Cranberry upside-down cake

December 16, 2012 § 7 Comments

cranberry upside-down cake

For many people the holidays mean cookies, but for my family it’s all about baking cakes and breads. While we all love to eat cookies, and I even like baking them, there’s something so comforting about a fresh-baked cake waiting on the counter for dessert.

cranberries and a lined tin
sugar, butter, clementine zest
burst cranberries

Adding cranberries to the baking festivities — since they are a regular staple on our holiday table both at Thanksgiving and Christmastime — is even better, as I can’t get enough of them this time of year. Their bold acidity is mellowed but not overwhelmed when baked, and it seemed right to accent them with clementines, as the grocery stores and our kitchens are filled with the classic wooden boxes.

ccake batter over top cranberries
cake batter in a tin

Combining these two classic flavors with ground walnuts and a hint of vanilla rounds out the tartness of the cranberries and oranges with a warm fragrant nuttiness. The walnuts also add a bit of texture to the cake, supplying some textural heft to contrast the glisteningly tender cranberries pebbled on top of the cake. Their glossy drama makes even a humble weeknight dessert seem special, though it’s perfect for a Christmas dessert too.

cranberry upside-down cake

Cranberry upside-down cake

Serves eight to twelve


  • Twelve ounces (340 grams) fresh or thawed, frozen cranberries (one bag)
  • One and a half cups (10.5 ounces or 300 grams) granulated sugar
  • One stick plus 5 tablespoons (13 tablespoons total, or 6.7 ounces or 190 grams) butter, softened
  • One tablespoon grated clementine (or orange) zest – from about two clementines
  • Three large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Two cups (10.5 ounces or 300 grams) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • Two ounces (60 grams) walnuts – or 1/2 cup (two ounces or 60 grams) of walnut flour (see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • One and a half teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • One cup (250 mL) buttermilk (or clabbered milk, see note)

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232 degrees Celsius). Butter a 10″ (25.4 cm) springform pan. Cut out a parchment paper liner for the bottom.

2. Wash and rinse the cranberries and drain dry. Combine cranberries and 1/3 of the sugar (1/2 cup or 100 grams) in the bottom of the lined springform pan. Place the springform pan on top of a baking sheet in case of leaks.

3. Place the baking tin of cranberries and sugar in the oven to bake for about seven minutes, checking occasionally to see if they have begun to crack. Once a few of the cranberries have burst or seven minutes have passed, remove the springform pan from the oven and let cool on the counter. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius).

4. Meanwhile, combine the remaining sugar with the softened butter and clementine zest. Cream butter, sugar, and zest together until well-blended, about eight minutes by hand or five minutes with a mixer (preferably a stand mixer).

5. Add in the eggs individually, stirring after each egg. Mix in vanilla.

6. In a separate bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt. Mix in the walnut flour.

7. Slowly pour the flour mixture into the creamed butter and egg mixture, stirring until mostly mixed. Then, pour in the buttermilk (or clabbered milk) just until smooth.

8. Pour the cake batter over the cooled cranberries and sugar in the springform pan. Smooth over the top of the batter and take the springform pan (still on its baking sheet) back to the oven (it should be at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 176 degrees Celsius) to bake for forty minutes. Then, carefully remove the cake from the oven, and even more carefully place aluminum foil over top and return the cake to the oven to bake for an additional forty minutes, or until a tester comes out clean, with perhaps only a few crumbs clinging to it.

9. Let the cake cool at least an hour, if not longer. Place a serving plate over top the cake and carefully invert the cake onto it. Enjoy!

Note: to make walnut flour, grind up walnuts by pulsing them in a food processor, being careful not to turn the nuts into walnut butter. To make clabbered milk, combine a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice and the remaining volume of milk needed; let sit for about five minutes before using.

The cake keeps on the counter, wrapped well, for up to three days. It’s best warm, of course, but I had some of the leftovers for breakfast (what? It’s got fruit and nuts in it!) the past two days and was quite pleased.


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