Cranberry Upside-Downer Cake Recipe

This recipe has a sad name, which, I hope, will not mislead.  When I first saw it, I was reminded of this night when I was out with some girlfriends a few years back and I was in a really dark mood. I’m talking apocalyptic, what’s-the-point-because-with-global-warming-the-planet-is-doomed, we’re-all-food-for-the-wor

ms-anyways kind of dark. My friends drew stares from fellow restaurant patrons as they all, in unison, made these “Wotttt wahhh” sounds, which in my TV-less existence prompted me to google the SNL Debbie Downer sketch.

That is the opposite mood of this cake, the “upside-downer”, which is filled with optimism and light. And even though I have tons of cake recipes from other cookbooks, I can’t stop going for the Dorie Greenspan. I’m addicted, probably because every single recipe I’ve tried has turned out so drop dead perfect.

This recipe was so timely. No sooner had I flipped through my dog-eared copy of Baking: From My Home to Yours, than I stumbled upon this recipe. Which reminded me of that sad, aimless bag of cranberries that was sitting in the fridge, waiting to go bad in a month or so.

To make whole cranberries sweet, you nestle them into a syrup at the bottom the the pan. The oven does the rest, and the cranberries come out, almost completely intact, on the top of the cake when you invert the pan.

As with each cake recipe from Ms. Greenspan, the batter is simple. By following the sequence of directions, it is utterly foolproof.

Carefully smooth the batter over the cranberries and syrup. If you have leveled the cranberries well and anchored them in the syrup, very few will migrate up into the batter.

I brought this cake to Mike and Jo’s to round out our delicious small-plates meal. We picked at the cake as we attempted to decipher the convoluted rules of an impossible, cult-followed board game called El Grande and worked on what must have been our fourth bottle. At one point Mike began skimming off the cranberry topping, which he proclaimed to be the best part. I agreed.

Cranberry Upside-Downer Cake

Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp salt

1 ¾ sticks (14 tablespoons) butter

1 cup minus 2 tablespoons sugar

¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (I used pecans)

2 cups cranberries

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup whole milk

1/3 cup red currant jelly, for glazing (I omitted this and it still looked and tasted lovely, and in addition, made it easier to transport to Brooklyn)

Preheat oven to 350. Put an 8 inch round pan on a baking sheet. I used a springform and the baking sheet was a necessity. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

Melt 6 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan. Sprinkle in 6 tablespoons of the sugar and cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil. Pour this into the bottom of the pan then scatter over the nuts and top with the cranberries. If frozen berries cause the butter to congeal, don’t worry, everything will melt in the oven.

Using a stand mixer, beat the remaining stick of butter until smooth. Add the remaining ½ cup sugar and beat until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating one minute between each. Pour in the vanilla. Add half the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear. Mix in the milk, then the rest of the dry ingredients. Spoon the batter over the cranberries, and smooth the top.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Carefully turn out onto a serving platter. Warm the jelly and brush over the cake.


  1. Posted February 7, 2009 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Your cranberry upside down cake looks scrumptious! Yum Yum, I love everything with cranberries!!

  2. Posted February 7, 2009 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Looks lovely! Best of luck with that game… wine will surely help. Or at least make it more fun w/ or w/o the rules!



  3. Lauren
    Posted February 21, 2009 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Sophie – I know, they just seem to make a good thing better, every single time.

    Heather – See above, only, for wine. We gave up early, but still had a wonderful time.

  4. Kathy
    Posted November 27, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Judging from the photos, it looks like you didn’t use white flour. I like to work with other types of grains, but this can alter the chemisty and thus the results. Please let me know what type of flour you used.

  5. Posted November 27, 2009 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Kathy – I used organic all purpose flour from King Arthur. The cinnamon in the batter makes the cake look darker.

  6. Michelle Tamburini
    Posted December 11, 2009 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    My daughter made this over Thanksgiving and it was delicious as well as beautiful! I went out right away and got some cranberries to have a go at it myself!

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