Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

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.

Cranberry upside-down cake with a large piece missing, on a white plate with a serving knife beside it.

Adapted from Zoë François | Zoë Bakes Cakes | Ten Speed Press, 2021

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

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

Cranberry upside-down cake with a large piece missing, on a white plate with a serving knife beside it.
The Grand Marnier (an orange liqueur) gives the cake a pleasant kick that plays beautifully with cranberry. Making this tender, buttery cake provides a perfect excuse to share a slice over the backyard fence, maybe with someone who’s short on their own cranberry source.
Zoë François

Prep 40 mins
Cook 55 mins
Total 1 hr 40 mins
Dessert
American
6 to 8 servings
699 kcal
5 / 6 votes
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Ingredients 

  • 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

Directions
 

  • 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 stand mixer 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.
Print RecipeBuy the Zoë Bakes Cakes cookbook

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Notes

VARIATION–Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

This rhubarb version is equally tart and wonderful. Replace the cranberries with 4 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb, swap the Grand Marnier for crème de cassis, and proceed as directed.
Rhubarb upside-down cake top layer in a Springform pan lined with parchment paper.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 699kcal (35%)Carbohydrates: 91g (30%)Protein: 7g (14%)Fat: 33g (51%)Saturated Fat: 20g (125%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 145mg (48%)Sodium: 53mg (2%)Potassium: 261mg (7%)Fiber: 4g (17%)Sugar: 57g (63%)Vitamin A: 1108IU (22%)Vitamin C: 9mg (11%)Calcium: 96mg (10%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

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 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.

Originally published November 3, 2021

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Thank you for this recipe! Followed it and was received by my friend who said there were no words to explain what she was so happy about. Now, I will make it for myself!

  2. 5 stars
    So glad you featured this recipe! I have Zoe’s cookbook and I’m not sure why this never jumped off the page till you featured it. What a wonderful welcome to November. Goodbye Pumpkin Spice and hello tart beautiful CRANBERRIES! This recipe is easy to follow and is a beautiful and classy dessert without being fussy.

    HOWEVER…warning on time. My cake was done at 35 minutes. You may want to peek and stick a toothpick in sooner than later.

  3. 5 stars
    I made this cake for a dinner party and used my 10-inch springform. I increased all of the ingredients by one half, and doubled the cranberries. It came out perfectly and everyone loved it. This is a superb cake!

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