Cranberry upside-down cake combines a tart top layer with a buttery, tender cake. A dash of Grand Marnier gives it a little orangey depth. Lovely served warm with a little dollop of fresh whipped cream.
The color of this cranberry upside-down cake alone is enough to bring me great joy. The cake’s ruby top is made from tart cranberries. I personally love the tartness of the cranberries. The cake underneath is rich with buttermilk and butter. I served it with ice cream for dessert and then had it for breakfast the next morning with coffee.–Zoë François
☞ Table of Contents
Why our testers loved this
Our testers were smitten with this “light and fluffy cake” that’s topped with a cranberry layer that’s “super tart with just a whisper of sweetness.” They were also pleased with how visually stunning this cranberry upside-down cake is, making it perfect for serving to guests.
Notes on ingredients
- Grand Marnier–You can also substitute another type of orange-flavored liqueur, such as Triple Sec.
- Cranberries–Use fresh or frozen. If frozen, let them thaw at room temperature for an hour, then pat them completely dry.
- Eggs–Use large eggs, and make sure they are at room temperature. Cold eggs won’t mix or rise as well as room-temperature ones.
- Buttermilk–Full-fat buttermilk is ideal here, but you can use low fat. See the FAQ section for how to make your own buttermilk.
How to make this recipe
- Prepare the pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a springform pan, then line with parchment, and place on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.
- Make the cranberry layer. Cook 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 cup sugar, half the Grand Marnier, and salt until the butter melts. Pour it into the prepared pan, and then scatter the cranberries over the top.
- Make the cake batter. Beat the remaining butter until smooth, then beat in the remaining sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, and combine the buttermilk with the remaining Grand Marnier. Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk to the butter in alternating batches, scraping down the mixer as needed.
- Bake the upside down cake. Scrape the cake batter over the cranberries, smooth the top, then bake until golden.
- Remove the cake. Let the finished cake cool for 5 minutes, then remove the sides of the pan and invert onto a plate.
I don’t have a 9-inch springform pan. Can I use a different size?
Yes. One of our testers had great success using an 8-inch pan without any changes to the recipe. A reader also reported that the cake was easy to make in a 10-inch pan when increasing the ingredients by 1 1/2 times.
How can I make buttermilk?
For the 1/2 cup buttermilk needed in this recipe, place 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice or white vinegar in a liquid measuring cup. Pour in enough milk to make 1/2 cup. Gently stir and let it rest for 5 minutes before using.
How should I serve this cake?
This cake is best served warm but is also good at room temperature. A dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of sweet cream ice cream is wonderful alongside this cake. And, as Zoë suggests, leftovers are a great breakfast treat, served with a mug of coffee.
- Place your springform on a foil-lined baking sheet. The cake will likely leak during baking, and the foil makes for easier cleanup.
- For a more robust citrus flavor, add a couple of teaspoons of lemon or orange zest to the cake batter before baking.
- To make a rhubarb upside down cake variation, replace the cranberries with 4 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb, swap the Grand Marnier for crème de cassis, and proceed as directed.
More great cranberry recipes
☞ If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David
Cranberry Upside Down Cake
- 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature, divided, plus more for the pan
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar divided
- 4 tablespoons Grand Marnier divided
- Kosher salt
- 4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries thawed if frozen and patted very dry
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 cup buttermilk at room temperature
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Generously butter a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan, then line the bottom and sides with buttered parchment paper. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. (Don’t be tempted to skip this step. There is a good chance that some sticky red liquid is going to leak out during baking.)
- In a small saucepan over low heat, combine 1/4 cup (2 oz | 57 g) of the butter, 1/2 cup of the sugar (100 g), 2 tablespoons of the Grand Marnier (30 ml), and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, just until melted, about 2 minutes.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, then scatter the cranberries over the top.
- In a fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the remaining 3/4 cup (6 oz |170 g) butter on medium-high speed until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes.
- Turn the mixer speed to low, add the remaining 1 cup sugar (200 g) and the vanilla, and mix until incorporated, about 1 minute.
- Then turn the speed to medium-high and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes more. Scrape the bowl often for even incorporation.
- Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until combined. Scrape the bowl after each addition.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
- In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the buttermilk and remaining 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (30 ml).
- Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing on low speed, just until combined. Add one-half of the buttermilk mixture and mix to incorporate. Repeat with another one-third flour, the remaining liquid, and then finish with the final one-third flour, scraping the bowl and paddle after each addition.
- Scrape the batter into the springform pan, covering the cranberries, then smooth the top with a spatula. Gently tap the pan on the counter several times to release excess air bubbles. Set the pan on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake until the cake is golden and a tester comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes.
- Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and undo the side of the springform. Invert onto a serving plate, allowing the base to drop with the cake, gently peel off the base and parchment. Serve the cake slightly warm.
- Rhubarb Upside Down Cake variation–Replace the cranberries with 4 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb, swap the Grand Marnier for crème de cassis, and proceed as directed.
- Change your pan size–This can be made in an 8-inch springform pan, or in a 10-inch pan. If using a 10-inch springform, increase all ingredients by 1 1/2.
- Bump up the citrus flavor–Stir 2 teaspoons of orange or lemon zest into the cake batter before baking.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
With a stash of cranberries in the freezer, this cranberry upside-down cake was a must-do. It comes together easily and the flavor is exactly what I was hoping for.
The cranberry layer is super tart with just a whisper of sweetness, not too much. The batter is light and the buttermilk really comes through, it just needs a little bit of zing to stand up to the cranberries so I think some orange zest added to it would be perfect. Visually, the cake is a stunner and I wouldn’t hesitate to serve this to guests. I love the tartness of cranberries in any recipe.
I have an 8-inch and 10-inch springform, so I used the 8-inch. All ingredients fit well and the cake was beautiful.
I’m not sure if it’s the buttermilk or the full five minutes of creaming the butter and sugar, but this is a light and fluffy cake. Step-by-step, this recipe worked as written and turned out results to match.
I made the cranberry-Grand Marnier variation using thawed, previously frozen cranberries and it produced a pleasantly tart fruit layer with a rich red color. The cake was ready right at the 1-hour mark and came cleanly out of the pan when flipped. Everyone loved the upside down cranberry cake and wants this to be a regular guest at our table.
My only change is given the citrus notes in Grand Marnier, I would want to add zest (lemon or orange) to my cake batter to lean into that flavor a little stronger. Next time, I’ll mix the zest of an orange into the sugar for the cake and let that sit for a bit before following the rest of the recipe as written.
It’s taken me a minute to write up the review for the cranberry upside down cake because I was finishing the very last piece. Myself. Because it was just that delicious.
I like this recipe because it is very straightforward and true. It’s my kind of cake! Soft crumb, light vanilla taste, tartness from the juicy cranberries.
I think rhubarb is the best fruit. Growing up, we had a large rhubarb patch and I would eat it raw. So when there is an opportunity to make something new, I’m ready to give it a try!
This is an easy recipe and it comes together quickly. I used Triple Sec rather than crème de cassis. It looks great as an upside-down cake. But the proof is in the tasting. Well, this cake delivers big time. I now want to make the cake using the alternative of cranberries.