Cranberry Upside Down Cake

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This is probably TMI, but for years I’ve harbored a fantasy of creating a holiday card of me lying in bathtub covered with cranberries. Sort of like that Annie Lebovitz portrait of Whoopi Goldberg in a tub of milk, but holiday themed, with cranberries.

It’s a fun idea visually, in my mind, which is where it will likely stay. (How many cranberries does it take to fill a bathtub?)

You too can fantasize about swimming in a sea of cranberries, especially if they are baked into an upside down cake like this one. Cranberry jewels surrounded by a caramelized sauce cover the surface and bleed their tart sweet flavor into a dense, orange-zest speckled cake.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

Upside down cakes are somewhat of an obsession around here. We love our pineapple version (the most requested cake at our family gatherings), and my father is known for trying every upside down cake recipe he sees.

He gave this cranberry cake his seal of approval, by coming back for more, even after I sent him home with half the cake.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake Recipe

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  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 8 to 10

Baking times will vary, depending on the brand of flour, size of pan, thickness of sour cream. The batter should be gloppy, not runny, so add a little more flour to get to gloppy if your batter is too thin. Some readers have needed to cook this cake longer than the baking times indicated, so definitely test before turning out!

Ingredients

Topping

  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp (1/4 cup or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries

Cake

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Scant pinch ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temp (plus more for buttering the pan)
  • 1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or greek yogurt)
  • 1/4 cup of milk

Equipment

  • A 9-inch cake pan with at least 2-inch high sides

Method

1 Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch diameter cake pan.

2 In a small saucepan, place the 1/4 cup of butter and the 3/4 cups of packed brown sugar. On medium high heat, stir the sugar as the butter melts. Once the butter is melted and mixed in well with the sugar, stop stirring and let the mixture simmer for 15 seconds or so.

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3 Pour the brown sugar butter mixture into the prepared cake pan. Spread the cranberries on top of the sugar butter mixture.

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4 Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl vigorously whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, and ground cloves.

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5 In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until light. Add the sugar and beat together the sugar and butter until fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the orange zest.

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6 Mix a third of the dry ingredients into the mixture. Beat in half of the sour cream. Mix in another third of the dry ingredients.  Mix in the remaining sour cream. Beat in the remaining dry ingredients and then the milk.

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7 Pour batter over the cranberries in the cake pan, and smooth the surface.

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Place in the preheated oven and lower the heat from 350°F to 325°F. Bake until a tester comes out clean, 55 minutes to an hour. Cool cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes.

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Run a blunt knife around the inside rim of the cake pan to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Then turn the cake out onto a platter.

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Cranberry Upside Down Cake

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Showing 4 of 160 Comments

  • Sally

    Haven’t tried your cranberry cake yet .. Looks delicious … Just had to mention …. You will not need too many cranberries in your bathtub because cranberries float!! Enjoy!

  • Lisanna

    I don’t like really sweet desserts, so I reduced the sugar (and I used coconut sugar in the cake). The recipe still tastes delicious with just 1/4 c sugar with the butter and 3/4 c sugar in the cake! I’m going to try a pan version too, to serve more people.

  • Marg Reffle

    I made this to take to my brothers for Christmas dessert (I always bring 2 desserts, and always new recipes that I haven’t made before). I made it a couple of days ahead, when I had time before it got crazy. It was a very easy and yummy dessert. I don’t bake much, but I would make it again because it was so easy.

  • Peggy P

    I made this today and it is just wonderful! I followed the recipe exactly and wouldn’t change a thing. That being said I did have an issue with the pan size. I used a 9″ round 2″ deep cake pan and I kind of knew when I added the cranberries that my pan wasn’t deep enough and I knew it for sure when I added the batter lol! In the end it all worked out and I had a delicious cake. Just a word of caution make sure that your pan really is a full 2″ deep. Mine was supposed to be but with batter to the brim before baking I’m beginning to doubt the pan’s markings. I’ve just loved every recipe that I’ve made from your site! Thanks!

  • Claire

    I made this cake with a slight variation for Thanksgiving and it was delicious! I replaced a quarter-cup of the flour with cornmeal to add more of a rustic, autumnal feel, and it was a success. Not too corny at all, just a subtle difference. I might even up the cornmeal to 1/3 or even a half next time to see what happens… Thanks for another home-run recipe, Elise!

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