Buttermilk Cranberry Cake – I Wash You Dry

Amanda M. Rye

This Buttermilk Cranberry Cake is filled with plump cranberries in a moist and tender buttermilk cake. Perfect for a light breakfast or simple dessert on any holiday table. 

A much simpler version of my Cranberry Orange Almond Cake and is buttery, fluffy, and filled with juicy cranberries! 

Sliced of baked Cranberry Buttermilk Cake on white plate with gold fork.

If you’re looking for an easy cranberry dessert for Thanksgiving or Christmas, this is it. It’s light and fluffy from the buttermilk, and a little bit of lemon to make the cranberry flavor pop! 

Buttermilk Cranberry Cake

When it comes to cranberry breakfast cake, fresh or frozen cranberries are best. If you only have dried cranberries, I’ll walk you through the process of how to rehydrate them. 

Ingredients Needed

Here’s the basic list of ingredients you’ll need in order to whip up this tasty Buttermilk Cranberry Cake recipe. As always, you can find the full list of ingredients located in the printable recipe card below.

  • Butter – salted
  • Sugar – white granulated
  • Vanilla
  • Egg
  • Milk – whole 
  • Lemon
  • Flour – all purpose
  • Baking Soda
  • Salt
  • Fresh Cranberries – you can use frozen if thawed, or rehydrate them if dried. 

Ingredients for Buttermilk Cranberry Cake in glass bowls on a metal baking pan with green dish towel.

How To Make Buttermilk Cranberry Cake

The best thing about this cranberry buttermilk cake is that it comes together quickly and can be prepared ahead!


In a small bowl, measure out the milk and add in juice from half a lemon, about 2 Tablespoons. Let sit 5-10 minutes until the milk curdles. Set aside. 


Start by mixing melted butter, white granulated sugar, and vanilla together in a large mixing bowl.

Butter, sugar, and vanilla in a white mixing bowl with whisk.


Add in the egg and whisk well for 1-2 minutes. This will help dissolve the sugar and make the texture nice and smooth.  

Next, pour in the buttermilk and whisk into the mixture. 

Pouring buttermilk from white pitcher into mixing bowl with whisk.


Add in the flour, salt, and baking soda. Mix with a spoon until a batter forms. 

PRO TIP: Be careful not to over-mix the batter. Mix just until all of the flour pockets are gone to keep the cake nice and fluffy. Over-mixing can cause the cake to be chewier. 

Pouring red dish of dry ingredients into white mixing bowl.


Last of all, add the cranberries and fold into the batter gently to prevent over-mixing. Transfer to a 9×9 baking dish, spread smooth, and sprinkle sugar over the top of the cake.

Cranberries in buttermilk batter in white mixing bowl.


Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes if using a metal or dark pan

If using a glass or ceramic pan or an 8×8 baking dish, baking times will vary and may take up to 50 minutes. Add 5 minutes at a time until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. 

Spreading raw buttermilk cranberry cake batter into metal pan with spatula.

Can I use Dried or Frozen Cranberries? 

Yes! If using frozen, thaw completely and drain before using to prevent raw pockets in the cake when baked. 

If using dried, you’ll need to rehydrate the cranberries. 

How To Rehydrate Dried Cranberries 

Here’s a super simple way to rehydrate dried cranberries to use in this recipe. 

  1. Measure out the desired amount of dried cranberries into a heat-safe mixing bowl. 3/4 cup dried cranberries would equal about 1 cup fresh cranberries in a recipe.
  2. Pour boiling water over dried cranberries until covered.
  3. Let sit for 15-20 minutes and drain before using in the recipe. 

Cranberry buttermilk cake baked, sliced, in a metal pan.

Recipe Tips and Variations

  • You can use regular buttermilk in this recipe in place of whole milk. But don’t skip the lemon; just add the juice to the batter. The extra zing is worth it! 
  • You can use raw sugar or turbinado sugar sprinkled over the top of the cake for a little more texture. It’s amazing! 
  • Swap out an orange for the lemon for an orange-cranberry combo. 

Sliced cranberry breakfast cake in metal pan with slices removed.


Can This Cake Be Made Ahead?

Yes! Here’s how to make cranberry breakfast cake ahead. It’s so easy! 

  • Prepare the recipe as directed, but do not bake.
  • Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  • Rest at room temperature while the oven preheats. 
  • Bake as directed; add 5-10 minutes to the baking time since the cake was refrigerated and the batter cold. 

Slice of baked cranberry buttermilk cake on white plate with gold fork in it.

More Cranberry Recipes

Need a few more easy cranberry recipes? Here are a few to try…

Whether you’re making this Buttermilk Cranberry Cake for a delicious Thanksgiving breakfast or dessert, I’m sure you’ll love it! 

Sliced of baked Cranberry Buttermilk Cake on white plate with gold fork.

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Buttermilk Cranberry Cake

This Buttermilk Cranberry Cake is a perfect breakfast or simple dessert for any holiday table. 

Prep Time15 mins

Cook Time35 mins

0 mins

Total Time50 mins

Course: Breakfast, Dessert

Cuisine: American

Servings: 9

Calories: 214 kcal

Author: Sara Smith


  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice (½ lemon)
  • ½ cup salted butter, melted
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar, for sprinkling on top


  • Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9×9 inch baking pan. Zest the lemon before using.

  • In a small bowl combine milk and lemon juice. Set aside and let sit for 5 minutes.

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine melted butter, sugar, and vanilla extract and mix well. Add in egg and whisk for 1-2 minutes until smooth and creamy.

  • Add buttermilk to the mixture and whisk together.

  • Add in the flour, salt, and baking soda and mix together until batter forms and flour pockets are gone. Fold in cranberries gently, careful not to overmix.

  • Transfer to prepared baking pan, spread batter evenly and sprinkle 1-2 Tablespoons of sugar on top. Bake on a middle rack for 35-45 minutes, until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Sprinkle the lemon zest on top. Cool for 10 minutes, slice and serve. Enjoy!

Make Ahead: 
Prepare recipe as directed, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Let rest at room temperature while oven is reheating and bake. Add 5-10 minutes to baking time since batter will be cold from fridge. 
If using a glass or ceramic pan, baking may take 5-10 minutes longer than listed in recipe. 


Calories: 214kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 47mg | Sodium: 507mg | Potassium: 53mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 377IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 77mg | Iron: 0.3mg

Keywords: Buttermilk Cranberry Cake, Cranberry Breakfast Cake, Cranberry Cake

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