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Cranberry Upside Down Cake for the Holidays


Well, the holidays are fast approaching - do you have your menus figured out yet? I have two boys coming home from college in the next week, both of whom have birthdays, and we give a big Christmas Eve party every year. It's a lot of food planning.  I've had cookbook reviews to do, I've been writing Christmas cards, baking a lot and buying and wrapping gifts.  But I did manage to finish this purple scarf I've been knitting for quite some time.

Back to food - for our Christmas Eve buffet, I always serve lasagna and meatballs and some vegetarian dish.  This year, I think I will serve these Eggplant Rollatini Stuffed with Risotto for the vegetarian dish.  You can grill the eggplant slices and make the risotto the day before and then assemble the day of.  They are great fork food - no knife required.  I always make sure I think of foods that require no knife, because some people are eating with their plates on their laps. One year I also served these Stuffed Peppers as the vegetarian option.

I always make a little fun treat bag for people to take home with them, and I will be posting that goodie the week after Christmas. One year I made a CD with all of our favorite Christmas songs, another year I made homemade chocolate truffles, and last year I made these Mosaic Biscotti.  We've been doing this for 13 years. Stay tuned to see what I make this year!  I hope this gives you a few menu ideas for the holidays.

Brian absolutely insisted that I post this Upside Down Cranberry Cake because he's crazy about it and it just looks like a Christmas cake with all the beautiful cranberries.  We also ate it during Thanksgiving, because cranberries were so plentiful.  This is not a hard cake to make.  You do whip up the egg whites separately and then fold them in, so you will need two mixer bowls. 

This cake is from Chez Panisse and if you read this blog, you know how much I love that place and their style of cooking.  I have made their Plum Tart and Lindsey Shere's Almond Tart (incredible) and they are all favorites. 

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

from Chez Panisse
for a printer friendly recipe, click here 



For the Topping:

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 3/4 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup orange juice

For the Batter:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar


Use a 9-inch round or an 8-inch square cake pan with 3-inch sides.  To make the topping, place the butter and brown sugar in the cake pan.  Place the pan on a stovetop burner over low heat and melt, stirring with a wooden spoon.  When the sugar has melted, after a couple of minutes, remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Scatter the cranberries evenly in the bottom of the pan and drizzle in the orange juice. Set aside.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the cake batter, sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.  In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Mix in the vanilla.  Add the egg yolks one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each one to make sure it is thoroughly incorporated. Gradually add the dry ingredients and the milk in stages: mix in about a third of the flour mixture, followed by about half the milk; mix in another third of the flour, then the rest of the milk; finally, add the last third of the dry ingredients.


In another large  mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites and the cream of tartar.  Beat the whites until they form firm peaks.  Fold the whites into the batter in two batches.   Pour the batter over the topping in the prepared pan and bake until the top is slightly brown and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 50 to 60 minutes.  Let the cake cool for 15 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto a serving plate.  Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream flavored with a little orange liqueur, if you like.

Makes one 9-inch round cake or one 8-inch square cake; serves 8 

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Reader Comments (57)

I made it this past weekend for a pre Thanksgiving luncheon with a group of old classmates. It came out just as your photos! I hadn't made it before, but it looked sooo good! It was delicious! The only thing I changed was I added the zest of one orange 🍊 the batter. It was just perfect, as I love citrus. It was just a hint of orange 🍊! The cake was moist & tender.....definitely a Keeper. The sweet-tart of the cranberries was really great!

November 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoanie in Texas

I was trying to make a cranberry smoothie in my Nutribullet blender, not very tasty. So I used the "smoothie" along with the remaining whole cranberries for the topping. I thought, "this is too wet, too juicy.' I baked it anyway, flipped it, and wow, was it beautiful. It looked just like your photo. The family loved it. I'm making another one for Valentine's Day.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRenee

Hi, I was wondering if you could use canned whole cranberries? I don't drive, so getting to the store isn't easy for me to accomplish. I always have canned whole cranberries, as I made cranberry chicken in my crock pot as often as I can, so if I could use canned cranberries, then I could make this very soon. Thanks for your time, Carolyn :-)

November 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn

From The Italian Dish:

Carolyn: You know, I have never used canned cranberries - I really don't know how they will be in this cake but I would think they could work.

Did you know you can buy fresh whole cranberries and then freeze them? If you can't get to the store often, this works very well. I have frozen fresh cranberries when they are in season so that I can have them when they are not in season. Hope this helps.

November 24, 2014 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

I made this last Thanksgiving for a group of old classmates (ladies) ....&, it was Really Great! I'll have to say it was perfect for the occassion .... Tasted as good as it looked.
The sweet & tart are Yummmmm! Perfect with rich meats, stuffing, and, all the other food. And, so pretty! What's don't have to frost it! 😉

November 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoanie in Texas

Elaine: thank you for posting this recipe again. I made a test cake today, used a springform pan since I didn't have a 9" cake pan. The cake turned out fantastic despite most of the orange juice leaked out. What was I thinking??? So lesson learned not to use a springform pan when I make the cake for Christmas. And yes, it's amazingly good!!

December 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

How do I still love cranberries. This is one of the most useful ready-made products in our world. And your cake is extremely gorgeous. I have always loved pies and all kinds of sweets. Your cake is very good.

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