Cranberry Sauce Cake

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This Cranberry Sauce Cake is an easy Thanksgiving cake recipe. It features two orange-scented cake layers and cranberry orange sauce filling, for the perfect combination of sweet-tart fall flavors.

Gold pie server removing a slice of Cranberry Sauce Cake from the whole cake.

 🦃 The Easiest Thanksgiving Cake You’ll Make

Looking to do something different for your Thanksgiving dessert this year? Skip the pie recipes and make this delicious Cranberry Sauce Cake instead! It’s easy to make, comes together quickly, and it keeps well, so you can make it several days in advance and minimize your holiday baking stress.

Logistics aside, this cake will win you over with its taste and texture. The cake is tender, with a crackling sugar crust on top, and a tart-and-tangy filling that goes perfectly with the citrusy sugar cookie flavor of the cake layers.

Slice of Cranberry Sauce Cake on a white plate, with a bite taken out by a gold fork.

Sugar Cookie? Or Cake?

Although I call this a “cake,” the cake layers more closely resemble a sugar cookie (which is a plus in my book!) It starts with a thick dough that is chilled, rolled out, and pressed into a cake pan. A generous layer of cranberry sauce in the middle keeps the cake moist for days, and balances out the cake’s sweetness with a bracing tart flavor.

This cake is charming in its simplicity, and it’s a refreshing change from some of the heavier, more indulgent holiday cake recipes.

I’ve made a version of this cake with a raspberry-kumquat layer before, and it was equally delicious, so don’t be afraid to play around with the filling! Here are a few other unconventional holiday favorite I think you’ll love: Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Pie, Persimmon Almond Rosette Tarts, and Chocolate Raspberry Almond Truffle Tarts.

Slice of Cranberry Sauce Cake on a white plate, with a gold fork in the background.

🧾 What You’ll Need

Overhead shot of ingredients needed to make Cranberry Sauce Cake.

Ingredients

Here’s what you need to know as you gather your ingredients:

  • Cranberry Sauce: As the name suggests, cranberry sauce is the star of the show, so make sure you use a delicious cranberry sauce you enjoy eating. This is not the time to skimp and use a dusty can of sauce from the back of the pantry! I love and highly recommend my homemade cranberry sauce, but a good-quality store-bought sauce will also work.
  • Butter: You’ll want your butter to be room temperature before beginning, so it mixes easily into the cake layers.
  • Eggs: We’re using one egg and one egg yolk in this recipe. Here’s my full guide to separating egg yolks and whites if you need a refresher, and don’t forget to save the egg white for a future batch of Meringue Cookies or buttercream!
  • Orange zest:One of my FAVORITE things about this recipe is the subtle but ever-present orange flavor, and that comes from rubbing orange zest into the sugar at the start of the recipe. This releases the orange oil and disperses the citrus fragrance everywhere. You can omit it if orange isn’t your thing, or use lemon zest instead.
Slice of Cranberry Sauce Cake with a gold fork about to take a bite out of it.

Equipment

You don’t need much in the way of special equipment to make this cake, but there are a few things that will make your baking life easier: (Links are affiliate links and I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.)

  • Cake pan with removable bottom: This is optional, but HIGHLY recommended! A cake pan with a removable bottom makes unmolding this cake a breeze. You can also use a springform pan, if you have one, or check the Notes section in the recipe card for suggestions if using a standard cake pan.
  • Microplane: I find a microplane to be the easiest way to zest the orange. If you don’t have one, you can also use a cheese grater.
  • Mixer:You’ll want a stand mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment), or a hand mixer to make this recipe.
Slice of Cranberry Sauce Cake on a white plate with a mound of whipped cream on top.

📋 How to Make Cranberry Sauce Cake

Here’s a photo walkthrough of how to make this cranberry cake. You can find full printable instructions in the recipe card down below.

Two photo collage showing how to make the dough for Cranberry Sauce Cake.
  • Here’s the secret to super-intense orange flavor in your cake! Before you begin the mixing process, rub orange zest and sugar together between your fingertips, until the sugar has the texture of damp sand and it is very fragrant.
  • Add butter to the orange sugar and mix for a minute, until light and fluffy.
  • Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla extract and mix well.
Two photo collage showing how to roll out the dough for Cranberry Sauce Cake.
  • With the mixer running on low, slowly stream in the dry ingredients until just a few streaks of flour remain. Finish mixing by hand.
  • Divide the dough in half and chill until firm.
  • Roll out half of the dough into a 9-inch circle.
Two photo collage showing how to assemble a Cranberry Sauce Cake.
  • Line a cake pan with parchment, and press the dough circle into the bottom of the pan.
  • Spread a thick layer of cranberry sauce on top of the dough.
Two photo collage showing how to add top layer of dough to Cranberry Sauce Cake.
  • Roll out the second half of the dough and place it on top of the cranberry sauce.
  • Lightly brush the top of the dough with water or beaten egg, and sprinkle granulated sugar on top.
  • Bake until puffed and lightly golden.
Whole Cranberry Sauce Cake on a fluted white plate, on rustic wooden planks.

💭 Variations

There are so many ways you can customize this recipe and make it your own! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Try different fruit: swap in a chunky jam for the cranberry sauce. Cherry and berry jams work particularly well. You can check out my Raspberry Kumquat Sugar Cookie Cake if you want some raspberry inspiration!
  • Use pie filling: apple, pear, or peach pie filling would also be delicious. Make sure the filling is quite thick, not watery, so the texture of the cake isn’t negatively affected. If necessary, drain it for awhile before adding it to the cake.
  • Use other citrus: Instead of orange zest, try lemon zest or grapefruit zest.
  • Spice it up: add cinnamon or a pumpkin pie spice blend to the dough, and sprinkle the top with a generous layer of cinnamon-sugar.
  • Make ’em mini: make individual cakelets in muffin tins for the ultimate cute single-serving dessert!
Gold pie server removing a slice of Cranberry Sauce Cake from the whole cake.

💡 Tips and FAQs  

Slice of Cranberry Sauce Cake on a white plate, with a bite taken out by a gold fork.
Cranberry Orange Sauce
This easy cranberry-orange sauce is made with orange juice, orange zest, and fresh or frozen cranberries, for the perfect sweet-tart flavor that goes with both sweet and savory recipes.
Get the recipe!
Homemade cranberry sauce in a white bowl with a gold spoon.
Cranberry Curd Almond Cake
This Cranberry Curd Almond Cake is a new way to enjoy cranberries! The soft almond cake has wonderfully chewy edges and is filled with a sweet-tart cranberry curd. Add this to your Thanksgiving menu this year!
Get the recipe!
Cranberry Curd Almond Cake on a brown plate with a slice being removed.

Leave a review!

If you make this recipe, let us know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on the recipe below, and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram @elabau, or use #sugarhero on IG!

Slice of Cranberry Sauce Cake topped with whipped cream, on a white plate.

Cranberry Sauce Cake

5 from 5 votes
This Cranberry Sauce Cake is an easy Thanksgiving cake recipe. It features two orange-scented cake layers and cranberry orange sauce filling, for the perfect combination of sweet-tart fall flavors.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Chilling Time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 40 mins
Yield 10 servings
Calories 374 kcal

Ingredients
 

  • 11.25 oz all-purpose flour, (2.5 cups)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 7 oz granulated sugar, (1 cup)
  • 1 TBSP orange zest, from 1 large orange
  • 6 oz butter, (¾ cup), at room temperature
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 20 oz cranberry sauce, (about 1 3/4 cups)
CUSTOMIZE: 10 servings

Instructions
 

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
  • Combine the sugar and orange zest in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Rub them together between your fingertips, working the orange zest into the sugar until it’s evenly dispersed and very fragrant.
  • Add the butter to the sugar in the bowl, and mix together on medium speed for a minute, until light and fluffy.
  • With the mixer running on low, add the egg. Once it’s incorporated, add the yolk, and then the vanilla extract.
  • Continue to mix on low speed and gradually stream in the flour mixture. Stop when just a few streaks of flour remain. Finish mixing by hand, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure everything is well-mixed.
  • Divide the dough in half – if you are using a kitchen scale, you should get two 13-oz portions. Form the dough into disks and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, until chilled and firm.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C). Line a 9-inch cake pan or springform pan with a circle of parchment paper, and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Roll out one half of the dough into a 9” circle, and carefully transfer it into the cake pan. Use your fingers to push it into place and mend any rips or tears.
  • Spoon the cranberry sauce onto the dough, and spread it out to the edges of the cake in an even layer.
  • Roll out the second half of the dough into another circle, and place it on top of the cranberry sauce.
  • Lightly brush the top of the dough with water or beaten egg, and sprinkle granulated sugar on top.
  • Bake the cake at 350 F for 35-40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden.
  • Let the cake cool at room temperature for 20 minutes, then remove it from the pan and let it cool completely on a wire rack. (See Note below for unmolding instructions if you are using a cake pan without a removable bottom.)
  • Cranberry Sauce Cake can be kept, well-wrapped, for 3 days at room temperature and up to a week in the refrigerator. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months. Let it defrost in the refrigerator overnight, and let it come to room temperature before serving. Serve plain, with whipped cream, or with a scoop of ice cream on top!

Recipe Notes

It is easiest to unmold the cake if you use a cake pan with a removable bottom or springform pan. If you are using a cake pan without a removable bottom, let it cool completely in the pan before attempting removal. Run a small metal spatula or knife around the edge to loosen it, then place a cake cardboard or plate directly on top of the cake. Flip the pan upside-down, so the top of the cake rests on the board, and remove the pan. Peel off the parchment paper. Place your serving plate on the bottom of the cake, and flip it over again so the cake is right-side up on the plate.

MEASURING TIPS

Our recipes are developed using weight measurements, and we highly recommend using a kitchen scale for baking whenever possible. However, if you prefer to use cups, volume measurements are provided as well. PLEASE NOTE: the adage “8 oz = 1 cup” is NOT true when speaking about weight, so don’t be concerned if the measurements don’t fit this formula.

Click here to learn more about baking measurements and conversion.

Nutrition

Calories: 374 kcal | Carbohydrates: 56 g | Protein: 5 g | Fat: 15 g | Saturated Fat: 9 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4 g | Trans Fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 72 mg | Sodium: 235 mg | Potassium: 97 mg | Fiber: 1 g | Sugar: 29 g | Vitamin A: 489 IU | Vitamin C: 1 mg | Calcium: 33 mg | Iron: 2 mg
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Picture of Cranberry Sauce Cake with text overlay for Pinterest.

About Elizabeth LaBau

I’m Elizabeth, but you can call me SugarHero! I’m a former pastry chef turned blogger, cookbook author, and baking instructor, and I consider myself sugar’s #1 fan. Learn more from my About page, or connect with me on social media:

What You'll Need
Editor's Note

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, which is an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  For more information, see my Disclaimer and Disclosure Policy.

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