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Cranberry Gooey Butter Bars

 Cranberry Gooey Butter Bars are a holiday spin on the classic gooey butter cake! These bars are tart, tangy, and sweet and oh so pretty when dusted with powdered sugar.

Close up of a cranberry gooey butter bar, topped with whipped cream, on a white plate

As I mentioned yesterday in my post for Frosted Ginger Cookies, it’s full-on holiday treat factory over here. And while I love baking our favorite Christmas cookies, I think bar desserts need a little love around the holidays too.

My gooey butter cookies are some of my favorites, so when the holiday season rolled around I knew I wanted to try a seasonal twist on this classic flavor.

And honestly, what food is more festive during the holidays than cranberries?

Dessert bars are great for the holidays because they are perfectly portioned and are easier to make than cookies.

These cake bars are similar to cranberry crumb bars and cranberry bliss bars, but have a wonderful sweetened cream cheese filling that balances the tart berries.

Ingredients for gooey butter bars arranged on a blue and white tiled countertop

INGREDIENTS FOR CRANBERRY CAKE BARS

One reason I like this recipe is because it uses a shortcut of boxed cake mix, which I find essential during the holidays! 

However, if you prefer to make your own, you can use about 3 cups homemade yellow cake mix instead. 

Wooden spoon stirring together the cake batter base for gooey butter bars in a white mixing bowl

To make these cranberry bars, you’ll need:

  • 1 15.25-ounce box yellow cake mix
  • Unsalted butter
  • Eggs
  • Fresh cranberries
  • 1 orange, for zesting
  • Powdered sugar
  • Cream cheese

You’ll want to make sure the cream cheese is at room temperature before using, so check out my tips for how to soften cream cheese.

If you need the recipe to be gluten free, simply swap in your favorite gluten-free cake mix.

Whole cranberries on top of cake batter in a parchment-lined baking dish

HOW TO MAKE CRANBERRY GOOEY BUTTER BARS 

This recipe has two parts: a cake base and the cranberry cream cheese filling.

First, preheat your oven to 350°F. Grab a large 9×13-inch cake pan and line it with parchment paper, then spray with nonstick spray. 

This double method prevents the cake from sticking, and allows you to remove it from the pan for easy slicing.

Spatula stirring together the cream cheese mixture for gooey butter bars in a white bowl

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, melted butter, egg, and orange zest until completely blended. 

Be sure to use fresh zest from an orange, not prepackaged orange peel. A microplane is a great tool for zesting, but you can also use the smallest holes of your box grater.

The batter won’t be as runny as if you were making a standard cake. Press it evenly into the pan to form the cake bar crust.

Unbaked cranberry gooey butter bars in a parchment-lined baking dish

Scatter on the cranberries as evenly as possible.

In another bowl, mix together the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, and orange zest. A hand mixer is the best tool for blending, or you can use a stand mixer. It should be smooth and free of any lumps.

Once blended, mix in the melted butter, then mix in each egg separately. Be sure to stop and scrape the sides of the bowl as you mix so everything is well-blended.

Baked gooey butter bars in a parchment-lined baking dish, set on a blue and white tiled table

Pour the cream cheese mixture over the top of the cranberries. If needed, rearrange the cranberries so they are evenly dispersed.

Bake the cranberry bars until the top is set and golden. There might be some bubbles or browned spots; that’s OK!

Cut gooey butter bars set on a piece of parchment paper on a tiled counter

Let cool to room temperature, then cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to set completely. 

When you’re ready to serve, cut into squares and top with whipped cream or a dusting of powdered sugar.

White plates with pieces of whipped-cream-topped gooey butter bars. one bar has a bite taken out of the corner

STORAGE TIPS

These cranberry bars will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days. 

Be sure to keep them chilled due to the cream cheese.

If you like, you can freeze cranberry cake bars. Cut into individual portions and wrap with plastic wrap, then store in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.

These cranberry gooey butter bars are such a great treat. You’ll love how easy they are to whip up for your next holiday celebration!

Two white plates with slices of gooey butter bars, each topped with whipped cream, set on a blue countertop
Close up of a cranberry gooey butter bar, topped with whipped cream, on a white plate

Cranberry Gooey Butter Bars

Yield: 12 bars
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Chill Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 5 minutes

 Cranberry Gooey Butter Bars are a holiday spin on the classic gooey butter cake! These bars are tart, tangy, and sweet and oh so pretty when dusted with powdered sugar.

Ingredients

For the Cake Base:

  • 1 box (15.25 ounces) yellow cake mix
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest

For the Filling:

  • 3 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 3 large eggs

Topping:

  • Powdered sugar or whipped cream

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line bottom of 13x9-inch pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix cake base ingredients until well blended. Press evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. 
  3. Spread cranberries evenly over the cake base layer. 
  4. In another large bowl, beat cream cheese and 2 cups powdered sugar, and orange zest with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined and smooth. Beat in 1/2 cup melted butter and the eggs, one at a time. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Pour and evenly spread the batter into pan over the cranberries.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and center is set. Place pan on a wire rack and cool completely. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  6. When ready to serve, top with whipped cream or a light dusting of powdered sugar.

Notes

Adapted from Betty Crocker

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Nutrition Information
Yield 12 Serving Size 1 bar
Amount Per Serving Calories 513Total Fat 25gSaturated Fat 15gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 8gCholesterol 122mgSodium 404mgCarbohydrates 69gFiber 2gSugar 49gProtein 5g

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