Upside Down Cranberry Cake

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.

Love a festive dessert? After baking this, be sure to check out Creamy Cranberry Tart, Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce and Peppermint Chocolate Crinkle Cookies!

A slice of cranberry upside down cake garnished with a dollop of whipped cream and a cranberry on a white pottery plate with other slices behind it

It’s one of my favorite days!

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 and grandmother, Julie started her blog to share her love of cooking with family and friends. And she’s certainly inspired me to do some baking!

When I was first assigned her site, I struggled with what recipe to choose.

In the end, I landed on her Cranberry Upside-Down Cake recipe. I love a good upside down cake.

Also, cranberries are my favorite in the fall.

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.

More delicious fall cakes: Spiced Apple Upside Down Cake | Olive Oil Vanilla Pound Cake | Praline Pumpkin Upside Down Cake | Mini Apple Spiced Rum Cakes

Looking for specific type of cake or cupcake? Check out my Cake Recipe Index for inspiration.

Overhead of three plates holding slices of Cranberry Cake

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:

Take A Look At All Of Our 2020 Freaky Friday Fall Recipes:

  • An Affair from the Heart – Instant Pot Chicken & Rice Soup
  • An Affair from the Heart – Honey Corn Bread
  • Aunt Bee’s Recipes –  Pecan Pie Cheesecake Bars
  • Devour Dinner – Instant Pot French Onion Meatballs
  • House of Nash Eats – Slow Cooker Crack Chicken
  • Lemoine Family Kitchen – Turkey Cranberry Sliders
  • Life Currents – Cheesy Shrimp Dip
  • Life, Love & Good Food – Lemon Garlic Smashed Potatoes
  • Or Whatever You Do – Traeger Grilled Parmesan Halibut
  • Sugar Dish Me – Whipped Shortbread Cookies
  • Take Two Tapas –  Pork Tenderloin Sliders
  • The Foodie Affair – Easy Greek Style Cauliflower Rice Salad
  • West Via Midwest – Hawaiian Pulled Pork (Kalua Pork Recipe)
  • Ingredients for the Cranberry Cake, shown from above in bowls, on a gray striped towel and marble counter

    What you’ll need to make this recipe:

    The Speckled Palate participates in affiliate programs. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases. Please refer to my disclosure page for more information about these affiliate programs.

    Let’s talk ingredients!

    In addition to the tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this recipe, too! Chances are, you might already have some of them in your fridge or pantry. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full measurements and instructions.

    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…

    Here’s some of what you will need:

    • Unsalted butter—yes, the salt content matters. Otherwise, this cake will be too salty.
    • Whole cranberries—fresh or frozen, 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—the real kind adds beautiful depth of flavor!
    • 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
    Cranberries in a bowl with jam, butter and sugar beside it on marble

    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.

    Did you know

    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

    Melt the butter in the saucepan over medium heat.

    Once melted, measure in the sugar, cranberries and jam.

    Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have softened. This will take 3-5 minutes, depending on your stovetop.

    A fine mesh strainer holds cranberries as juices drip into a pyrex glass measuring cup

    When softened, pour the cranberries and juice into a fine mesh strainer over a bowl.

    Strain.

    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.

    Once the cranberries have been strained, arrange them in a single layer the bottom of the prepared cake pan.

    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.

    Cook these juices until they’ve thickened. It’ll take about 5 minutes.

    Drizzle the sauce evenly over the cranberries, then spread gently with an offset spatula or knife.

    Refrigerate while you prepare the cake batter.

    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, but also so that they’re evenly dispersed throughout the batter.

    Next, add the softened butter and sugar to the bowl of the stand mixer.

    Cream until light and fluffy. This will take 3-5 minutes. It will turn a very pale yellow.


    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, alternate sprinkling in the flour mixture and the heavy cream.

    Run the stand mixer on low speed, and beat these ingredients in slowly until incorporated.

    Stop occasionally and scrape down the sides of the bowl, too.

    Next, beat the egg whites and cream of tarter together in a separate bowl. They add air and height to our batter.

    Use a hand mixer to beat the egg whites and cream of tarter until stiff peaks form. (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.

    Spoon the batter on top of the 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.

    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 sweetened 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.

    Here are some ideas for making this cake for an entertaining event:

    • Bake it the day before! This will prevent you from being stressed out the day of your event!
    • 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 while guests and family members swoon.
    Close up of the Upside Down Cranberry Cake on a decorative glass cake plate

    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, but there are so many fun renditions! Check out Spiced Pear Upside Down Cake, Skillet Pineapple Upside Down Cake and Upside Down Peach Cake with Hot Rum Sauce.

    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.

    If you’re going to make your own, pull out a sheet of parchment. Fold in half. Fold in half again and again until you’ve got a triangle. 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.

    Can I use frozen cranberries instead of fresh?

    YES. Just let them thaw before you make the cranberry sauce.

    A slice of cranberry upside down cake garnished with a dollop of whipped cream and a cranberry on a white pottery plate with other slices behind it

    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!
    • How to store: Once the cake has cooled completely, wrap and store in the fridge, covered, for 2-3 days.
    Overhead of three plates holding slices of Cranberry Cake
    Yield: 8 servings

    Upside Down Cranberry Cake

    Prep Time: 30 minutes
    Cook Time: 40 minutes
    Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

    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!

    Ingredients

    Cranberry Topping

    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • ½ cup granulated sugar
    • 3 cups whole cranberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
    • 2 tablespoons seedless red raspberry jam

    Cake

    • 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

    Instructions

    1. 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

    1. In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter.
    2. Add the sugar, cranberries and jam. Cook over a medium heat until cranberries begin to soften, approximately 3 minutes.
    3. 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.
    4. When strained, arrange the cranberries into the bottom of the prepared cake pan in a single layer.
    5. 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.)
    6. Cook until thickened, approximately 5 minutes.
    7. Once thickened, drizzle the sauce over the cranberries.
    8. Refrigerate while you prepare the cake.

    Make the Cake

    1. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
    2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. In a small mixing bowl, add the egg whites and cream of tarter. Beat with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form.
    6. Gently fold the egg whites into cake batter using the rubber spatula.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.)
    9. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
    10. Run a paring knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake from the pan.
    11. Invert the cake onto a serving plate. Remove the parchment paper carefully, and replace any cranberries that fall.
    12. Allow to cool completely before serving with whipped cream!

    Notes

    Julie adapted this recipe from HyVee Seasons Holiday 2011 issue.

    Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    8 servings

    Serving Size:

    1

    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.

    How much did you love this recipe?

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    8 Comments

    1. What an absolutely beautiful cake! The colors are just stunning, and I know my family is going to love the addition of it to our Thanksgiving menu!

    2. Lovely for the holiday season! Now I’m going to be on the hunt for cranberries. I haven’t seen them in my local store yet. Better believe I’ll be stocking up to make this cake.

    3. Cranberries are so yummy and I hate that I can only get fresh ones in the fall because I would eat this all year long! I am going to love sharing this with my family this Turkey Day!

    4. This cake is so simple and beautiful! I can’t wait to make it! I already have it printed out and ready for my holiday baking this year!

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