Cranberry Upside Down Cake

May I talk to you for a moment about cake?  I have a love/hate thing going with cake.  When I was a kid I disliked cake.  My poor mother.  I asked for a pie every year for my birthday and my Mom has what borders on piecrust making phobia.  I was a selfish little child.

After much contemplating over the years-which included eating many, many cakes of many, many varieties-I realized that what I really hated was frosting.  And after playing around with frosting a bit I realized that what I actually hated was bad frosting, specifically.  As in frosting made just with shortening, sugar and food coloring.

What really changed my opinion of cakes was learning to think outside the pastry bag.  By chucking the ubiquitous buttercream I discovered that cakes -simple buttery cakes- weren’t just merely edible.  They were sublime.   For years now I’ve topped my cakes with ganache, whipped cream, fruit preserves, syrups, and all sorts of other goodies.  If you haven’t made the leap, give it a try.  In fact, try it with this cake.

Because this cake, in particular, is my favorite cake ever.  And The Evil Genius’s favorite cake ever.  And three of my five children (but not the one who doesn’t like fruit and not the one who doesn’t like anything that the non-fruit lover dislikes.  Please, Lord, let this be a phase.) I originally made this from the recipe that appeared in Everyday Food Magazine. I made it as written the first couple times and changed it out of necessity (was missing the allspice, but had nutmeg) the third time.  There was no looking back.  Nutmeg took up permanent residence in the recipe.

The rich, buttery cake provides the perfect foil for the sweet, tart, spicy, explosively flavorful cranberry topping.  And could it get easier?  I don’t think so.  This cake I could make in my sleep.  And I think I have a couple times.  Including the year that I gave birth four days before Thanksgiving, but was ‘going to make a cake, dangit’ to have with our dinner.  This cake pleases everyone (excepting the aforementioned two children who call me Mama) who eats it.  But don’t just take my word for it.  Make it.  Heck, make two.  Trust me.  You’ll be glad you did.

In the spirit of pleasing everyone all the time I’d like to point out that if cranberries ain’t your bag you can definitely make this with an equal amount of fresh or frozen blueberries.  Just scale back the cinnamon and nutmeg and maybe add a bit of lemon zest.  We’ve made it -and loved it dearly- that way, too!

For a printer-friendly, photo-free version of this recipe, click here!

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

Recipe tweaked from the original appearing in Everyday Food Magazine.  The eagle-eyed among you will notice that I’m making two cakes in the pictures while the quantities given below yield one cake.  Go ahead and double it like I did.  You know you want to…

Ingredients:

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg (omit if you don’t have fresh.)
  • 1 -3/4 cups cranberries, fresh or straight from the freezer!
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 -1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 -1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk

Directions

Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F.  Use 2 Tablespoons of the butter to generously grease an 8-inch round cake pan.

Make sure you get the crease in the pan really well.  Leave no surface un-buttered!

Make sure you get the crease in the pan really well. Leave no surface un-buttered!

Now I can say I have butterfingers in a very literal way.  Come 'ere boys and let mommy pinch your cheeks.

Now I have butterfingers in both the literal and figurative sense. Come 'ere boys and let Mama pinch your cheeks.

Set aside.

Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and the cinnamon to a small bowl.  Grate the nutmeg over the top…

Don't jump, Little Nutmeg, you have so much to live for...

Don't jump, Little Nutmeg, you have so much to live for...

…and whisk together.

Cinnamon and nutmeg sugar is one of the prettiest smelling things in all of the world.

Cinnamon and nutmeg sugar is one of the prettiest smelling things in all of the world.

Pour mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.

Can you smell the cinnamon sugar?

Can you smell the cinnamon sugar?

Tilt and swirl the sugar around until it evenly coats the bottom -but not the sides- of the pan.

Tilt the cake pan and swirl the sugar.

Tilt the cake pan and swirl the sugar.

Make sure the entire bottom is coated evenly.

Make sure the entire bottom is coated evenly.

This is the effect you're shooting for.

This is the effect you're shooting for.

Arrange cranberries in a single layer on top.

These cranberries were stashed in the freezer right around Thanksgiving for just such a craving.  Thank you foresight!

These cranberries were stashed in the freezer right around Thanksgiving for just such a craving. Thank you foresight!

One even layer of cranberries will do the job.

One even layer of cranberries will do the job.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using an electric hand-held mixer) cream the remaining 6 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until well combined. Add the vanilla and mix in well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Whisk the dry ingredients.  We don't need no stinkin' sifter.

Whisk the dry ingredients. We don't need no stinkin' sifter.

Start your mixer on low speed and carefully add 1/3 of the flour mixture followed by 1/3 of the milk.  Repeat, scraping down the bowl occasionally, until you have added all the flour and milk.

This is perfect cake batter.

This is perfect cake batter.

Spoon batter on top of the cranberries in the pan.

Scientifically dividing the double batch of batter ultra-precisely by eyeballing it.  Throw some caution to the wind here, people.  We're talking cake, not rocket science!

Scientifically dividing the double batch of batter ultra-precisely by eyeballing it. Throw some caution to the wind here, people. We're talking cake, not rocket science!

Smooth the top bringing the cake batter to the edges of the pan.

Try not to lift the cranberries into the batter while spreading it.

Try not to lift the cranberries into the batter while spreading it.

Keep rotating and spreading the batter...

Keep rotating and spreading the batter...

...Until you get this.

...Until you get this.

Place pan on a baking sheet to help protect your oven in case the syrup boils up and over.

Bake the cake until a toothpick, skewer or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Insert a skewer, toothpick or cake tester in the center of the cake.

Insert a skewer, toothpick or cake tester in the center of the cake.

When it comes out clean the cake is done!

When it comes out clean the cake is done!

This should take about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

Cakes cooling on the counter.

Cakes cooling on the counter.

Note the lurking presence of The Evil Genius.  He is hoping I will turn away so he can eat some.  I said he was 'Evil' and 'Genius'.  I didn't say he was subtle.

Note the lurking presence of The Evil Genius. He is hoping I will turn away so he can eat some. I said he was 'Evil' and 'Genius'. I didn't say he was subtle.

Run a butterknife or thin spatula around edge of cake.

Slide a butterknife around the edge to loosen that precious cake.

Slide a butterknife around the edge to loosen that precious cake.

Lay your cake plate or platter on top the pan, flip, give a little tap to the bottom of the pan and remove the pan.  The manoeuver looks like this:

Lay your cake plate or platter on top of the pan.

Lay your cake plate or platter on top of the pan.

Holding the pan to the plate, invert.

Holding the pan to the plate, invert.

You naughty, naughty cake.

You naughty, naughty cake.

Gently lift the pan from the plate.

Gently lift the pan from the plate.

Oh yeah.  Excuse me while I lick the rest of the cranberry syrup from the pan.

Oh yeah. Excuse me while I lick the rest of the cranberry syrup from the pan.

You look good enough to eat.

You look good enough to eat.

This cake is definitely best when served slightly warm, but it will still put a smile on your face and a song in your heart at room temperature or chilled.

Look at the beautiful layers of cranberry syrup and buttery cake.

Look at the beautiful layers of cranberry syrup and buttery cake.

Check out that crumb!

Check out that crumb!

I've teased myself long enough.  This piece of cake is getting ett right now.

I've teased myself long enough. This piece of cake is getting ett right now.

And if you pull chunks from it with your hands (or teeth) instead of slicing it into wedges I won’t judge.

...And that syrupy, fruity goodness.

Oh my. Would you just look at that?

If you heeded my advice, you will now be grateful you made two...

If you heeded my advice, you will now be grateful you made two...

On a side note, have a gander at the kitchen I’ve been working in for the last couple of years.

See this kitchen?  Prepare for transformation.  We're finally attacking the kitchen.  Tile away, Evil Genius.  Tile away!

See this kitchen? Prepare for transformation. We're finally attacking the kitchen. Tile away, Evil Genius. Tile away!

It’s not going to look this way for long!  You may or may not know that we bought our home/farmland from an Amish family who was relocating.  The Amish in our area have no electricity, running water, indoor plumbing, etc… so we’ve been adding all those *cough* amenities while living here.  We’ve finally reached the point where we can pretty things up!  I’ll chronicle more about this in the LifeHappens! section of Foodie With Family for those who are interested.  In the meantime…  Bake your cake and eat it too!

Comments

  1. Da Poppa says

    With your dislike (albeit temporary) of frosting you had me wondering there about your heritage…. glad you came back into the family!

  2. April says

    I’m gonna make this with the forgotten bag of cranberries I found in the fridge today! It’s fate!

    Oh, and though it may not need it, I bet a touch of orange zest would be good in there.

  3. says

    I just found your blog and I love it! You have such a great writing style. I’ve been wanting to make a cranberry upside down cake for ages, but I need an excuse to bake things like this since there’s only two of us in this apartment and I know for a fact I can put away an entire half a cake if given the opportunity. I started reading through your archives, but I have to pull myself away now and get back to work. I’ll pick up where I left off while watching Idol tonight!

  4. says

    I love this cake! I first came across it from the blog Running with Tweezers and I make it all the time. I like the suggestion about orange zest from one of your readers. I’m definitely going to try that addition next time I make this cake.

  5. Rebecca says

    Andrea- You’re making me blush! Thank you. And not that I’m trying to be a bad influence, or anything, but you could make this cake and freeze half of it. I’ve done that and it holds up pretty well. And if you should happen to have an urge to eat some of this straight from the freezer (not that I’ve done that *cough* *cough*) it slices really nicely when frozen.

    Madeline- The orange zest is good in this cake. It’s just that sometimes I love plain old cranberries. This was one of those times. But you won’t be sorry if you make it with the zest. April was right on with that!

  6. says

    I made a yummy cranberry coffe cake a month or so ago. This one seems a bit easier.

    I have three children of my own and its near impossible making everyone happy at the same time! My picky pain most often is my youngest.
    ~ingrid

  7. Rebecca says

    Ingrid- I’m shoulder to shoulder with you on the pleasing everyone struggle. It just doesn’t happen that often, does it? And this cake is remarkably easy for the end result it yields. I can pretty safely promise you won’t regret making it.

  8. says

    Hello! I enjoy your blog and made this cake (double recipe) with blueberries last night. It turned out great. If you don’t mind I will post a photo of the finished product and link it to your post for the recipe. I thought about trying thinly sliced apples or pears. Have you tried this?
    Keep up the good work!

    - Amy

  9. Rebecca says

    Amy- Please do! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’ve done apples simmered in caramel sauce as a base for the cake, but I like my baked apples very, very tender indeed. Please keep me up on your experiments with this cake.

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