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Festive Cranberry Upside-Down Cake Ushers in the Holidays

A number of years ago I regularly met with a small group of women from my church.  We were all working moms who needed other working moms to bounce things off of, to share frustrations with and to enjoy the company of, knowing we were all experiencing many of the same challenges and joys.  I guess they were my mommy support group. 

Of course, food was always involved in our little get-togethers.  Sometimes we met at local restaurants and other times we met at one of our homes.  We usually took time to celebrate the holidays together, too.  One year we met during the month of November at my friend Marion’s house and she served the most delightful cranberry treat I have ever eaten.  

So, being the foodie I am, I asked for the recipe and brought it back to Land O’Lakes.  I decided I would make a few changes so I went into the kitchens and created my own version.  The results are Festive Cranberry Upside-Down Cake.  Besides being simply yummy, this recipe is quite versatile.  It can be served as a sweet bread for brunch or as a luscious dessert.  Now that the holidays are rolling around and cranberries are abundant I just had to share this long-time favorite recipe.

Begin by heating the oven to 350º F.  Before starting the cake batter make the topping which will go in the bottom of the pan.  When the cake is baked and flipped out of the pan the topping ends up on top – thus it’s called an upside-down cake.  The bottom becomes the top – get it?  To prepare the topping first butter a 9-inch round cake pan with 2 tablespoons softened butter.  Be sure to use all of the butter since it melts into the rest of the topping ingredients as it bakes.  Just keep rubbing the butter onto the bottom of the pan until it is all used.  I keep the butter right in the wrapper so my fingers stay clean as I rub.

Add the ½ cup sugar and shake the pan to coat.

There will be extra sugar but it also should stay in the pan and will become part of the topping.  Just shake the pan to evenly spread out the extra sugar.  It should look like this.

Now place the cranberries in the pan spreading them out evenly over the sugar.  Set the pan aside.


The cake batter is next.  Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set this mixture aside.

In a medium bowl combine the sugar and butter.  Beat at medium speed until well mixed.

 Add the egg, vanilla and grated lemon peel.  Continue beating until well mixed.  Doesn’t lemon peel smell wonderful?  It such a fresh addition to this recipe and complements the cranberries so well.

Reduce the mixer speed to low.  Add the flour mixture and milk, and beat until well mixed.

Spread the cake batter evenly over the cranberries in the bottom of the pan.  The batter is fairly soft so should spread easily.

Be sure to spread the batter all the way to the edge of the pan to completely cover the cranberries. 

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  The top of the cake will be golden brown.  I thought this photo was kind of “artsy.”  (Is artsy even a word?)   

The cake needs to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Timing is important here because it needs to cool enough for the topping to adhere to the cake but not get so cool that the topping sticks to the pan.  Set a timer so you are sure to let it cool just 10 minutes.  While the cake is cooling find the serving plate you plan to use.

After the 10 minute cooling time, carefully run a table knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake.

Now it’s time to invert the cake onto the serving plate – the upside-down part; the pan will still be warm enough that you will want to use pot holders or oven mitts.  Begin by placing the serving plate over the cake pan.  See the pan underneath the plate in the photo?

Flip the pan and plate so the pan is now on top of the plate.

Carefully remove the pan.  Don’t worry if some of the topping sticks to the bottom of the pan.  You can scrape up the topping mixture and carefully repair the top of the cake.  I didn’t have any trouble with this cake, but sometimes I have to do a little repairing. 

The cake is now upside-down; the bottom has become the top!  Isn’t it beautiful?  The cranberry topping almost sparkles.

One of the ways I changed the recipe was to add a topping of Chantilly Cream.  This is a mixture of whipping cream and sour cream.  It’s just the right touch with the tartness from the cranberries.  And besides, just about everything’s better with a little Chantilly Cream.  To make the Chantilly Cream place the whipping cream in a medium bowl and beat on high speed until soft peaks form.

Add the sour cream, powdered sugar and lemon peel.  Continue beating until the mixture is thick.

Dollop each serving of cake with the Chantilly Cream.  Then I garnished with some mint leaves and a little spiral of lemon peel.  I think it’s at its best when served warm.

Not only is this cake beautiful, it is the perfect blend of sweet and tart, and it’s all wrapped up in buttery warmth.  Making it brought back some wonderful memories of long chats with close friends.  Isn’t it interesting how special food can conjure up longed for times?

I still see these friends occasionally, but we don’t meet regularly any more.  I think I might have to host a get together soon and serve this delightful Festive Cranberry Upside-Down Cake.  I’d really enjoy hearing about your experience with this recipe.  Please take a moment to rate and review it, and share a comment.

Come back in a few days when Liz will share a classic pumpkin cake roll recipe.

Becky Wahlund is the Director of the Test Kitchens for Land O'Lakes and writes for our Recipe Buzz® Blog.


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• Comments •

Hi congratulation for the great quality of Land O Lakes products, manly your butter, I am looking for a very good recipe of Cinnamon Rolls, home made, i dont want to by prepared flours, I would like to know if you can help me to find a very but very good cinnamon rolls recipe, because I Had made at other ocations and I can´t find a very good recipe, thanks for help me, I am for you answer.
Alejandro Rosas

Posted Nov 14 2013 by ALEJANDRO ROSAS
Test Kitchen Comment


Here is a link to a great cinnamon roll recipe on Hope you enjoy.
Posted November 25, 2013

Where do I get the list of ingredients for this recipe.

Posted Oct 06 2012 by Nannette H.
Test Kitchen Comment


To see the actual recipe with the ingredient amounts and method please click on the underlined name of the recipe in the blog. Hope you try this recipe!
Posted October 08, 2012

From the Test Kitchen... As with any upside-down cake the the topping which is placed into the pan first is a fruit and thick sugar mixture. The cake on top is like a scratch cake that is very dense. The cranberry mixture should stay on the bottom of the pan and when turned out after baking that layer should be on top. The sugar cranberry mixture should be thick enough. However sometimes we toss the cranberries with a small amount of flour to keep them from rising to the top in a quick bread or cake recipe. You might want to possibly try that. Happy Holidays!

Posted Dec 17 2010 by Cindy

I tried this cake and it did not turn out well at all! The cranberries rose to the top during baking, so that when I flipped the cake over, there were no cranberries or syrup, just a layer of sticky sugar. So I flipped the cake back into the pan and let it cool, thinking maybe it would still taste good, but it was very dense and the cranberry layer was extremely tart. Ate one piece and threw the rest in the garbage. As far as I can tell, I followed the recipe to the letter, so I can't figure out where I went wrong. Any ideas?

Posted Dec 16 2010 by Carrie

First off, I would like to say that this cake is absolutely delicious! But I encountered multiple problems while making it. When I poured the batter over the cranberries, a lot of it sunk in between them and some cranberries also rose to the top. I figured that wasn't much of an issue, and continued cooking. After 45 minutes I checked it; the toothpick didn't come out clean, and the top wasn't browned. I left it in for another ten minutes, and the top was just about golden brown, so I took it out. I put it on a wire rack to cool for ten minutes, ran a knife around the edge, and flipped it out onto a serving dish. Only half of it came out, in pieces, and upon further inspection, it wasn't nearly cooked enough. I'm just wondering if this was because I did something wrong in the process of baking, or if my oven just isn't powerful enough? Thanks in advance!

Posted Nov 24 2010 by Dana

Cynthia - Using a 9-inch springform pan should be just fine for making this cake. Just want to caution you though to make sure that the springform pan seals well. Sometimes if the bottom edge of the pan gets bumped or dented the filling could come out. It is a great dessert to serve in the holidays! Let me know how yours turns out.

Posted Nov 19 2010 by Cindy

Tks for tips on baking this yummy looking dessert. Can't wait to try it. Could I substitute a 9" springform baking pan for easier removal of cake?

Posted Nov 18 2010 by Cynthia

I'm so glad you liked the Festive Cranberry Cake. I agree the touch of lemon is just the right "something special" in the recipe.

Posted Nov 15 2010 by Becky

Pamela, Let me know how it goes. I think your bookclub will love it.

Posted Nov 15 2010 by Becky

I tried this. It was fantastic! I especially liked the addition of one teaspoon of lemon zest into the cake batter. Together with the cranberries the lemon adds another taste level. This cake is really easy to make. Another keeper recipe from Land O Lakes!

Posted Nov 15 2010 by Jean

I'm dying to try this...I'll make it for my bookclub meeting next week...! I can't wait to try it...very festive!!

Posted Nov 11 2010 by Pamela

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    Hi, I'm Becky. I'm eager to share my best ideas and favorite recipes from my 20+ years in the Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen. I'm also excited to help with any questions you have about cooking and baking with Land O Lakes® products. Some of the questions and answers will be published in our newsletter, The Measuring Cup®. Please use the short form below to ask your questions, or share your tip or memory.

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