This Cranberry Upside Down Cake is the perfect recipe if you are looking for something special to add to your holiday dessert table! The cranberries not only look gorgeous sitting on top of the cake, but they add a nice, tart contrast to the brown sugar syrup, which soaks into the buttery, rich cake underneath.
Note: this post was originally published in 2018, and updated in 2020 with new photos and improved instructions. The recipe has also been improved to be even more delicious!
If you want to make something a little different (and super impressive!) for your upcoming autumn or winter celebrations, you can't go wrong with this glorious Cranberry Upside Down Cake!
The beautiful cranberries on top are super eye-catching, and the tart flavor goes so well with the rich, tender butter cake underneath. Plus, this recipe has lots of brown sugar syrup, which is not only super yummy, but it helps flavor the cake and keeps it nice and moist!
If you are looking for other interesting cake recipes to serve at an upcoming holiday celebration, check out my desserts page for more inspiration!
- Milk: I recommend using either 2% or whole milk. I haven't make this recipe using skim milk; I'm sure it would still bake up fine, but the cake may just be slightly less rich.
- Brown sugar: you can use either light or dark brown sugar. I used dark brown sugar because I like that extra bit of deep flavor!
- Butter: you will need unsalted butter for this recipe.
Step by step photos
1. To make the cranberry topping, first melt the butter in a skillet, then add the sugars and water, cook until the sugar starts to dissolve.
2. Then, add the cranberries and cook until they start to pop and soften slightly.
3. Strain out the cranberries from the pan and add them to a cake tin that has been lined with parchment paper and greased.
4. Continue cooking the liquid in the pan until it is syrupy, then pour it over the cranberries.
5. To make the cake batter, first cream together the softened butter and brown and granulated sugar.
6. Then, whisk in the eggs one at a time.
7. Then, whisk in the dry ingredients in small batches, alternating with the milk. Whisk in the vanilla.
8. Add the cake batter on top of the cranberries and smooth it to the edges. Bake the cake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean!
Tips and tricks
- For extra insurance against the cranberries sticking to the bottom of the pan, I highly recommend lining the bottom with parchment paper before greasing. This will help ensure your cake is picture perfect!
- Also, keep watch when you are cooking your cranberries. When they start to pop, there may be a little bit of spatter. It helps to use a long-handled spoon or spatula!
- Please make sure the eggs, milk, and butter for the cake are all at room temperature before mixing. If you add cold eggs and milk to the butter, the batter may split. If this happens though, don't worry too much. The cake will still taste good!
Since the abundance of fruit and moisture in this cake, if you are going to keep it for longer than a couple hours, you will need to store it in the fridge. Just use a cake storage container, or cover it loosely with plastic wrap (so as not to disturb the cranberries on top too much).
If stored properly in the fridge as described above, the cake will keep for 2 - 3 days. However, I think the cake tastes the best freshly made, and, ideally, when it's still slightly warm from the oven. (It also tastes good at room temperature though!)
If you have leftovers and want to enjoy a slice the next day, I recommend microwaving it by the slice, just until it's slightly warm. This will really enhance the tender texture of the butter cake.
As I said above, the cake tastes wonderful slightly warm or even at room temperature. You can serve it as-is (with coffee or tea!), or to really go for it, dollop on freshly whipped cream or add a scoop of vanilla ice cream!
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Cranberry Upside Down Cake
What a beautiful dessert to wow at your next holiday party! Cranberries add a festive touch to the classic upside down cake. The cake itself is buttery and really moist, thanks to loads of brown sugar syrup.
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hours 15 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Method: bake
- Cuisine: American
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (½ stick)
- ¼ cup water
- 1 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- Pinch of fine salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (scooped and leveled)
- ⅔ cup milk, at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 350°
- Line the bottom of a 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper. Grease the bottom and sides of the pan with butter or nonstick spray, set aside.
- To prepare the fruit layer, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the 1 cup packed brown sugar, ⅓ cup granulated sugar, ¼ cup water and pinch of salt. Stir to combine. Once the sugar begins to dissolve, add the cranberries.
- Stir the mixture frequently until the cranberries start to pop and soften, about 3 - 4 minutes. (Be careful, there may be a bit of splatter when the berries start to pop!) To avoid burning the sugar, turn the heat down to medium low if necessary.
- Remove the pan from the heat and allow the sugar syrup to stop bubbling. Then, remove the cranberries from the pan with a slotted spoon and place in the prepared pan in an even layer.
- Place the pan back on medium heat, and allow the sugar mixture to continue reducing in the pan for another 3 - 4 minutes, or until syrupy. Stir frequently and watch the pan to avoid burning the sugar, turn the heat down if necessary. Once the syrup has reduced, pour on top of the fruit in an even layer.
- To make the cake batter, cream together the 8 tablespoons softened butter with the ¼ cup packed brown sugar and ½ cup granulated sugar in a large bowl. (See notes.) Whisk in the eggs, one at a time.
- Whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder in a separate bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients gradually, alternating with the milk. Whisk in the vanilla. Continue whisking just until the batter is smooth, but do not overmix.
- Pour batter on top of the cranberries, spreading gently to the edges of the pan.
- Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Wait 10 minutes before turning over onto a cake stand or plate.
I used a wooden spoon to cream together the butter and sugar, then switched to a whisk to finish making the cake batter. If the butter is at room temperature, this should be easy to do. However, if you like, you can use a hand mixer instead.
Make sure the eggs, butter (for the cake), and milk are all at room temperature, otherwise the cake batter may split.
The parchment paper is really important here, it is extra insurance that none of the beautiful cranberry top will stick to the pan. If you don't have parchment paper, use extra care to apply lots of butter or oil to the pan!
The cake tastes best the day it is made, but can be stored, covered in the fridge, for 2 - 3 days.
Keywords: upside down cake, cranberry cake, cranberry upside down cake