Looking for something seasonal and cheery for the holiday dessert table? Then try this delicious cranberry upside down cake.
Fresh cranberries are widely available in the fall and early winter, and their glazed ruby red color makes a gorgeous layer atop a moist blonde cake.
A twist on the classic pineapple version, this dessert has a wonderful sweetly tart flavor with a hint of citrus, and the cake texture is light and fluffy – the perfect complement to the zesty fruit topping.
This is a recent addition to my holiday baking menu, but it was such a hit at the family Christmas dinner last year, it’ll now be making a regular appearance!
The cake recipe comes from my mum’s vintage Best of Blue Ribbon cookbook, and the topping is the same as for any fruity upside down recipe – but using cranberries, orange zest and juice, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
And for more fun holiday baking ideas, lend your hand to creating a gorgeous royal icing for sugar cookies cut into fun shapes, or these colorful homemade jelly squares – and prepare for the praise to come!
|8 slices||20 minutes|
|Cook Time||Passive Time|
|60 minutes||20 minutes|
For a colorful addition to the holiday dessert table, this cranberry upside down cake makes a bright statement that tastes great, too.
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar firmly packed
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
- 8 ounces whole fresh cranberries (2 1/2 cups)
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice divided (from about 1 medium-sized orange)
- 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (optional, to replace 2 tbsp. orange juice)
- 1 tablespoon orange zest (from about 1/2 medium-sized orange)
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature (1 stick)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs room temperature and separated
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Grease a 9-inch round cake pan and preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Place the brown sugar, ½ stick butter cut into small pieces, and 2 tablespoons orange juice in the pan, and place in the oven. Watch as the butter melts and sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally to spread mixture around the pan. When mixture begins to bubble, remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
- Place the cranberries, 2 tablespoons orange juice or orange liqueur, orange zest, and cinnamon in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Continue to cook until about half the berries have popped, stirring often. Pour over the cooled brown sugar mixture in the cake pan.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until lighter in color and fluffy.
- Add the vanilla to the butter mixture, then beat in the egg yolks one at a time.
- Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk to the batter, mixing between additions, ending with the flour mixture.
- In a separate bowl, add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and beat to form soft peaks.
- Gently fold the egg whites into the batter, being careful not to over mix.
- Spoon batter over the berry mixture and spread gently to the edges of the pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until golden and the cake has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan.
- Cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes, then invert and continue to cool for another 5 minutes before carefully removing the pan.
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prepare and Organize
If the cranberries are frozen, allow them to defrost fully on the counter, or in the refrigerator overnight.
Pull the eggs and 1 1/2 sticks of butter from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Separate the egg yolks from the whites.
Organize the rest of your ingredients, tools, and baking utensils. Cut ½ stick of butter into small pieces. Juice and zest the oranges. I like to use a microplane or citrus zester, and a glass citrus reamer.
Step 2 – Caramelize the Brown Sugar
Lightly coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan with vegetable oil.
Turn the oven on to 350°F.
To the cake pan, add the brown sugar, the small pieces of butter, and half of the orange juice (2 tablespoons), then place the pan in the oven while it preheats. Be sure to keep an eye on it, because you don’t want the butter and sugar to burn.
As the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, stir and spread it evenly around the pan with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon. Once it begins to bubble, remove the pan from the oven, stir thoroughly, and allow it to cool on a wire rack.
Step 3 – Prepare the Fruit
To a medium pot, add the cranberries, remaining 2 tablespoons orange juice, orange zest, and cinnamon.
For an added flavor intensive, you can replace the orange juice with 2 tablespoons of an orange-flavored liqueur such as Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or Triple Sec.
Bring to a simmer, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until about half of the berries have popped. Remove from the stove, and pour evenly over the cooled brown sugar mixture. Set aside.
Step 4 – Mix the Cake Batter
Into a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl with an electric beater or in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until thoroughly mixed and fluffy.
Add the vanilla, then beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.
To the butter and egg mixture, add the sifted flour mix and milk gradually and alternately, starting and ending with the flour, and scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed. Set batter aside.
Step 5 – Beat the Egg Whites
Add the egg whites and cream of tartar to a large bowl or cleaned bowl for the stand mixer. Make sure the bowl is not warm. If you just washed it, stick it in the freezer for a few minutes first. You don’t want your egg whites to deflate from the hot temperature if your bowl retains heat.
Using an electric mixer with clean, dry beaters, whip the egg whites until they form a slight peak. Gently fold the egg whites into the stiff batter using a large rubber spatula, adding them one large scoop at a time for 3 or 4 scoops total. Do not over mix.
Step 6 – Add the Batter to the Pan and Bake
Spoon the batter gently over the top of the prepared berries, spreading lightly but evenly to the edges of the pan.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, the center is firm, and the edges of the cake have just pulled away from the pan walls.
Step 7 – Cool and Serve
Allow the cake to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before carefully turning onto a flat plate. Allow to sit for another 5 minutes before lifting the pan away. Cool completely.
Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream.
Bright and Beautiful
This cake is so pretty, it’s almost too hard to cut into it – but go ahead and slice away, the flavor and texture are every bit as wonderful as this festive dessert looks!
Fresh berries are best, but frozen work well too. And taking the time to add the whipped egg whites separately is important. It’s a bit more work than adding whole eggs to the batter would be, but it makes the cake texture ever so light.
And remember, to ensure the fruit releases from the pan, allow the cake to cool before turning and lifting the pan away.
Do you readers have any questions or favorite recipes for baking with berries? Drop us a line in the comments below. And check out some of our other seasonal favorites, like this decadent spiced eggnog cheesecake or these super-cute brownie cookies.
Or if you are searching for more tasty cranberry recipes, try out these tasty selections:
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Photos by Lorna Kring, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.See our TOS for more details. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Lorna Kring
Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.