Upside Down Cranberry Cake is the ultimate fall and winter dessert! This twist on a classic upside down cake features a fluffy, tangy cake and a perfectly balanced homemade cranberry topping. Whether you need a cake for Thanksgiving, Christmas or any gathering this season, this festive cake is great for sharing! Makes 8 servings.
It’s one of my favorite days of the quarter! It’s Freaky Friday… and as always, I’m thrilled to be sharing this new recipe with y’all, as well as introduce you to one of the bloggers I’ve gotten to know through this collaboration.
Julie is the mastermind behind Hostess at Heart, and like me, she loves to entertain.
Whether it’s hanging out with friends and family or planning a special event, Julie keeps her recipes simple, inexpensive and impressive enough to make her people feel special.
A mom of two and grandmother of one, Julie started her blog to share her love of cooking with family and friends. And she’s certainly inspired me this fall to do some baking!
When I was first assigned her site, I struggled with what recipe to choose. Should I bake her Cranberry Apple Streusel Bread? Or maybe her Dutch Apple Kolaches since we adore kolaches? Maybe her Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie or her Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake would be better for the fall?
In the end, I landed on her Cranberry Upside-Down Cake recipe because I love a good upside down cake.
Also, because cranberries are my favorite bounty of the fall months.
Why I love this recipe
This Upside Down Cranberry Cake has a lovely crunch on the exterior and a beautiful crumb.
The cake itself has a lovely tang, almost like that of a sour cream cake.
The cranberry topping shines, too, adding both color and the perfect amount of sweetness to make for a stunning dessert.
We served ours with sweetened whipped cream, and the balance of everything on the plates was sheer perfection.
Looking for specific type of cake or cupcake? Check out my Cake Recipe Index for inspiration.
So what is Freaky Friday?
It’s an old-fashioned blog hop.
A blog hop is a collaboration between bloggers where everyone shares a post on the same day and we link to one another after our posts are live.
Everyone is secretly assigned another blogger, whose website we make a recipe from. We make the recipe, photograph it like it was our own, write a post about it and share it on the selected Friday in the hopes that we help YOU (yes, you, dear reader!) discover new recipes and new bloggers to follow!
For previous Freaky Friday exchanges, I’ve made Shortbread Brown Butter Cookies, Boozy Bacon Pretzel Peanut Butter Bars, Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese, Cherry Bourbon Slush , Halloween Peanut Butter Chocolate White Chocolate Chip Cookies, a Valentine’s Day Dessert Board, Chicken Pesto Pasta and Pepperoni Dip.
Take A Look At All Of Our 2020 Freaky Friday Fall Recipes:
What you’ll need to make an Upside Down Cranberry Cake
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- 9” round cake pan
- Stand mixer (or a hand mixer and mixing bowl)
- Fine mesh strainer
- Liquid measuring cup
- Rubber spatula
- Parchment paper or 9” parchment paper round
In addition to these tools, you’ll need the following food-related products to make this gorgeous, festive upside down cake, too. I’m only listing out the ones that I consider more “specialty” (so you won’t see granulated sugar, flour, baking powder, eggs, etc.) on this list…
- Unsalted butter—yes, the salt content matters because otherwise, this cake will be too salty
- Whole cranberries—fresh or froze, not the dried and sweetened kind
- Seedless raspberry jam—you can also use red plum jelly if you’ve got that on hand. The key is we want this to be seedless so there are no seeds floating around in the cranberry sauce.
- Vanilla extract
- Heavy whipping cream—not half and half, whole milk or a lower fat milk
- Cream of tarter—you’ll find this in the spice section of your grocery
How to make Upside Down Cranberry Cake
Like with most cakes, this upside down cake requires a little attention for it to be baked good perfection.
It sounds like a lot, but again, it’s worth the effort that goes into it. Please do not be intimidated by the fact that this recipe has a lot of steps.
First and foremost, we’re going to adjust the oven rack to the middle position, as well as preheat the oven.
We also want to grease and flour a 9” round cake pan, as well as line it with a 9” parchment paper round. Spritz it with nonstick cooking spray, too. This step is especially important because we don’t want our cranberry topping to stick to the pan! That’ll take away from the wow factor. 😉
Make the Cranberry Topping
To make the cranberry topping, we need to melt our butter in the saucepan.
Once the butter is melted, simply measure in the sugar, cranberries and jam. Cook them uncovered, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until the cranberries have softened. This will take 3-5 minutes, depending on the strength of your stovetop.
When softened, pour the cranberries and juice into a fine mesh strainer over a bowl or a large liquid measuring cup. Strain the cranberries from the juice. This step is important because we don’t want the cranberries to be too saucy (and in fact, we want the sauce to be thicker so it’s nice and gooey in our final cranberry cake recipe.)
Once the cranberries have been strained, arrange them in the bottom of the prepared cake pan in a single layer.
Return ½ cup of the cranberry juices to the saucepan, and discard the rest. I had about ¾ cup of the juice, though Julie only had ½ cup when she made hers.
Cook these juices until they’ve thickened up. It’ll take about 5 minutes.
Drizzle the sauce over the cranberries, trying to drizzle it evenly, then spread gently with an offset spatula or knife.
Refrigerate while you prepare the cake.
Make the Cake
First, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium-sized bowl, and set aside. We do this so there are no chunks of ingredients, but also so that they’re mixed and evenly dispersed throughout the batter.
Next, get out your stand mixer. Add the softened butter and sugar to the bowl, and cream them together until light and fluffy. This will take 3-5 minutes. You want the butter and sugar mixture to be a very pale yellow color.
Pour in the vanilla. Add the egg yolks one at a time, too, and mix until well combined. Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula so everything gets mixed in!
After the wet ingredients have all been added, we’re going to alternate sprinkling in the flour mixture and the heavy cream. Have the stand mixer running on a low speed, and beat these ingredients slowly in until they’re all incorporated and combined. Stop occasionally and scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl if the ingredients aren’t all combining.
Next, we’re going to beat the egg whites and cream of tarter together. This combination will add air and height to our cake batter.
Use a hand mixer to beat the egg whites and cream of tarter until stiff peaks form. (This means that when you turn off the mixer and lift it up, the egg whites should stand on their own when the mixer is pulled away.)
Lastly, fold the egg whites into the cake batter using a rubber spatula.
When the cake batter is combined, spoon it on top of the prepared cranberries. Smooth out the top evenly with an offset spatula or a butter knife.
Bake the cake for 40-50 minutes, or until browned and the center springs back. Mine took closer to 50 minutes, but every oven is different, so please keep an eye on yours.
Let the cake cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before running a paring knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake from the pan.
Place a serving plate on top of the cake pan, and flip. Remove the pan, then the parchment paper carefully. Replace any cranberries that fall.
Let the cake cool completely before slicing and serving with whipped cream.
Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips
If there ever were a perfect non-traditional cake to serve at Thanksgiving or Christmas, this Upside Down Cranberry Cake is absolutely it!
It adds stunning color, it feeds a crowd and it’s delicious, too. I can easily see this being centerstage for a holiday, especially if you want to make something different than a traditional pie.
Here are some ideas for making this cake for an entertaining event:
- Bake the cake the day before! There’s no reason to stress yourself out when hosting friends or family. Having a cake that’s already made when your guests arrive is a good way to do just this!
- Make your whipped cream in advance, too. Store it in a food-safe storage container in the refrigerator until it’s time to enjoy.
- Use a fancy cake plate. Did you receive one of these as a wedding gift and never use it? Add to the “fancy” level by pulling it out and using it to display this stunning cake.
- Let the cake be a centerpiece, too. While we will store it in the fridge, you want it to come to room temperature before you slice into it. Take it out of the refrigerator in advance and let it warm up while guests and family members swoon over it.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an upside down cake? Does this count as one?
An upside down cake is a single layer cake that bakes in a pan with the toppings placed on the bottom. When the baking is complete, the pan is then turned over onto a cake plate, making what was previously on the bottom the top of the cake. Hence, upside down cake.
The Pineapple Upside Down Cake is the most well known upside down cake, but there are so many fun renditions you can try! Check out this Spiced Pear Upside Down Cake, Skillet Pineapple Upside Down Cake and Upside Down Peach Cake with Hot Rum Sauce for inspiration.
Why do you have to make a parchment paper round?
This helps prevent the cranberry sauce sticking to the bottom of the pan and not ending up on the top of your upside down cake!
How do you cut the parchment paper into a round?
You can purchase 9” parchment paper rounds* (affiliate link), or you can use the roll of parchment paper in your kitchen to DIY it.
If you’re going to DIY it, pull out a sheet of parchment paper. Fold in half. Fold in half again and again until you’ve got a triangular shape. Place the tip of the parchment triangle in the center of the cake pan to measure how long the parchment needs to be, then trim with scissors.
What are stiff peaks in eggs?
Also known as firm peaks, these happen when you’re whipping eggs with a mixer. When you remove the mixer/whisk, the egg whites stand up on their own without curling over on themselves.
How do you store this cake?
In the refrigerator, covered, for up to 2-3 days.
Can I use frozen cranberries instead of fresh?
YES. Just let them thaw before you make the cranberry sauce.
Quick tips for making the best Cranberry Christmas Cake
- Use frozen cranberries if you can’t find fresh ones! Just let them defrost before you begin to cook them, or they’ll take a little longer.
- Store the cake on its decorative plate, gently draped with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. Let come to room temperature before serving.
- Don’t forget to add the homemade whipped cream! It adds a wonderful, decadent touch!
Upside Down Cranberry Cake is the ultimate fall and winter dessert! This twist on a classic upside down cake features a fluffy, tangy cake and a perfectly balanced homemade cranberry topping. Whether you need a cake for Thanksgiving, Christmas or any gathering this season, this festive cake is great for sharing!
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 cups whole cranberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
- 2 tablespoons seedless red raspberry jam
- 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, separated
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream (plus more to make whipped cream for a topping)
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tarter
- Adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven to
350°F. Grease and flour a 9” round cake pan. Line the bottom with a 9”
parchment paper round and then spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
Make the Cranberry Topping
- In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter.
- Add the sugar, cranberries and jam. Cook over a medium heat until cranberries begin to soften, approximately 3 minutes.
- When softened, pour the cranberries and juice into a fine mesh strainer over a bowl or a large liquid measuring cup. Strain the cranberries from the juice.
- When strained, arrange the cranberries into the bottom of the prepared cake pan in a single layer.
- Return ½ cup of the cranberry juice to the saucepan, and discard the rest. (Julie only had ½ cup of juice. I had ¾ cup of juice.)
- Cook until thickened, approximately 5 minutes.
- Once thickened, drizzle the sauce over the cranberries.
- Refrigerate while you prepare the cake.
Make the Cake
- In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Add vanilla and then egg yolks one at a time. Mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Alternate adding the flour mixture and the heavy cream, beating on low speed just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula again.
- In a small mixing bowl, add the egg whites and cream of tarter. Beat with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form.
- Gently fold the egg whites into cake batter using the rubber spatula.
- When the cake batter is combined, spoon it over the prepared cranberries. Smooth out the top evenly with an offset spatula or a butter knife.
- Bake 40 to 50 minutes until top is browned and center springs back. (Mine was closer to 50 minutes, but every oven is different, so please keep an eye on yours.)
- Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
- Run a paring knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake from the pan.
- Invert the cake onto a serving plate. Remove the parchment paper carefully, and replace any cranberries that fall.
- Allow to cool completely before serving with whipped cream!
Julie adapted this recipe from HyVee Seasons Holiday 2011 issue.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 486Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 109mgSodium: 154mgCarbohydrates: 64gFiber: 2gSugar: 42gProtein: 5g
Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.