbly. Bake the cake just until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  • If you are planning to serve this cake to a large group of people who will be eating the majority of the cake at one sitting, pour the sauce over the entire cake immediately after it comes out of the oven. This will ensure that the cake has a very moist and rich texture since the sauce will seal in all the residual heat and moisture from the hot cake. (Once the sauce has been poured over the entire cake, you’ll want to eat it within 2-3 hours; following that time frame, the cake can become too soggy.)
  • If your guests will be eating this cake a few pieces at a time, say all throughout the afternoon or evening, keep the sauce separate in a small pitcher or saucepan so guests can pour it over their piece of cake as desired.
  • Be sure to sift the flour before you add the other ingredients, this keeps the texture of the cake nice and light.
  • If you especially enjoy this cake made with cranberries, be sure to stock up on fresh cranberries throughout the holiday season during November and December. You can toss the fresh cranberries into a freezer bag and store them in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cake

Nutrition

Calories: 532kcal | Carbohydrates: 70g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 105mg | Sodium: 320mg | Potassium: 93mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 52g | Vitamin A: 934IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 122mg | Iron: 1mg

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Let’s Get You Cookin’,
Chef Alli

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Chef Alli

Chef Alli is a home-grown Kansas girl on a mission to strengthen families through enabling kitchen confidence, educating the family cook, and encouraging better food relationships. She believes with her whole heart that time spent with our loved ones and our overall quality of life is greatly enhanced by nutritious food made at home with simple, wholesome ingredients. She loves being able to connect and share this passion with others through her website, her social media presence, and her coveted speaking engagements.

Blog Comments

This vanilla cake recipe is the main cake formula that I learned from this beautiful article. Being brought up in a small town has its own perks and we did not really have any bakeries in our town when we were kids.

Hi Rani –
We love this cake and I hope you’ll give it a try, too, if you haven’t already.
Let’s Get Cookin’,
Chef Alli

This looks delicious! This will be the new Christmas dessert I try this year.

To substitute bourbon for the vanilla, how much do you recommend?

Hi Angie –
Thanks for asking this question – it tells me that I need to address this within the post. If you’re wondering, there are likely others who are doing the same! I typically add 1 Tbs. bourbon in place of the vanilla extract…….if nobody is looking, I might even add an extra one. 😉
Thanks for reaching out!!
Chef Alli

Thank you so much!

My pleasure!

5 stars
Mmmmmmm wow! So amazing! Family loved it!!!!!

Hi Morgan –
I’m so glad to hear that your fam enjoyed the Cranberry Butter Cake. I think it’s the warm vanilla sauce that really makes it over the top – wouldn’t you agree?
Hope you’ll make it again soon,
Chef Alli

5 stars
So amazing! What a holiday treat!

Hi Jess –
Thanks for letting me know that you enjoyed this cake – it’s been a popular recipe that is always a big hit because it’s such a yummy cake with beautiful presentation!
Sincerely,
Chef Alli

5 stars
Absolutely delicious

Hi Cindy –
Isn’t this the most moist and yummy cake?? That warm vanilla sauce seems to seal the deal. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, too.
Sincerely,
Chef Alli

5 stars
You won’t want to stop eating this! Soooo delicious!!

Hi Ashley –
We love the Cranberry Butter Cake, too, and I have the same problem – you just can’t stop with one piece!
Thanks for your comment here!
Chef Alli

5 stars
This was fun to prepare and so tasty!!!!

Hi Lori –
Yep, that Cranberry Butter Cake is a keeper recipe and I’m so glad to know you think so too! I appreciate your comment and the 5 star rating – that cake is always popular this time of year because it makes such a statement.
Thanks again,
Chef Alli

5 stars
This looks delicious! ♥️

Hi There –
It’s a great cake to make anytime, but looks especially beautiful for the holidays. And, all your guests will enjoy getting to pour their own vanilla sauce over their piece of cake!
Thanks for your comment,
Chef Alli

5 stars
My guys would love this! I think I would love to have a sice of this with some hot tea,! Going to make this for Christmas Eve dessert!!!

Hi Kellie –
Well, I don’t drink hot tea, but I can sure say this cake is great with a cup of coffee. 🙂
It’s a perfect dessert for the holidays and everybody loves getting to pour their own warm
vanilla sauce over the top of their piece of cake.
Let me know if it passes inspection for your fam,
Chef Alli

Can you make this cake in a Bundt pan?

Hi Michelle-
That’s a GREAT question! I’ve never made it in a bundt pan, but I’m checking with my friend that gave me the recipe to see if maybe she has. I THINK it would work, but I hesitate to just say “oh sure!” without checking or trying it myself – it sure would be beautiful made in a bundt pan. Stay tuned!
Chef Alli

Hi Michelle –
Hope you saw my previous reply on your question? See that one first. I just heard back from my friend who gave me the Cranberry Butter Cake recipe and she hasn’t made it in a bundt pan, either. However, we discussed the batter and feel the cranberries would stay put while the cake is baking in the oven, just as they do in the 9 x 13 pan. It should take longer to bake, but as long as you do a cake test with a cake test to be sure it’s done at the center, I’m pretty sure it would be just fine…..and gorgeous! I’m going to give this a try myself so I can add this option to the recipe.
Also, if you try this, could you let me know how it works for you? I’d love to hear back in case you make it in bundt cake form before I get to it!
Sincerely,
Chef Alli
Merry Christmas!!

Hi Michelle-
I just wanted to get back with you regarding making the Cranberry Butter Cake with Warm Vanilla Sauce….you asked earlier in Dec. about making it in a bundt pan. I tried that over the weekend and guess what? It works just great. I’m going to update the recipe asap to include the directions for making it that way as well as in a 9×13 pan.
Sincerely,
Chef Alli

Chef Alli,

That is wonderful! I will defiantly try it. I ran out of time and ambition for the holidays ? It looks delicious and agree that it would make a stunning Bundt cake. I truly appreciate your following up with me. I can’t wait to try it for myself!

Warmly,

Michelle

*definitely ?

5 stars
I want to give this recipe 10 stars! It’s just that good. But I did not make the icing – instead I made a Hot Butter Sauce – 2 cups white sugar, 1 cup butter, 2 cups heavy whipping cream and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix sauce ingredients together and bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes.
It is fantastic! Sent some to my neighbors and they are raving about it and asked for the recipe.
Thank you so much for sharing such a fantastic dessert!

Hi Teddy –
10 stars?? Sweet! We love this cake, too, and now I’ve got to make it two new ways:
1. With your recipe using the hot butter sauce
2. In a Bundt pan to see how that works for this recipe
So thrilled that you enjoyed this recipe and that you let me know – I really appreciate the feedback!
Sincerely,
Chef Alli

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