cranberry cake and butter sauce bliss

Many blogs have featured family holiday traditions of late, and they’ve been great fun to read. A born-and-bred midwesterner, I only have experience with how it’s done in these parts. I’ve enjoyed reading Attempts in Domesticity’s tales of headcheese and pickled herring (neither sounded tasty to me at first, but her posts made me want to at least try these “delicacies”), Canapes and Chocolate’s gorgeous southern-style apps (though C&C writes from Seattle, she seems a gracious southerner at heart:-)), Lilly Sue’s holiday brews, Northern California’s produce, flowers, and sunshine–a far cry from the snow and cold I know in Minnesota–from Putney Farm.

My holiday traditions, though delicious and much-loved, are fairly standard and won’t rock anyone’s culinary world. With one exception: my mother-in-law’s cranberry cake. She’s made it for New Year’s and the occasional holiday celebration since I’ve known her (over 20 years now), but it goes back further than that. The original recipe came from her Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, Desserts Edition cookbook (circa 1963) and she tells of how she chose this recipe to make for her first Christmas dinner as a young bride. Her lucky dinner guests demanded she continue making it and she’s done so for nearly 50 years. This is my mother-in-law’s signature dessert.

The cake is golden, buttery, and studded with crimson cranberries. It’s a good cake for sure, nearly a pound cake but not quite, but what makes this cake over-the-top sublime and gloriously decadent is the butter sauce. Hoo boy. It contains a million calories a spoonful, I’d imagine, but is so good that this doesn’t seem to matter when presented with a pitcher for pouring. Of course the sauce is dreamy over ice cream–or simply spooned from a jar–as well.

With this cranberry cake recipe, I wish everyone a Happy (and delicious) New Year. Thank you for sharing your traditions with me. I’d love to hear more, so please give me a holler here as a comment or on deLizious’ facebook page.

cranberry cake in the pan

cranberry cake in the pan

cranberry cake and butter sauce--a lovely welcome to a New Year

cranberry cake and butter sauce–a lovely welcome to a New Year

Cranberry Cake


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch loaf pans.

To make cake, in bowl, beat together sugar and butter with electric mixer until light and fluffy. In separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture alternately with milk  just until combined. Stir in cranberries. Divide batter evenly between loaf pans. Bake 35 to 4o minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

To make sauce, in saucepan, combine sugar, butter, and cream. Bring to a gentle boil. Stir in vanilla. Serve alongside cake for pouring. Makes 12 servings.

7 thoughts on “cranberry cake and butter sauce bliss

    • Oh my gosh–I didn’t include baking time! Copied the recipe directly from the cookbook and it was old enough that I assume folks just knew how long to bake. So sorry–and me a recipe editor:-) Bake time added. Love your blog–we seem to find the same simple joy in food.

  1. This is one of my favorites that I try to make every winter. Instead of vanilla, I use brandy or rum. I remember we made this at my sorority house one year, and we ended up putting the butter sauce on absolutely everything. Thanks for the memories, Liz.

  2. Any cake that comes complete with a butter sauce is magic in my book! And the cranberries (one my favorite things to eat this time of year) make it even better. Thanks for sharing something that is special to you and thanks for the shout-out. Oh yes, and happy new year! Wishing you many marshmallow delights for 2013. =)


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