upside-down cranberry cake

Is it too soon in our relationship to say that I miss hanging out with you guys more? I hope not. The fact is that these days I am so deep in the throes of oh my god what was I thinking a certain cookbook I’m supposed to be halfway (ha! hoo! hee! I wonder if Knopf will find this so hilarious) finished with that it’s taking time away from hanging out here. Which is a shame, as it is my favorite place outside a certain striped carpet covered with The Mop Who Came to Live With Us and his toys and a bar I haven’t found yet that makes perfect Manhattans.

setting up
puddling the caramel

And it’s not like I’m not cooking up a storm, either. Yesterday, I made what I hoped would be an unfathomably deep apple pie for the cookbook. Think piles of amazing baked appleness for people who can never have enough filling (this, by the way, is for people who can never have enough crust). Alas, it was a (delicious) mess and I am back to the drawing board where I summon the confidence to start peeling another six pounds of apples.

sour cream batter

cranberries meet caramel

There’s also this upside-down cranberry-caramel cake, which I made from The Perfect Finish. Now, before I tell you everything that went wrong with it, I’d like to start off on a positive: we finished it. In an apartment with too much of everything caloric these days, the temptation of cake isn’t particuarly strong (if there could be an upside to all of this cooking). But over the course of a workweek, we finished it. Obviously, it was good.


But it was troublesome. It baked too quickly, I found the cake a little sturdy. It almost overflowed. I wanted more flavorings to contrast the cranberries and I wanted a few more cranberries, too. And the cake, it’s not very pretty. At first I blamed my photography but then I started insecurely Googling (what, doesn’t anyone else do this?) other images of cranberry upside-down cakes and well, apparently they largely look like this. I’m going to post the recipe below with a bunch of notes. Feel confident that if you make it by the book, with only minor adjustments for cooking time and oven protection, you will have a cake worth sharing and finishing. If you’d like to raise the bar on it, however, I’ve got some ideas.


One year ago: Raisin-Studded Apple Bread Pudding
Two years ago: Cottage Cheese Pancakes and Onion Tart with Mustard and Fennel
Three years ago: Roasted Stuffed Onions
Four years ago: Indian-Spiced Vegetable Fritters

Upside-Down Cranberry-Caramel Cake
Adapted from The Perfect Finish (previously from this book)

If you don’t like molasses, I’d use honey or light corn syrup instead because although just a tablespoon, you can taste it (though we found it delicious against the tart berries). If you’re thinking, as I was, that there was no need for a parchment paper circle in the bottom (and later, top) of the pan, you can probably skip it. The “probably” is there because I didn’t get to retest this without it but see nothing to worry about; if a berry sticks, just scoop it and plop it on top of the cake. The cake itself is a little on the shortcake side — sturdier than your average plush layer cake but still quite moist. Still, if you want a more traditional upside-down cake base, I think this one is phenomenal (you might even swap the pineapple juice for white cranberry) as is this one.

Unsalted butter or cooking spray for the baking pan
2/3 cup (5 ounces or 142 grams) packed light brown sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces or 171 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces or 242 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces or 198 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (9 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (8 1/2 ounces or 242 grams) sour cream
2 cups (8 ounces or 230 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries (you could add a half-cup more, if you, too, can never have enough cranberries)
Optional flavorings: 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, 1 tablespoon orange or lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon zest, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, few gratings of fresh nutmeg or a combination thereof
Whipped cream, optional

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter and cover the bottom with parchment paper (see Note above). In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of the melted butter, molasses and 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Stir well and pour into prepared cake pan. Set pan aside.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together into a bowl or onto a sheet of waxed paper and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with the whisk attachment (eh, I just used a handmixer with standard beaters) beat the eggs and sour cream together at medium speed until well blended. Add optional flavorings of your choice. Scrape down the bowl and add remaining melted butter (1/2 cup) and beat until combined. Add flour mixture and beat until smooth.

Add the cranberries to the prepared baking pan and gently press the fruit into an even layer. Dollop the batter on top and use an offset spatula to gently nudge it into place without disturbing the cranberries underneath. Bake on the center rack (with a tray underneath to catch drips… just in case; mine did not overflow but came stressfully close) until golden and a tester inserted into just the cake comes out clean, which took 30 to 35 minutes in my oven but is suggested to take 45. Please, please check yours on the early side. Remove from the oven and let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the inside of the pan then insert over a flat platter that is (Learn From My Mistakes Alert!) larger than your cake pan, to catch any puddling or jumping cranberries. Remove the parchment paper.

Serve warm, with freshly whipped cream. However, this cake wasn’t half bad two to three days layer, kept covered at room temperature.

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313 comments on upside-down cranberry cake

  1. Oh man. I can’t even begin to describe my love for all things cranberry. This makes me want to hop up from my desk, forget the rest of the workday, go home and bake! This is definitely going to be added to my cranberry to-do list!

    1. Morgan

      I just made this today. I baked the full 45 minutes and the tester came out clean and beautiful. I let it cool for 15, turned it out, and the batter beneath the cranberries was completely raw. Then the cake split in half and sunk into a sad, purple mess. I crumbled and scooped it into a casserole dish, baked it for another 15 minutes, and turned it into a dump cake/crumble sort of thing. I was so sad because it really was beautiful before it fell apart. BUT it still tastes pretty good.

  2. martina

    I miss you too sometimes, but I’m happy for you after thinking about your little cute boy and your project that keep you really busy. Enjoy these moments anyway
    cheers Martina

  3. What a great looking recipe! It is very similar to a Cranberry Pie that I make around the holidays. Will have to get around to posting and will send it to you! I think I am in denial that Thanksgiving is really only a few weeks away!

  4. I love how I keep being sent to that page about your cookbook and it’s been the same for months. I obviously spend way too much time reading this blog. Good luck finishing the cookbook, though! We all can’t wait to read/buy/bake from it!

  5. I seem to remember a cake like this from The Italian Dish last year…..looks scrumptions~~~even tho it’s a little homely–I like homely food!! I would think you could slather it in whipped cream to make up for the sturdiness too….mmmmmm.

    ..dreaming of your cookbook….

  6. Lauren

    this actually looks very similar to a recipe i’ve been making for years from the william’s sonoma seasonal cookbook. bet it’s also delicious. it’s always big hit at the holidays.

  7. I hate that feeling, the one in which you’re so excited about something your making and you’re willing to spend a long time on it because you think it’s going to be awesome, the best thing you’ve ever had, let alone made and then you try it and… meh.

    But honestly, I think this looks delicious. I’m definitely going to try it. I love the sharp, almost unexpected taste of a cranberry in combination with a mild flavoured cake. So, this might be just perfect for me!

  8. EG

    Hello, Little Mop. Your parents look forward to the day that you lose all the important pieces of that Melissa & Doug train and you just have three train beds with wooden spindles sticking up. It’s a delight.

    And yes, I agree, I like it when you tell us what about a recipe you didn’t quite love or did wrong. It helps us understand the “why” of baking.

  9. How is it that I never thought to make a cranberry upside down cake? I love the tartness of unsugared cranberries that have been mellowed a little by baking against a rich baked good. I live in Vermont, I think I will substitute maple syrup for the molasses.


  10. I remember making your Lemon Yogurt Anything Cake, with fresh cranberries, while watching Obama’s inauguration. We all had off work but were not brave enough to endure the crowds and the cold to see it in person. I haven’t made a cranberry dessert since, and I think I’m long overdue!

  11. Nicole

    If you’re ever in Philly I’ll get my husband to make you a perfect Manhattan!

    Mm, I love upside-down cakes; this one looks scrumptious.

  12. Amy

    Mmm… cranberry cake. My mother-in-law makes one from an old family recipe that is super simple, and topped with a butter sauce. It’s so incredibly good, and you totally don’t care how much butter and whipping cream it has in it.

  13. I’m always looking for new ways to use cranberries and this looks phenomenal! My family loves pineapple upside down cake, so I think this would be perfect for the season!

  14. If I made all of the cakes posted on all of the foodie blogs I love to read, I’d definitely be eating way too much cake. This one, I might try as a mini cake in a smaller cake pan, but I’ll probably have to mess around with the baking time.

  15. Ohh perfect timing. I went to the store this weekend bought bags of cranberries to start eperimenting with recipes. Made cranberry bars with white chocolate, they were awesome. Then i made cranberry jello molds YUM, and cranberry tart and this is another one i could make. Awesome idea. Love cranberries.

  16. Hi Deb! I just made a cranberry-orange upside down cake a few weeks ago, well, it was the 5th time I’ve made that same cake this year. It’s delicious, and it’s easy on the eyes. I have The Perfect Finish and I’ve found a lot of inconsistencies with their recipes that make me raise any eyebrow, so you’re not alone there. Here’s the link to the recipe if you want to give it a whirl.

  17. Stephanie

    This looks amazing, but it is not why I am commenting…also, your baby is adorable, also, not why I am commenting. If you ever find yourself in the Seattle area, you must make a trip down to Tacoma (I know, right…) to a bar called 1022 South, it is basically amazing. I don’t know about their manhattans, but they make a damn good old fashion, among other fantastic concoctions. Website here:

  18. Tom

    I make a pretty mean Manhattan … and skip the molasses … and whipped cream “optional” … not around here ;)

    Congrats on the book deal. I’m still searching for a publisher. Sometimes it feels all in vain. Meanwhile, I’ll just keep writing :)

  19. k

    We miss you, too, Deb. It’s kind of like you’re gestating a second baby with this cookbook stuff, and so we know you’ll come back more often when that burden lifts. Meanwhile, you’re doing a good job of keeping many of us interested in buying it…!

  20. I just bought a bag of cranberries, and was wondering whether to use them in baked goods or make cranberry sauce for turkey sandwiches (I know Thanksgiving isn’t here yet but I have a craving for turkey-cranberry sandwiches something fierce!) Maybe I’ll try a mini-version of this cake with half the bag and incorporating your notes on how to make this better.

  21. Oh my goodness! One of my girlfriends from high school came over last Friday and we cooked together, a throwback to our senior year supper club. She made the dessert and I roasted the chicken ala Mark Bittman. She made this cake!

    It is so delicious and easy. We took a photo to commemorate its beauty at my husband’s insistance. We look like three people having a great time holding a pizza.

    I can testify that you are right when you say its as good a few days down the line. It is delicious hot from the pan and also great a couple of days later. The last slice was eaten today with coffee for breakfast.

  22. Get out of my head! I almost made one of these babies this weekend! (Went with pie instead).

    And I’ve given up on a bar that makes a perfect Manhattan (but if you’re ever in LA, Cole’s in Downtown makes the best one I’ve had out — and their french dip sandwiches aren’t too shabby), so I’m trying to make one at home. Best I’ve done so far is Rittenhouse Rye + Punt y Mes + Angostura Bitters +Amarena Cherries

  23. Tina L.

    Oops: Perfect Manhattan can be found at the bar of Giorgio’s of Gramercy on 21st St.

    PS. You’ve inspired a riff on this for our Thanksgiving dinner! Thanks!

  24. Yummm, I love cranberries in cake! Usually I just make a vanilla teacake with cranberries in it, folded through the batter… this is definitely throwing down the gauntlet. Sour fruit + sweet cake = heaven. :)

  25. Jenna

    My aunt makes a cranberry upside-down cake every year for Thanksgiving that I adore. It’s very similar to this, but with golden raisins mixed in with the cranberries and cornmeal cake batter. I doubt there’s molasses but don’t know for sure as she won’t share the recipe (“But if I tell you how to make it, then you won’t want me to make it for you any more!”).

  26. I love cranberries, though I can see why anybody would be a little insecure in this cake’s appearance. It’s not your fault that it looks like someone (or a lot of someones) died on that cake.

    Alas, making this will have to remain a happy thought for me. My husband hates cranberries and that is a lot of cake for one woman.

  27. Elisabeth

    Alice Waters has a fantastic recipe for cranberry upside-down cake in The Art of Simple Food. The cake has a light and tender crumb structure, and the top is gorgeous — and delicious, with lots of tart cranberries playing nicely with caramelized buttery brown sugar. If you are looking for another upside-down cranberry cake, I highly recommend it.

  28. Neha

    I would have to second the recommendation someone else made – Dorie Greenspan’s book “Baking” has a great cranberry upside-down cake…although I think she calls it something different

  29. brooklyner

    oh… I think I’d love this no matter how it looked. For years my mom has made a cranberry steamed pudding at thanksgiving – it’s a recipe from gourmet in the early 90s or maybe late 80s, I couldn’t find it on epicurious, but it’s close to this:,1940,142164-231200,00.html
    Mmmmm…. delicious tart cranberries, great bread pudding-ish texture to the steamed pudding, and the sweet & citrusy runny sweet sauce. MMMMMMMMMMM!

  30. Vanessa


    I tried this one too and I kind of did not like it either…BUT BUT let me tell you, I found the BEST, most delicious cranberry upside down cake! I found it in the most unusual place but I tried it last year and OMG, I died, I am dead…
    This year I could not wait enough for cranberries to be in season so I could make it again! Please check it out, I know that you would appreciate it for all it is! (If you can find a minute to breath in your super busy life…believe me, I own a restaurant, which is like owning a “MOP” so I completely understand! LOL…Anyways,should I send it to your email or post it here?

    p.s I love your blog!

  31. Yess cranberries! I never get to try too many cranberry recipes because I know NO ONE else who likes this! It’s madness. But this… oh man. That colouring is beautiful. It looks delicious… more than delicious. Please share more cranberry recipes I can drool over! Hah.

  32. Sometime ago, I have posted a recipe for Upside Down Blackberry Cake.So far it has been the biggest hit on my blog. It can be made with different seasonal fruits,also cranberries. Interesting how different dishes have the same name,look similar but they have different ingredients.But I am sure they all taste great. Mine seems also a little bit fluffier and lighter.

  33. Glad you linked to your cherry upside-down cake, which is a staple in our house. It’s interesting that it your cranberries seemed to have migrated to the edges. I wonder what that’s all about.

  34. This type of recipe works great with just about any fruit. Rhubarb is especially amazing. I’ve been using a similar recipe for years from Alice Waters’ “Fruit.” Great go to cake to take anywhere.

  35. sam

    This is a Christmas breakfast favorite for many years at my house. To make it even easier, we use a big iron skillet – something that can go from stovetop to oven. Make the caramel, add the cranberries, as that cools, you can make the batter, spoon it on and bake.

  36. It’s not the prettiest cake in the world, but then again I’m sure it was delicious. I’ve never made upside down cake before! I think I’ll start with pineapple :)

  37. Erica

    why do you not have a facebook page? i saw this and said “WANT!” and then wanted to click “like” and share it with the world, but i will just have to make it instead… with the vanilla flavoring i think. I love all things cranberry. This looks amazing (and not at all ugly, tasty and sweet and amazing)

  38. Kristi

    As I was reading your post, I too was thinking about how great Dorie’s cranberry upside downer cake is. And so fast and simple to make! I freeze cranberry and its our go to coffee and office potluck cake.

  39. Hayley

    i’d love to make this, just i am wondering whether i could bake this in a dutch oven (with lid open of course) as i don’t own a cast-iron skillet/pan; after all a dutch oven is a cast-iron pan, just with very high sides.. Does anyone know whether that’ll work, or will i have a disaster when trying to invert the cake onto a plate..?

  40. leu2500

    Maida Heatter has a good cranberry upside down cake. And of course Laurie Colwin has one. Pam Anderson has a yellow cake that I really, really like in her Perfect Meals for Enertaining (or something like this) that she also uses for an upside down cake, if you are looking for more ideas.

  41. I Google images too when I think mine isn’t up to the mark! So I can totally relate to that. Sucks that we don’t get cranberries here, thought.

    PS: WHEN *followed by a whimpering for taking the liberty to use caps* are you going to update the cookbook section? I’ve been following the link each time in your posts hoping there might be some more news, but there is none! :(

  42. Marcia

    Marion Cunningham has a ridiculously easy ,yummy, weeknight type , cranberry upside cake in the Fanny Farmer Baking Book..and it maintains a bright red look. It also takes about 10 minute to put together.

  43. I’m always on the lookout for new cranberry recipes…I love ’em! And they seem to be shoved aside(other than in the ubiquitous sauce) especially compared to the holiday counterparts of pumpkin, pecans, and apple/pear combinations…thanks for the tips!
    cathy b. @ brightbakes

  44. european reader

    I just came to wonder, will your book have the measurements in weights? And by the way, I think the cake looks stunning. Too bad we don’t access fresh cranberries over here.

  45. EDZ

    This looks good!! Yummy cranberries!! and delighted that ALL measurements are giving now to help those of us who use grams/ounzes in Europe. Will add this one to my to-bake list!!

  46. Travels4Food

    Maybe the Algonquin for a really good Manhattan? Just seems like the place for a sort of upscale beverage. On the other hand, that was the drink my dad made for himself when he got home at the end of the day, so maybe it’s all in having the ingredients at home.

  47. paula

    hi deb! another cranberry up-side down cake to try is one found on the Culinary in the Country food blog. it was first published in May 2005 and i’ve been using it ever since. it’s super easy to make, looks like a jewel when served and is yummy!

  48. nancy

    Is it just me, or does this seem to be screaming for a shot of dark rum? Maybe I’ll try that as an optional flavouring. And my Mum and Dad, now in their mid-80s, make a pitcher of Manhattans every Friday night. Perhaps that’s the secret to their longevity!

  49. sarah

    I love this blog so much. I was watching the food network last night and thinking how you really need a show…although I suppose you’re busy enough! Maybe after the cook book?

  50. june

    This looks beautiful and I’m sure is absolutely delicious. Your soon-to-be cookbook is definitely on my must-have-this-book wish list.

  51. KJ

    As for not posting as often as you would like, don’t worry about it. Keep in mind that the rest of us are also deep in the throes of our projects and deadlines. We have all been there and understand. We also all look forward to your posts.

  52. Deb Oh Deb! HELP!
    I’ve gotten a “side job” baking pies for a new diner in town. I SWEAR by your all-butter crust, however for cream pies, or when I have to pre-bake the shell, it ALWAYS shrinks! Any advice? I know you’re crazy busy, but I’d SO appreciate any thoughts you might have! Also, this cranberry cake looks wonderful! I’m adding it to my Thanksgiving menu right now!!!

    1. deb

      Thanks for all of the encouragement! I appreciate it. Also the suggestions, such as one of those peeler/corer things. Anyone have trouble with them not getting the whole cores out? That’s the only reason I haven’t gotten one yet, I thought it would irk me if I had to go back to each one and re-trim spots. We have decided (upon carving into a large slice of it last night) that the crazy apple pie is anything but a failure which means, oh drat, I’ll just have to make another one to tweak it.

      Manhattans — Keep the suggestions coming! It will be hard, but we will try to make it to each play suggested in NYC. It’s going to be a tough winter, clearly.

      europeanreader — Yes, the book will absolutely have weights, in ounces and grams.

      Hawkins — I think I’ve had one there before! But then I had another and then (wedding dress rehearsal)… and now I need to go back because I can’t remember it all.

      Nancy — I like your parents!

      Erica — The Smitten Kitchen Facebook page is over here.

      Sarah — Any pie dough with water content (pretty much all of them) will shrink in the oven. I have some luck freezing the shell first, then lining it with buttered foil (like so) for less shrinking.

  53. While not the most beautiful cake, it looks like it would be fabulously delicious! If I made this I would use lots and lots of lemon zest- love the way cranberry and lemon taste together!

  54. Jane

    The cranberry is surely the most unappreciated and underutilized fruit! I have made the cranberry upside down cake from Fine Cooking for years and look forward to trying this version. Thx!

  55. Jane

    I made this last night and it plopped out neatly and beautifully without my having to use parchment paper – yay! It is a very good cake, I think next time I will skip the molasses and take another commenter’s suggestion to use maple syrup instead – the molasses + cranberry taste just doesn’t tickle my tastebuds. Still good, though!

  56. HeatherH

    Now I know what else I will do with the leftover cranberries from thanksgiving!

    And David Rosengarten has a pretty awesome apple pie recipe in his cookbook: “Taste: one palates journey through the world’s greatest dishes” (it might also show up in the Dean & Deluca book). It’s my go-to apple pie, it doesn’t cover the apples up in a fussy sauce and it’s piled so high with apples that it looks like a dutch apple pie when you get done with it. And it only takes 3 pounds of apples (I’m buying some northern spy this weekend and might make a pie on Sunday).

  57. Deb,

    I love the surprise of an upside-down cake…when you turn it over and it’s so gorgeous…and they are not as fussy as pies and dough, etc. We must have been on the same wave length because I just did a ROASTED PEAR ROSEMARY UPSIDE DOWN CAKE for my blog and now I want to make yours too. Good luck with the other half of the book. Can’t wait to see it in the stores!

  58. Marcy

    looking forward to trying this recipe, i love cranberries. i have tried many of your recipes and they all are amazing and now favorites. as for the bar that makes the perfect manhattan, try a place called the royale in saint louis, missouri, if you ever venture to the midwest. they make many cocktails that were fashionable in earlier, more fashionable, times. locally owned, hip but not too hip and delightfully smoke-free.

  59. Kristin G

    I have fresh cranberries from the farmer’s market in my fridge, which will immediately become this cake as soon as I get home from work. Thanks, Deb!!

  60. Borislava

    Just a quick stop to say that I am officially obsessed with smittenkitchen. I was just informed that I am to cook a dinner for 6 tonight and was, first, “yay”, and then “let’s see if Deb has made this parmesan chicken thing yet”. I just don’t google recipes anymore :) Thanks and can’t wait to see the book! Please DO ship to Italy!

  61. Deanna

    I made your pineapple upside-down cake over the weekend and it was fantastic. It wasn’t the brightest idea on my part to make it at the time because I have a severely injured shoulder and didn’t realize I couldn’t flip my cast iron skillet until it came out of the oven. I had to run across the street and beg my neighbor to do it.

    I love the idea of cranberry cake, but I think I would use the pineapple recipe and sub cranberries and juice. That cake was heavenly. Too bad its gone now. I would love some for breakfast.

  62. Janet

    By the way, Deb, you do know you have plenty of willing taste testers right here, don’t you? In case, you know, you end up apple-pied out or something.

  63. Wendy

    Made this last night with my 9-year-old daughter and it came out just as gorgeous as your picture. Love that all the ingredients, save the cranberries, are staples. Used a 10″ iron skillet and didn’t even have to grease a pan. Did I say it was gorgeous?

  64. Yummy. I have cranberries in the freezer that are really wanting to be taken out. On an apple pie note, I LOVE salted caramel apple pie. So much so that I haven’t updated my blog since (or becuase I’ve been overworked at my day job). I highly recommend.

  65. MJ

    If you’re only lukewarm about this cake, the least you could do is refer people to the wonderful cranberry cake you wrote about on Dec. 12, 2008 – That cake quickly became a Christmas staple at our house.

  66. Jeannie Bean

    Would it sound odd to suggest that you come to Virginia for the perfect Manhattan? We’re pretty savvy on all thing bourbon related, around here. :)

  67. With the apple corer gadget that I linked to, it removes the core quite readily, as long as the apple was centered on the spike according to the core and not the shape of the apple (the core is pushed through a sharp loop that removes it from the apple – the loop can be pushed to the side if you just want to peel the apple without coring it).

  68. not knowing you posted this recipe, ii just made one of these over the weekend, except it was with apples and dired cranberries. turned out great, but i felt the need to pour syrup on the bottom of the cake before flipping it, as the dough seemed a bit dry. but very light and tasty, i must say!

    1. deb

      Angela — I am shooting the cookbook. I also shoot the photos here.

      Apple corer — Thanks for the advice. I ordered this yesterday; I think it’s the one recommended by CI. I’ll let you guys know how it goes.

      Manhattans — Yes! I would like to come to Virginia and Seattle and all of your homes. Deb’s Cross-Country Manhattan Tour, I can see it now! :)

  69. Yep, with hand over heart I can honestly say I’ve made the most delicious sounding dishes to be so upset with their ‘plain jane’ look…, Oh whose kidding…, some of them have been ugly critta’s ….. , but they tasted good so its off to Mr Google to see how others made them look better, it gives me heart, what can I say ;)
    But., having empathised with your delema I have to say this one sounds so yummy.., just sayin’

  70. Kerry Stafford

    Deb, have you ever tried Golden Syrup? (It’s a British thing, but you can get it on Amazon of all places and I’m sure World Market sell it.) There’s no US substitute for it and it’s like a really light, golden, smooth syrup. There’s nothing else quite like it! (Google it!) I am thinking that this might be the perfect substitute for the molasses …..

  71. Ann Tell

    May I recommend the Cranberry Orange Cornmeal Cake by Zoe Nathan of Rustic Canyon Restaurant in Los Angeles. The recipe was printed in the Los Angeles Times “Dear SOS” column. It is not an upside down cake, but is festive for Thanksgiving and just about any time.

  72. We are VERY serious about classic cocktails at our house, and the Clover Club in Brooklyn definitely knows its stuff. We didn’t have Manhattans there, but we did leave ourselves in the very capable hands of the staff, and every drink was delicious.

    Looks like I’m not the first to offer, but we’ll be happy to fix you a Manhattan on the house (our house, that is) if you’re ever in the Portland area. Moppets welcomed :)

  73. Paula

    My mother and grandmother made a similar cake minus the embellishments: one layer: cranberries on the bottom, 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar, 1 egg! Served slightly cooled with a dollop of real whipped cream. Your recipe took me back to holidays long ago, would love to try this recipe for Thanksgiving!

  74. Erin

    Deb, I absolutely love your blog. I’m not sure why I have so many cookbooks when it seems like all I do is check here for inspiration :-).

    A tip that I learned from an America’s Test Kitchen recipe for a cranberry upside down cake was to separate the eggs before you combine them into the batter. The recipe added the yolks with the wet ingredients and whipped the whites in a separate bowl and folded them in at the end. This makes for a very light and fluffy cake, but it’s still sturdy enough to support the cranberry topping.

  75. Natalie

    I love your blog and recipes! I often bake and take my goodies to work. Now I have a vegan co-worker. Any advice on turning baked goods, like this recipe, vegan? Thanks!

  76. Tamara

    Hey Lady- Just wanted you to know how much you inspire me. Finish that cookbook so I can be the first one to get it. And a book signing is a must. Keep up the good work. Gods speed!!!!!!! Tamara

  77. Melissa

    Hi Deb,

    I tried this cake Wednesday night and let me tell you, it turned out beautifully. The consistancy was different…it almost seemed like a scone? Was that supposed to be like that. I guess I was just expecting a moist cake consistancy…I’m not sure if I did something wrong, but I was happy with the way it looked : ). You mentioned using juice as in a pinneapple upside down cake, but did not see where the recipe called for juice.

  78. DC365

    Deb! You already have a recipe for a PERFECT cranberry upside down cake on your site!! I’ve been adapting your pineapple upside down cake for two years for this purpose. Swap out frozen cranberries for pineapple, 100% cranberry juice for the pineapple juice (also works with orange juice, if you prefer a cranberry/orange flavor) and brandy for the rum. If you want to get fancy, you can add orange zest to the batter, or pecans to the topping, but I prefer to keep it simple. It is stupendous, and very, very pretty (esp. if you use light brown sugar for the caramel.)

  79. I made this for Christmas dinner last year. It went over great! especially with my aunt who can’t eat pineapple.
    Plus – the colors alone were wonderfully festive.

  80. julie

    Just sat down to look through Great Food Fast and the book fell open to… Cranberry Upside-Down Cake! Similar ingredients but different quanities. Are you familiar with this one? Not a cook so I have no idea how to compare them. I would love to take a crash course on how to read and compare recipies. Any suggestions other than making both- I’m already wearing my fat pants :)?

  81. Alissa Abelson

    I have to bring a parev dessert for Thanksgiving….can I swap the margarine for the butter or do you have another seasonally appropriate dessert I should bring? Thanks
    love web site

  82. This really does look good, even the the cake texture is a little “sturdy” (brilliant choice of words, there). A big fat dollop of cream can make anything look better and if it still worries you, why not call it a light pudding?

  83. Emily

    I just polished off a healthy slice of this cake and it is a new favorite!! I was becoming a bit anxious about trying it after reading and re-reading the blog entry…worrying about the cake’s “sturdiness” and other things!! :) But, I needn’t have worried. I omitted the parchment paper circles (NEVER use them…just seems so fussy to me!) and chose cinnamon and vanilla for my add-ins….to me, the cake was stunning right out of the oven, and I’ll take cranberries upside-down over pineapple any day!

  84. No one

    what do you have against mentioning how many people this (& every other recipe you post) is supposed to serve?
    I’m not trying to be rude, but it’s really frustrating to see all these delicious recipes & not have a clue if I need to double or halve the recipe to feed my family

    1. deb

      No one — I do have something against serving sizes on cakes because I can never get my head around how big people want to slice their cakes. A 9-inch might serve 8 people or it could serve 16. (Most people I know prefer slivers. No bakery would let you buy a 9-inch cake for 16 people.)

      Melissa — I agree. I called it “sturdy” but it did remind me a bit of a scone.

  85. terry

    Usually I’m all over your recipes [and sometimes they’re all over me]. This one doesn’t thrill me, though. Wednesday night I threw together a peach upside down cake for something sweet after dinner. Some butter, brown sugar and a can of sliced peaches in the bottom of a 9″ round pan, and a Jiffy yellow cake mix on top. Simple, sweet, and better the 2nd day. I’m just sayin’.

  86. Hope

    Hey Deb,
    For a really pretty cranberry upside down cake, take a look at the one from Richard Sax.
    Although now, of course, I’m going to have to try this one with molasses in it.

  87. anon

    @No one: at least for this one it clearly uses a 9 inch cake pan. I’d think most people can guess how many slices they normally get out of a 9 inch cake, obviously it greatly depends on how big you cut your slices.
    Guessing how much someone else would consider a serving and thus how many servings something makes can be pretty difficult– I usually find that recipes from other sources that do list a specific serving number don’t actually match up with my experiences.

  88. Kathy in St. Louis

    Agreed, anon. Personally, I think servings listed on a recipe for baked goods is even less useful than servings listed for all other dishes. I think a total quantity — such as “yields two quarts or 1.5 cups or a one-pound loaf” — is much more useful.

    That said, the more I cook and bake, the better I am at estimating finished quantity by reading a recipe. The quantity of the main ingredient — chickpeas or flour or canned tomatoes, say — tells me everything I need to know.

  89. Alexandra

    so…just gotta put this out there… if you ever find yourself in Boston you really must go visit the bar rightly named Drink for truly the best Manhattan on the planet, the worst part being the location being all the way over here…but seriously mark it down someplace I’m sure you’ll come back to thank me one day once you try it ;)

  90. Just wanted to say I baked this up this moring and it is glorious! I used ‘real’ maple syrup instead of the molassess. My cake turned out looking like it has some more height than yours, but in any event, would it be a crime if I ate at least half the cake myself?!

  91. One of my favorite cake recipes is similar to this– we call it the “All things good cake”; some points of difference to try (for 3c flour):1c. butter+1.5c. buttermilk+ 1t. vanilla in the cake; toasted walnuts (1.5 c.) +more sugar(1.5 c.) +less butter (1/2 c.) in the topping– this gives more shape to the topping and a nice counterpoint to the buttermilk tang in the cake. And the nuts add an earthy flavor and toothy crunch.

  92. Marisa

    This isn’t related to this post, but Deb, what would you say your tips for plating are (presentation techniques)? I’m doing a project related to this. Thanks!

    1. deb

      Marisa — I really don’t style food. I know that it would be prettier if I did, but mostly I try to make sure things land on plates the way you can expect them to land on the plate in your kitchen. I do neaten up the counter a bit, however. Otherwise you’d never actually see the food!

  93. jeni

    This sounded delicious and i baked it on saturday, only i took mine out too soon, which i didn’t realize until waiting and flipping it out onto a cake platter, where it looked pretty, but obviously underdone! Slid/scraped it onto a cookie sheet and back into the oven. In the end it was called “crumble cake” by my husband, and enjoyed -maybe even more for the crumbling- by both of us, our three boys and my 13 year olds friend. When his folks picked him up later his mom immediately texted me saying “Mick is raving about your cranberry upside down cake, can i have the recipe?” :) I have another in the oven now to bring to a dinner today, hopefully looking prettier! Love the molasses hint.

  94. Franny

    I think the molasses are what make the cake look like that. I substituted molasses for honey and top of the cake turned out bright red and beautiful. Thanks for the tip on the actual cake batter needed more spice. I added a little extra cinnamon and a bit of powdered ginger and it gave it just enough extra flavor to not be bland but also not conflict with the berries as the dominant flavor.

  95. Katie

    I made this today with the cornmeal cake recipe that goes with the cherry upside down cake. It was Awesome! The cornmeal and the cranberries are made for each other.

  96. Randle

    This is really tasty. I subbed half the sour cream for whole milk plain yogurt and it is so moist! Fresh whipped cream makes it unbelievable!

  97. This is so delicious! and I forget to add any of the extra flavorings!! We love cranberries and not too sweet things and this really fit the bill. My only problem was it didn’t get quite done in the middle. I should have covered with tin foil and cooked longer but it also overflowed and was smoking up the kitchen. Nevermind though! I’ll definitely be making again. (used corn syrup and 3 cups frozen cranberries.) My kids assured me they like the middle not very done and everyone had seconds! I expect it to be gone when I get home from work today. thanks Deb!

  98. Camera-shy food usually tastes the best anyway…curries, stews, chilis, sausage, meatloaf…need I go on? This makes my mouth water all the more knowing it wouldn’t cooperate on your photoshoot.

    I will have to give this a whirl, that is, after I work up a cran-appetite following an intoxicating overdose of my mother’s Cranberry Nut Bread this past weekend…. oy

  99. I can see why this whole cake got eaten! I made it yesterday for a casual family dinner (we try to get together on Sunday’s) and it was the perfect thing: not to heavy, not too sweet, and everyone loved the cranberry/molasses combination. Of the optional additions, I included almond extract and some freshly grated nutmeg. It also made a fabulous breakfast just now!

  100. wendy

    The Flatiron Lounge (37 W 19th) serves up a mighty fine Manhattan. I recently had a ‘Brooklyn’ at Flatbush Farms in Prospect Heights…check it out. At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Southern Comfort with my rye whiskey, but turns out, it works!

  101. joanna

    I made this over the weekend and it came out awesome. Only problem was that I only had a bunt pan so it needed to bake a lot longer. Thanks!

    1. deb

      caroPDX — It was really, really tacky and pretty frightening that this magazine did not know what is and is not “public domain”. That said, I’m sure she is consumed with regret, though less likely over her error and more likely because it was the perfect storm of social media doing what it does best and a slow news week that ensured the magazine will never be known for anything else.

  102. judi

    First time reader, referred by a facebook friend.

    Deb, or anyone who has already made this, just a quick clarification, please.

    2 cups (8-1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
    1 cup (7 ounces) sugar

    I’ve never weighed baking ingredients, always have used volume measures.
    The measures above are correct for volume? 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar?

    By the way, I’ll probably become a regular reader. ;-)

  103. i also made this cake Saturday- the flavor was quite good, however mine also didn’t bake throughly once i made the flip even though my toothpick came out clean when testing, this was after 30 minutes, the cake in fact did need the 45 min cooking time.

  104. Leslie from Tdot

    Made this yesterday for Sunday dinner dessert. Didn’t have sour cream so used buttermilk instead. Didn’t have molasses (not fond of it anyway) so used maple syrup instead (of course pure!) Forgot to add the sugar at the right time – ditto the melted butter in the mix (focus problems it seems.) BUT it was/is delicious and wraps well for lunch treats. I like the sweet/tart mix of caramel and cranberries. My family doesn’t like overly sweet so it was a hit. Thanks Deb! Miss you too. But when you stop by it’s always great.

  105. judi

    The cake is excellent! I did have a very slight bubbling over, but contained the spill. Don’t know how you’d go about reducing the batter amount by a cup, but it was very, very close to making a nasty mess. Next time I make it, I’ll just do up a single serving in a custard cup or the like and put the remainder in my 9×1.5 round pan. I used orange extract rather than almond, and think I might give it a try adding some finely chopped pecans with the cranberries.

    Thanks for sharing, Deb!
    New Reader

  106. stephanie

    this cake was delicious! but i just wanted to tell you—i followed your recipe exactly, but next time i make it (probably for thanksgiving) i will have to put it in a different sized pan. i echo what other commenters have said. there’s just too much batter for that size pan. i had a little spill over (thanks for the tip about putting it on a baking sheet) AND my cake was definitely not cooked all the way through in the very middle after 35-40 minutes. i made the flip, had a clean toothpick test, but the cake was simply not done in the center. it really needed the full 45 minutes.

    LOVE your blog. keep up the good work :)

  107. Ginger

    I have become truly addicted to checking whats new on Smitten Kitchen daily. Realizing the multitude of emails and such you receive a day I figured a random-ish unrelated question on a post would be less tedious than ..another email to answer. So – to the point- Freezing uncooked doughs has been a complete revelation for me! But are there cookie doughs/other doughs that may necessarily not be frozen well – is there something that would be an indicator in a recipe that means it will turn out worst if frozen first. (and I’m just talking uncooked doughs)

    Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  108. Maggie

    After your caveat about the texture of the cake, I combined this recipe and the recipe for the Cherry Cornmeal Upside Down Cake into one giant Franken-recipe of awesomeness and baked it in a cast iron skillet. It was seriously one of the best desserts I’ve eaten. Ever. Thank you so much for giving us even more upside-down goodness!

  109. leslie

    HELP! I love this recipe but my kids ( who are in their 20s) love Thanksgiving food but are allergic to milk.
    I will fool around with oil and margarine but do you have any ideas on how to substitute the sour cream—do you think soy yogurt might work?
    PS. We all love your blog!

  110. Lauren Humphrey

    Long time reader, first time de-lurker. Just made this (as in, finished eating my slice approximately 30 seconds ago) and it turned out fabulous.

    I didn’t have any sour cream, so I swapped in 1 cup of 0% Greek yogurt instead. The cake was light-but-dense, moist, and soft and rose like a souffle. The pan-below-the-cake-pan tip was essential, but fortunately all that dripped out was the sugary syrup bubbling up from the bottom of the dish.

    @213 Leslie, I’d try the soy yogurt, the Greek yogurt (though it’s thicker) worked well for me.

    In addition to using the Greek yogurt, I added used light corn syrup instead of molasses, 1/4 tsp almond extract, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and a pinch or two of cinnamon and nutmeg. My cake took 50+ minutes to cook, but I kept the oven’s temperature lower. It was still a bit uncooked in the middle, but finished cooking as it rested. It turned out absolutely gorgeously, covered in shimmering cranberries.

    Another tip: I turned it out onto a rimmed dinner plate. The juice overflowed (and made a bit of a mess on the stove top) but I lifted the cake up gently and tilted the plate ala a labyrinth to pool the juices in the little dented circle below the cake. Kept all that moisture in!

    A little cinnamon/vanilla whipped cream on top, and there are three happy stomachs in my living room right now! Thank you!

  111. MATH

    You inspired me to make my own version – I would have tried yours because everything here is so yummy, but the meh review made me get creative.

    I adapted Deborah Madison’s awesome base for upside down cakes. Also tried this with Earth Balance instead of butter for a dairy-free/pareve cake and it was great.

    Here’s my adapted version.

    Preheat the oven to 350. Add 2/3 cup brown sugar and 2 T butter or Earth Balance in the bottom of a nonstick pie pan. Put it in the oven for a few minutes to melt and swirl it around. Wash 2/3 of a bag of cranberries and pour them into the caramel.

    Cream 1/2 cup butter or Earth Balance w/ 3/4 cup granulated sugar.
    Mix in 1 tsp. vanilla and 2 T whiskey or brandy and 3 eggs, until fluffy.
    Stir in 2/3 cup chopped pecans
    Combine 1 cup flour, 1 tsp. baking powder and 1/3 tsp. salt, and fold it into the cake mix. Spoon this over the cranberries, and bake for 30-40 minutes. I like baking in a cast iron pan, but doing it in the pie pan makes flipping it onto a plate MUCH easier. It also doesn’t burn the cranberries so the cake comes out a lot prettier.

  112. Stephanie

    Omg, I just pulled this out the oven – it’s soooo good!! I added cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice to the dry mixture (I put the same spices in my pumpkin pie which also has molasses).

  113. Jessica

    Would it be a complete disaster if (when combining with the alternative recipe for the batter) I use regular cranberry juice? Purple cake?

  114. Lindsay

    Thank you so much for this recipe!! I just made it today and my husband and I both love it!! I added orange zest and vanilla extract before the melted butter. I use spelt flour because I can’t digest wheat flour. It took about 50 minutes. I also inverted it onto a large dinner plate which worked out perfectly. Can’t wait to make this again over the holidays!!!

  115. Janice

    The Roosevelt Hotel bar in midtown has a divine perfect Manhattan. And a fireplace to boot!
    And Dorie Greenspan’s Cranberry upside-downer is a perennial favorite–it’s so festive and always comes out perfect

  116. Mike B

    Made this yesterday and it was tasty. I ended up with a bit too much batter (I used an extra half-cup of c-berries) and it sealed the top (it overlapped the pan’s edge). I didn’t get that nice berry-creepage that is shown in your photo. It’s rapidly disappearing all the same. Thanks and wishing you and yours a fine holiday season!

  117. Kate

    I made this cake last night for a group of girlfriends and it was amazing! I served it will a dollop of greek vanilla yogurt and warm spiced rum toddies, perfect for an evening of books, stories, and warm laughter.

    Two small variations: I used spelt flour instead of wheat, and I added orange rind to the caramel glaze, both worked out beautifully.

    The cake was warm and heavy, the glaze caramelized beautifully and contrasted the tart cranberries, I couldn’t have asked for a better recipe to celebrate the first snowfall in Canada!

  118. Lori

    I made this cake for a party on Saturday. Luckily I made two of them. The first one seemed done, a tester came out clean, but was raw in the center after about 40 minutes of baking. I put the second one back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes. The bottm burned so I just sliced it off and the final product was a huge hit. Not sure why that happened. I have an oven thermometer and it was at temp… ?? My 23 year old daughter and I ate our way through most of the less cooked one and just called it cranberry upside down pudding.

  119. adie

    I added vanilla, almond, cinnamon, a bit of lemon zest and juice to brighten all the flavors and lighten it a bit…lovely. I will say however that my cake took forever to bake in the center, and got very puffy….ideas on why anyone?

  120. Jess (of the formerly blue hair)

    Made this today, and it’s quite good. Needed to bake for 50 minutes (despite my oven usually running hot) to get the center non-goopy, although the top (bottom after it was flipped) got a bit darker than I would have liked. I made it with pure maple syrup in place of the molasses (very tasty), and with 1 TBSP of lemon juice in the batter (not sure if I can taste it). Mine overflowed quite a bit in the oven– I was very glad I had a cookie sheet with edged under it, for all the sauce that bubbled over. Thanks for yet another great recipe!

  121. OMG — word to the wise:
    If you, like me, have a pretty pathetic bakeware situation going on and you feel compelled to make this cake, please go buy a new pan instead of using a springform pan you got from your nana.

    CARAMEL EVERYWHERE. I’m 20 minutes into baking and terrified what will happen when I open up the stove.

  122. Kathie

    Made this yesterday, but I also had trouble with the top (bottom) burning while the center stayed raw.

    I’m thinking what I need to do is try a 10″ cake pan instead, perhaps it was simply too thick to cook all the way through.

    Added vanilla to the cake and the combo of the molasses and cranberries were a gigantic hit. Will try it again when I get a bigger pan.

  123. sara

    this is my very first post! i had to let you know how incredible this cake turned out for thanksgiving, what a hit! and, in my kosher home, i was able to substitute margarine and non-dairy sour cream and you’d really never know it was dairy-free. the cake was so moist and airy. i lucked out with the most amazingly large and juicy cranberries from whole foods. i added vanilla and orange zest into my batter which worked perfectly with the berries. oh and it only took 30-35 minutes until it was golden brown. thanks for inspiring me to bake!

  124. Jacqueline

    This was amazing! My little sister and I made it yesterday almost exactly as written and it was gobbled up *before* dinner, which is unheard of at my parents’ house (mom’s comment: “… eh, why not, it’s a holiday, right?”). We had a 12 oz bag of cranberries and went ahead and used the whole thing. There was a bit of boiling over of caramel sauce, which wasn’t a big deal since I had taken the advice on putting a tray underneath. I’m going to try making it again today with orange zest and almond extract in the cake and perhaps substituting out a bit of flour for almond meal (first time around we went with vanilla and cinnamon in the cake – I liked the vanilla but was less sure about the cinnamon). Baking time ended up being 42 minutes.

  125. Jacqueline

    Oh! Sorry to double-post, but I also wanted to be sure to mention that I didn’t use parchment paper for the bottom of the pan and it came out just fine (it was a non-stick pan & well buttered since I just melted the butter for rest of the recipe in the cake pan while the oven was pre-heating).

  126. Deidre

    I made this cake last night, and it was a bit of a disaster. Seemingly all of the caramel escaped the pan and ended up on the baking sheet below the cake, creating an enormous cloud of black smoke in my oven. If I did it again, I would definitely bake this cake in my 10-inch springform pan to prevent this from happening again. Despite all of this, though, the cake is quite yummy. The texture of the cake was a pleasant surprise. I also ended up baking it for MUCH longer than suggested, but I think that my new oven runs quite cool.

  127. Mary

    Made this cake- used beet syrup due to an unexplainable molasses phobia on the part of my husband. Amazingly beets don’t cause this. I’ve stopped trying to figure that out. It worked really well. I also added more cranberries per your suggestion. The verdict: it will be made again. Thanks!

  128. April

    Coupla years ago I bought a deep dish 9 inch cake pan (yup, cake pan), and it was perfect for this recipe. I highly recommend getting one! I also had to bake mine longer–almost 10 minutes more, so just a good reminder to keep an eye on your cake and test it each time.

    The cake was DELISH and my husband and coworkers snarfed it right up! Used extra cranberries and orange extract.

  129. Unique

    I made this today and it was delicious. It was easy substituting gluten free flour and I made some other substitions like Greek Yougurt instead of sour cream. I used the almond flavoring and no molasses. It was yummy! There was overflowing but no one could tell once it was flipped over. Thanks for the great recipie, such a treat with afternoon tea.

  130. Hannah


    I made this cake as a birthday cake for my boyfriend and his mom on Thanksgiving – it was a hit!! So, so great, and I didn’t even experience any cranberry explosion (just wrapped foil around the bottom of my spring-form pan) or other kitchen/baking mishap that I am so prone to. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    Now I’m wondering, with x-mas around the corner and everyone clamoring for more of the wonderful cake – is there any way to make personal sized versions of this for holiday treat boxes? Do you think just doing this in a really, really well greased muffin pan might work? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Can’t wait for the book!! :)

  131. Natalie

    I made this cake last night but in giant muffin sized portions. I used honey (instead of molasses), vanilla yogurt (instead of sour cream), lemon zest and cinnamon. It was DELICIOUS!!!!!

  132. Looks a lot like a Nantuckit Cranberry “pie.” May want to give that a whirl-you get pecans (excellent texture with the cranberry awesomeness) and you don’t feel like you fail when turning it out of the pan hits a snag (because it was never meant to be turned out, you see). Maybe a hybrid of sorts?

  133. Victoria

    This looks very yummy. I want to give this recipe a go. Hopefully it will turn out as good as your photos look. I think I will just keep my fingers crossed.

  134. Amita

    Hi Deb,
    I have been following your wonderful blog for a few days. I tried this upside-down cranberry cake recipe and it was so delicious. Thanks. I will keep coming back for more recipes.

  135. Christina

    Hi Deb! As a newfound fan of your website, this was the first recipe I attempted. It was also the most (only) beautiful thing I have ever created in the kitchen! Your website is so well thought-out, you seem to be truly doing what you love, and I am both very jealous and grateful for you for giving me something to look forward to reading every day! Keep up the good work.

  136. JC

    I just found this site the other night while looking for a butterscotch sauce recipe, and this is the first one I’ve tried.

    I used the cake from the Pineapple upside down cake with sparkling apple-cranberry juice in lieu of the pineapple juice, crown royal for the rum, about 3 cups of berries, and baked it for about 40 minutes in my cast iron skillet. Amazingly good and a dropdead gorgeous crimson color on top.

    Thanks for a great site. I’ll visit often. Perhaps too often.

  137. Molly

    For the love of god, DO NOT use a spring form pan, no matter how new or leak-proof you think it is, not even if you cradle it in tin foil and put it on a cookie sheet. You will still have a mess of burnt caramel and there is no way to get around it. The cake just came out of the oven, so I don’t really know the extent of the damage. I’m sure it will be delicious nevertheless.

  138. CMO

    I wanted to love this cake… but the cake part was underwhelming and too dense, just as you had said. I added several additional flavorings (vanilla extract, cinnamon, orange zest), as well as a 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the topping, but it just didn’t impress. And I echo the previous commenter who urged everyone not to use a springform pan! My 9-inch cake tins just weren’t deep enough, so I used a springform and all the caramel leaked out during cooling.

    I think next time I would try a 10-inch pan to improve the ratio of cake to cranberries, and try one of the other cakes you recommend. Thanks for posting though! I think its worth tinkering with to get this one right.

  139. Lili

    This cake is awesome. I substituted honey for molasses, added orange zest, cinnamon, and a little more vanilla than called for, and the cake turned out absolutely fantastic. I love the tart-sweet combination; I made it Christmas day and everybody adored it, especially still warm out of the oven with whipped cream.
    It took about 45 minutes to cook, so I guess the cooking time depends on what kind of oven you have.

    Great recipe, this is going to be one of my staples now!

  140. I made your cranberries and caramel base/topping with American’s Test Kitchen’s Apple upside down cake cake-part. And yes, I finished it. Alone. By myself. In one day. ONE DAY. Then, the next day I made it again, and my husband got to eat a whole 2 or 3 slices. I have bought three bags of cranberries this year because I plan to make this cake at least three times. So I know I only used a part of your recipe, but it was the best part. I want to thank you so much for sharing this because it is so amazingly delicious that I plan to make this cake every year for the rest of my life. That good.

  141. Thank you, thank you for this recipe! I just made it so that I can impress my in-laws at Thanksgiving tomorrow… It only took 35 minutes in my oven, and I didn’t use parchment paper, just ample butter, and it slid right out of the pan. It looks amazing… thank you!

  142. fran

    Well, what can I say. Made this cake on Monday for Thanksgiving 2011 dinner so it had time to ‘marinate’. WOW It was fantastic! I kept quietly coming back to it all afternoon. Woke up at 4am thinking about it AND broke down. The shame. Thank you.

  143. C

    This was great! I used a square cake pan and it worked just fine. I personally thought it wasn’t sweet enough but my friends thought it was ok. I think I may add more sugar in the cake batter. The cake base is very good and I may use raspberries next time.

  144. MrsNumbles

    Made this yesterday for my first Christmas dinner with the hubby, and it was a huge hit. Wonderfully dense, and he loved the “caramel”, as he’s such a fan of black treacle. Thank you for another fabulous recipe!

  145. karen

    I made this for a Christmas lunch and it turned out just perfectly. So festive looking. I used honey for the topping and almond extract in the cake. Perfect. Baked for about 40 minutes and got nervous because the edges were looking too brown but the middle was still not set. But it was just fine and actually stayed quite moist. Served with lightly whipped honey-sweetened whipped cream. We had just announced our pregnancy to the family and I got the comment that if I gestate as well as I bake then the kid will turn out really well. Took that as a great compliment! Thanks for helping celebrate a really special day with a really special cake! This is a keeper for sure. Yet another winner from smitten kitchen!

  146. Ainslie

    Quite literally THE BEST cake ever, but when I make it, (and I’ve made it more than 5 times) the cake is lighter-colored than the picture.

  147. Amanda

    Yum! Just made this cake for a dinner party and it was delicious. Loved the contrast of the tart cranberries with the buttery cake. I actually halved the recipe because I was short on butter, and didn’t use parchment paper – still came out really nicely. Thanks!

  148. Andi

    Hi Deb — You’re the source of many a dinners and desserts around here — big thanks for the endless inspiration! Quick question on this one: do you recommend defrosting the cranberries before assembling the cake?

  149. Andi

    Thanks, Deb! I found that when using unthawed frozen berries, this took 50+ minutes to bake — I assume the frozen fruit slowed it down a bit. In any case — delicious!

  150. Susi

    Hi Deb, I have been a long time reader/fan but this is my first time posting. I only just found this recipe so I haven’t yet tried it, but if it even comes close to as good as your cranberry vanilla coffee cake (which has been nicknamed “Cranberry Crack Cake” by my friends, family and employees because it is so addictive!), I will be thrilled! I also wanted to just thank you for all of your wonderful recipes and humor! I have never in my life purchased a cookbook, and with good reason… I have quite the collection of my own recipes passed down from my grandmother (an Austrian chef) and my mother (a restaurant owner before she passed on). However, I have put your cookbook on the top of my Christmas list! It is truly the only thing I am asking for! I just love your recipes. They have never failed me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  151. Sue

    Okay, I’m a lazy cook, but I just had to make the cranberry compote you use in this cake. I admit to messing with it a bit, used some brown sugar, some xylitol, blackstrap molasses (wanted the caramel taste to be strong.) Got my husband to taste it. He agreed that it is delicious. Then I decided to make a pumpkin spice cake, lazy cook style. I know your cake would be magnificent, but I am lazy. I used a spice cake mix, added the eggs and coconut oil (rather than canola) and then used a can of pumpkin puree instead of the water. Put your marvelous compote in a well-sprayed silicon Bundt pan, poured the pumpkin spice cake batter on top, and baked. This is seriously good. Because of the pumpkin it is filling. A fairly appropriate slice made for a great breakfast today. I say appropriate because I ate far too much last night and only afterward realized that I was JUST TOO FULL. I think your adding molasses to cranberries will be my go-to choice from now on! Thank you thank you thank you. And I LOVE your cookbook! I have read it cover to cover. It is beside my chair. Only the greatest get to stay there! Thank YOU!

  152. Esmee

    About 20 years ago, in Leningrad (it was Leningrad in those days) a went to someone’s house and marvelled that with shop shelves bare she had made this amazing cake. It looked like the picture you posted of your cranberry upside down cake, but thinner; on tasting, it was more a buttery, thick pie crust. But the molasses taste was definitely there. I can’t wait to try yours. Thanks!

  153. Amanda

    Deb, I am interested in making this cake for Thanksgiving, but gluten-free as some members of my family have gone that route. Any suggestions? Can you imagine being able to use some almond flour to substitute?

  154. Beth

    I made this cake (by accident) in a spring-form pan, as it was the only round pan I had (and some of the wonderful caramel sauce leaked); but I was able to ‘rescue’ the cake by flipping it and switching it to another pan after the cake was mostly set, and it turned out fine.

    I also used dark brown sugar.. and it was divine!

  155. sherae

    So I’ve tried to screw up this baking project as much as I could… realized I only had one egg, no sour cream- so subbed yogurt for both, then after it was in the oven and I was drying dishes realized I’d use the 1/3 cup measure for the brown sugar, not the 2/3. We shall see… maybe this will be the edits the recipe needs! Fingers crossed. No more baking after a day of Christmas shopping!

  156. Elsa

    Made it this afternoon and it’s wonderful! Wasn’t convinced about the cake batter so I used the other one you suggested (for the pineapple upside down cake) and instead of pineapple juice & rum I added orange juice & rind. It was perfect: light, sweet, fluffy cake with the sweet-tart cranberry layer. No oozing problem when I turned it out – all the caramel had been absorbed and was seeping into the cake.

  157. I made this cake for our wedding cake. We got married in December so it was a good option. The cake turned out beautifully and we had a snowman cake topper. :-)

  158. bethan

    Hi :) I made this for a friend a few days ago, and they liked it so much I decided to make more, and keep son for myself. I can now say first hand that this is really good.
    I did run short on sour cream, so subbed in mascarpone mixed with heavy cream for about half. Not sure if that’s a major change, but the cake did buckle which matters not at all to me.
    Anyway – I’ve made about half your cookbook and a number of your blogged recipes, and they’ve all turned out great. Thank you for that :)

  159. Novia

    I’m not a big pumpkin/pecan/sweet potato pie person and have always been looking for a good Thanksgiving/Christmas dessert alternative. This cake will be a new holiday tradition in my family. I made it for Thanksgiving and it was amazing (even though my sister used the full amount of butter in the caramel)! Thanks for another winner, Deb!

  160. Angie

    Thank you so much for this recipe!! It’s been my go-to last minute dessert during the holidays for a few years now. I originally tried a slightly different recipe, with disappointing results. I loved the idea of it though, so I persevered and tried yours. It’s perfect! I love the deep red color of caramelized cranberries, and they are perfect for the winter season. Just threw one together for an unexpected potluck, and had to tell you how much I appreciate the recipe.

  161. Echo

    Great cake! I made it with yoghurt the first time because I didn’t have any sour cream. I also added 1tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger and a grate of nutmeg to the flour mixture. Turned it into a nice ‘spice’ cranberry upside down cake.

  162. Amy C

    I have made this every year for Thanksgiving since I saw the recipe. I have probably commented already on this but this cake is awesome! I messed up the first year and simmered the cranberries with the sugar/butter mixture and decided to do this every year. I add extra cinnamon, ground ginger, a pinch of clove, and orange zest. Everyone is always pleasantly surprised by how good it is and it always becomes a favorite. Cranberries are severely underrated and I don’t know why.

  163. erineaguayo

    Holy cow! I was looking for the Dorie recipe, which my sister made a few times and I remembered as being a good use for extra cranberries. This was so, so much better. I will never use a cranberry for sauce again. The sour cream really gives it a wedding-cake quality, and I started after 3:30 and we were eating it with our coffee at 5:30. Solid cake timeline.

  164. nfranklin2015

    I made this for Christmas dinner and it was a solid hit, and it’s definitely going in the regular holiday rotation here. A slice made a lovely Boxing Day breakfast treat, as well. Yummy!

  165. Tess

    I love this cake! I’ve made it several times for different occasions and it is always a hit. It’s very simple to make as well. However, I’ve had a serious issue with the cook time every time I’ve made it – this time I had to nearly double the cook time. Perhaps my cake pan is not deep enough so the cake doesn’t cook evenly, but regardless of what pan I use the cook time has been double!

    It is worth the wait though!!

  166. Novia

    I made this again today for a party and had to double the recipe. I neither had time to buy another cake pan nor bake each cake one at a time, so I baked it in a 9×13 nonstick pan. It seemed it would spill over but it held in there and was done at 50 minutes. After cooling, I turned it out onto my butcher block cutting board turned upside-down cranberry cake serving platter :). So glad I thought to use the board so as not to hide the beauty of the cake!!

  167. Kathe

    Made this with whole wheat flour and low-fat sour cream and I accidentally added the flour and THEN the melted butter. Still good, texture a little rubbery. 8 oz was the correct amount of fresh cranberries; any more would have made more than a single layer. This took way longer than 35 min to cook; I think I did about 50 minutes and it was a little overbaked on the top but otherwise the middle was too soft. STILL it was more popular than the two other cakes people made for Thanksgiving. My cat was so intent on stealing the sauce that I had too keep the cake in the microwave to cool. Thanks, Deb!

    1. Kathe

      Oh and definitely put a pan underneath to catch drips, next time I would also put tin foil on the pan bc burned caramel is gonna be hard to scrape off.

  168. Alice K.

    The cake was delicious, but the caramel leaked out of my 9″ springform pan! What a mess! I tried to salvage some of the caramel to spread on the top (which would later become the bottom…). I will buy a new pan so as to avoid this in the future. In the meantime, does Deb or any others have suggestions as to how to minimize the chances of leakage?

  169. Kimberly

    I made this for a friend’s birthday yesterday and it was a hit! I added orange zest to the cranberries then for flavorings in the cake I added 1/4 tsp of cardamom and a tbsp of apple brandy. It turned out wonderful! I made apple brandy whipped cream and old fashioned’s to drink with it. It was a really nice fall dessert combination and I will definitely be making it again when I go to my parents for Thanksgiving. Next time I might add a bit more of both the cardamom and brandy. The flavors were definitely really subtle.

      1. sorry just saw this I made the cake, it truly is delicious. I placed them on the bottom side without thinking I was flipping it. I, only wanted the almonds to tell of the almond flavoring. I will make this again and again, so delicious. My son who says he hates cranberries thought it was delicious.

  170. I made this cake for breakfast to snack on Thanksgiving morning, it was so delicious. Not to sweet, but sweet enough. I definitely will keep this one in my file to remake. I added almond extract, so delicious, but I increased it to 1/2 t as I like the flavor of almond. I put sliced almonds on the bottom can’t say it made a difference. Next time I might put in cake batter. such a great cake!

  171. Erin O’Rourke

    I made this dairy free, with earth balance buttery sticks and tofutti sour cream. I expected to be underwhelmed, but it was DELICIOUS! Filing this away for the future right alongside the Gingerbread apple upside down cake recipe, which I’ve brought to a few parties and received rave reviews. (Everyone knows by now my go-to website!)

  172. Emalee

    I made a double batch and separated it into 2 8 inch cake pans and 2 6 inch little ones too. Turned out fab! I used molasses and think I’d prefer honey. I didn’t measure cranberries but think I’d definitely prefer more next time, I might cook some down. The batter itself was great, I had a little extra of that, and ate a bunch with a spoon and cooked a mini cake with the leftover batter and chocolate powder in it too, and I can’t wait to eat it. I’m in nesting mode so a lot of this is going to go in the freezer. I think this cake would be over the top cook as a mixture of pineapple and cranberry. If I make it again (it was quite simple, so I might!) I’d definitely do that mixture. I added cinnamon to the batter and vanilla extract, and sprinkled a bit of cardamom on just a small area of cranberries before adding batter and I’m glad I didn’t use more cardamom, not my favorite flavor combo.

  173. Maks

    I LOVE this cake! Make it maybe once every few weeks (bought a bunch of frozen cranberries for it :) ). I have been making it with half the batter and double the cranberries and its perfect- not too sweet not too bitter, with plenty of cranberries.

  174. Donna

    I made this today. So, so good! The only thing that I did differently from the recipe was not use all of the batter (smart decision on my part!). I will definitely make this again!

  175. Leslie

    Made this and was kind of disappointed. As soon as I poured in the batter I knew that the cranberries were going to float in it. Seems like they should definitely be cooked in the molasses a bit.

  176. Tara

    This came out insanely delicious – even if I underbaked/over-browned it in my toaster oven. I used an 8×8 square pan, replaced the molasses with maple syrup and used 1/4t almond + 1/4t vanilla. Hope I can find more cranberries so I can make another one pronto. Thanks!

  177. This cake is AMAZING. We used molasses per the recipe and kept it conservative with just a bit of vanilla extract in the batter.

    The only issue we ran into is that we must have pulled it out too early (at around 40 minutes) because the middle wasn’t done and was still gooey. We even had two sets of eyeballs on the toothpick tester both agreeing it looked clean, but apparently, we misjudged. Next time, we’ll cover the top in foil to keep it from browning too much and keep going longer to get it cooked all the way through.

    SO GOOD.

  178. Sandy

    I just put the cake in the oven. I always told my children not to eat raw batter because of raw egg. Well, I licked the beaters and the bowl. If the cake turns out as well as the batter tasted, this is sure to become a tradition.

  179. Sandy

    Tested several times, skewer came out clean. Cake however was quite undercooked in the center after 45 minutes of baking. Oh well, it will still taste good