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

david caricature

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.

What You’ll Need to Make This

  • 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Bake the upside down cake. Scrape the cake batter over the cranberries, smooth the top, then bake until golden.
  5. 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.

Helpful Tips

  • 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.
Rhubarb upside-down cake top layer in a Springform pan lined with parchment paper.

More Great Cranberry Recipes

Write a Review

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 with a large piece missing, on a white plate with a serving knife beside it.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

4.91 / 10 votes
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.
David Leite
Servings6 to 8 servings
Calories699 kcal
Prep Time40 minutes
Cook Time55 minutes
Total Time1 hour 40 minutes


  • 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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Bump up the citrus flavor–Stir 2 teaspoons of orange or lemon zest into the cake batter before baking.
Zoe Bakes Cakes Cookbook

Adapted From

Zoë Bakes Cakes

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 1 servingCalories: 699 kcalCarbohydrates: 91 gProtein: 7 gFat: 33 gSaturated Fat: 20 gMonounsaturated Fat: 9 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 145 mgSodium: 53 mgFiber: 4 gSugar: 57 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2021 Zoë François. Photo © 2021 Zoë François. All rights reserved.

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.

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.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

Hungry For More?

Pumpkin Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

An impressive dessert, created by David himself, gets an autumnal lilt from pumpkin purée in the batter and maple syrup in the frosting. One of our most popular cakes.

1 hr 15 mins

Old-Fashioned Coconut Cake

Layers of vanilla cake take turns with oodles of coconut filling and the whole shebang is slathered with fluffy white icing. Uh, yes please!

1 hr 15 mins

Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake

Say goodbye to fussy cheesecake recipes. This easy skillet version comes together with only a handful of dishes and ingredients and less than 30 minutes of effort.

3 hrs

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  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!