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Cranberry Upside Down Cake

Cranberry upside down cake is a perfectly tart and sweet dessert for the fall and winter. This cake recipe is a variation of my easy clementine upside down cake. I’ve swapped out the buttermilk for regular milk, because we don’t always have buttermilk on hand. This upside down cake is studded with fresh cranberries and it makes a delicious addition to your holiday dessert table.slice of cranberry upside down cake on stacked white plates with cake in background

What I like most about this cake is the lack of sweetness. That’s not to say it isn’t sweet, it is, but it isn’t overly sweet. The tartness of the cranberries combined with the hefty amount of orange zest offsets the sugar. It is nicely balanced with a cake batter that is just barely sweet. And, it’s great with a cup of coffee in the afternoon, in case you were wondering.

Cranberry Upside down cake

I love desserts, this is not a secret. Some people like over the top, more is better, super rich desserts. These are not for me. I like desserts that offer more than a sugar rush. I need something to counter the sugar – like lemon, or in this case, cranberries.

cranberry orange cake on cooling rack

When I see fresh cranberries in the store, I know fall has arrived. As we say goodbye to warm temperatures and hello to the chill in the air, I welcome all the fall flavors. There is more spice in baked goods. Pumpkin, butternut and acorn squash are on every menu and cranberries start popping up in everything from muffins to side dishes or even a delicious cranberry chutney.

How to make upside down cake

First, you’ll need to use your deepest cake pan. Meaning, the one with the tallest sides. I like to bake this cake in a 9 x 3 cake pan, but I realize that most people have the regular 9″ cake pans that are 2 inches deep. I did use a 9 x 2 pan to bake this cake, just to make sure the recipe worked. It did, but I’ll tell you, I was holding my breath about the cake spilling over. It did not, but it was a close call.

If you have a 9 x 3 cake pan, this is the time to use it. Those high sides will give your cake nice, straight sides and you won’t have to obsessively look through the oven glass to make sure it isn’t spilling over.orange cranberry cake slice on plate with gold forks on red napkin

Before you begin, make sure that you have everything measured out and ready to go. Don’t measure as you go, because this recipe calls for just a little multitasking. As with any recipe, read it all the way through before you start. This saves you the heartache of being halfway through the cake batter, only to realize you are missing an ingredient. I speak from experience.

If you have  a non-stick cake pan, use it. If not, check out the link at the bottom of the post for parchment paper rounds. I made this cake without them once. Just once. It stuck to the pan because of the sugar and I was gutted.

Making cranberry upside down cake

  1. Read through the recipe and make sure you have all of the ingredients and equipment.
  2. Preheat oven. Whisk dry ingredients together.
  3. Melt butter in pan, then add orange juice and cranberries.
  4. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla together, then add eggs.
  5. Add flour, milk and orange juice to batter.
  6. Scoop batter on top of warm cranberries, smooth the top and bake! 

Cranberry Orange Upside Down Cake

The first time I made this cake, I had a tasting for potential new clients and I decided to bake a cake for the tasting. I was out and saw fresh cranberries, so I grabbed them (like any sane person would do) and went home to bake. I didn’t really have a “recipe”, other than the clementine cake. 

So, I made the cake and took it to my prospective clients without ever tasting it! This was either going to be an epic failure or this was going to be the hail mary pass that wins the game. I was feeling fairly confident, so I went with it. 

upside down cake on white plate with orange slice and cake in background

I walked into the tasting with cake in hand and when they started to inquire about it, I flat out told them “I have no idea, I’ve never had it before”. Lucky for me, the risk paid off.

Since that day, I’ve made this cake every year. At least once, but usually a few times. If you like cranberries, or you like a little tart with your sweet, this is the cake for you.

What do I need to make this cranberry cake?

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You likely have most of what you need already, but here are a few necessities and a couple nice to haves.

– If you bake cakes often, invest in a good cake pan. I promise, you’ll be glad you did. This 9″ cake pan is not terribly expensive and it is well made.

– You only bake once or twice a year? This 9 x 2 cake pan is a great price and I own some of their bakeware. It’s a good middle of the road pan.

– Possibly one of the greatest things ever invented – 9 inch parchment paper rounds. These pre cut pieces of parchment paper go directly on the bottom of your pan creating a layer between the pan and your cake making it easy to remove with no sticking.

Small offset spatula – When you scoop the cake batter on top of the cranberries, you’ll need to smooth the top before putting the cake in the oven. This offset spatula is small enough to allow you to get in the pan easily without hitting the side of the cake pan.

– An electric hand mixer is all you’ll need to mix up this cake batter. If you prefer to use a stand mixer, this is an excellent choice.

Liquid measuring cup – the old Pyrex glass measuring cup that your Granny used is still the best. It pours easily and mine has been used for almost twenty years.

Rubber spatulas – I love this set because it includes a scraping spatula! You need that for getting the bottom of the bowl. Love it.

Dry measuring cups – I like these because they have “in between” sizes and markings on the cups.
slice of cranberry orange upside down cake on white plate with sliced cake

What can I serve with this cranberry upside down cake?

This cranberry upside down cake is slightly tart and it is not at all a heavy cake, so you can serve it with richer foods or foods with lots of flavor. Because it is fall, one of our favorite midweek dinner is this one pan chicken sausage and vegetables. It is quick and easy, plus it is delicious.

If we are indulging a bit, we absolutely love this langostino mac and cheese. On a weekend night when I’m having friends over for dinner and serving this cake for dessert, I’ll make this stuffed pork loin roast.

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I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! Please consider rating and/or commenting. I love hearing from you! Did you make this cranberry upside down cake? Tag me on instagram @pookspantry or share it in the Fabulous Foodie Friends Facebook group! I can’t wait to see your version!

Yield: 1 cake

Cranberry Orange Upside Down Cake

Cranberry Orange Upside Down Cake

A slightly sweet, slightly tart citrusy cake topped with fresh cranberries.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 heaping tbsp. orange zest
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 1/3 cup AP flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 lg eggs, room temp
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. whole milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat zest, 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla on medium high speed with electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Set aside.
  4. Add 1/2 cup of butter to a 9 inch round cake pan, and place in oven to melt.
  5. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 cup of sugar to melted butter in cake pan and whisk to combine. Place pan back in the oven and when butter has started to bubble and just barely brown, add 2 tbsp. orange juice and whisk to combine. Add cranberries and place back in the oven for 5 minutes.
  6. While pan is in the oven, add eggs to butter mixture, one at a time, with the mixer on low speed.
  7. Beat until fully incorporated, then add flour mixture in 2 batches alternating with the milk and remaining orange juice.
  8. Remove pan from oven.
  9. Gently scoop batter on top of cranberries and smooth top with an offset spatula.
  10. Bake until cake is golden and puffed and a cake tester (knife) comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
  11. Transfer to a wire rack to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
  12. Run a knife (or offset spatula) around the edge of the pan to loosen cake, then invert onto wire rack to cool completely.

Notes

If you are using a 9x2 cake pan and you're nervous about it spilling over, leave about 1/2 - 3/4 cup of the batter behind. You can bake a few cupcakes with that batter.

Place parchment circle in pan before adding butter, if you are using. Be gentle when whisking so you don't tear it.


If you are not serving the same day, wrap cake very well in plastic wrap while still warm (not hot) and place in freezer. Thaw at room temp (not in refrigerator) for a few hours before serving.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

9

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 412Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 96mgSodium: 361mgCarbohydrates: 52gFiber: 1gSugar: 35gProtein: 4g

Nutrition information calculated by a third-party company as a courtesy. It is intended as a guideline only.

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