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
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 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.
VARIATION–Rhubarb Upside Down CakeThis 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.
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