Addictive Recipes from a Self-Taught Baker

Cranberry Apple Upside-Down Cake.

A beautiful addition to your fall spread, this simple cranberry apple upside-down cake is full of flavor. Complete with a brown sugar butter glaze, bright cranberries, apples, and a moist cinnamon spice cake.

Complete with a brown sugar butter glaze, bright cranberries, apples, and a moist cinnamon spice cake!!

Who needs frosting on top of their cake when you’ve got a mix of buttery brown sugar glaze, sweet apples, and tart cranberries. Or, as I like to call them, crannies.

So many ruby red crannies.

Cranberry Apple Cake Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Surely you’re familiar with the classic pineapple upside-down cake, right? It’s our Easter tradition often followed by a couple cadbury eggs and a long nap. Sliced pineapple, maraschino cherries, and the best part: the buttery brown sugar stuff. That I can only describe as gooey. The best kind of gooey.

What you may not know is that nearly any fruit can be apart of this upside-down cake business. I’ve done it with sliced fresh peaches + raspberries, sliced pears, and I’ve done it with apples before too. Pineapple may be my favorite upside-down cake variety, but I’m mad about apple upside-down cake this time of year.

Adding a pop of cranberry for color and taste is a welcomed upgrade.

Cranberry Apple Upside-Down Cake

Cranberry Apple Upside-Down Cake

This recipe begins the way all luscious desserts do: butter. Butter is melted down with brown sugar and poured over apple slices and cranberries. Don’t be shy with the fruit – the topping is what gives this cake major mass appeal. When I make this cake again closer to Thanksgiving, I’ll add more cranberries. (I note that in the recipe below.)

On top of this goodness, you’ll pour in the cake batter. I essentially use the same cake batter used for my older apple upside-down cake recipe. It’s so simple. The only things I changed are (1) whipping the egg whites to get that glorious silky soft cakey texture, (2) varying amounts of spices, and (3) buttermilk. My secret weapon in moist cake making.

A classic method for baking upside-down cake is baking the upside-down cake in a cast iron skillet. Cast iron skillets are fantastic for upside-down cakes because the batter cooks a little more evenly, while developing a perfect crust on the top (which then becomes the bottom) and outside edges. You can absolutely do that with this cranberry apple upside-down cake recipe. How many times in 1 paragraph can I type upside-down?

Inverting the cake? How do I do this?

Inverting the cake is easy. But there’s a trick. Hot from the oven, the fruit layer is still too juicy and fluid for flipping. It will slip n’ slide unevenly over the cake layer. Not attractive. And if the cake cools for too long, the fruit will stick to the pan creating a cake without much of a grand presentation. The trick is cooling the cake for exactly 10 minutes. Set your timer. Ten minutes is long enough to allow the fruit topping to firm up and adhere to the cake, but also short enough to allow the cake to easily release from the pan. The brown sugary, glistening topping will be right where it should be.

Cranberry Apple Upside-Down Cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Tender, moist, festive, and bright – you will love this harvest-inspired cake recipe! Each bite explodes with cinnamon, a little ginger, lots of brown sugar, tasty apple, juicy cranberry, and buttery flavors. You get more topping than cake, which – let’s not kid ourselves – is the #1 reason to make it.

Crannies.

Follow me on Instagram and tag #sallysbakingaddiction so I can see all the SBA recipes you make. 

Cranberry Apple Upside-Down Cake

A beautiful addition to your fall spread, this simple cranberry apple upside-down cake is full of flavor. Complete with a brown sugar butter glaze, bright cranberries, apples, and a moist cinnamon spice cake.

Ingredients:

Topping

  • 6 Tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced1
  • 1 heaping cup (130g) fresh or frozen cranberries2

Cake

  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature and separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (190g) all-purpose flour (measured correctly)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Lightly spray a 9-inch pie dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. Make sure your apples are sliced and ready to go.
  2. For the topping: In a small saucepan, melt butter on low heat. When it begins to bubble, whisk in the brown sugar. Continue to stir until smooth. Then, leave on heat for about 2 minutes until it begins to bubble. Stir, then remove from heat and allow to briefly cool for a couple minutes. Layer the sliced apples and cranberries into the dish and pour the butter/sugar overtop. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 325F degrees.
  4. Make the cake: In a medium bowl, toss the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger together until combined. Set aside.
  5. Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high until creamy - about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat on medium-high speed until creamed together, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla on medium speed until everything is combined, about 2 full minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix. Whisk or beat the 2 egg whites until thick and foamy, about 3 minutes. Fold into cake batter. The batter will be smooth, velvety, and thick.
  6. Spoon or pour batter over the apples/cranberries and bake for 40-44 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the very middle comes out clean. Allow to cool for exactly ten minutes before inverting onto a large serving dish or cake stand. Serve warm or at room temperature. I prefer it at room temperature. Leftovers keep well covered tightly at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 2 days.

Recipe Notes:

  1. Use your favorite variety of apple. I tested this recipe once with Granny Smith and once more with Honeycrisp. Loved them both.
  2. Somewhere between 1 cup - 1 and 1/4 cups cranberries is good. I find 1 scant cup isn't quite enough.

Adapted from Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake

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Maybe some Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies on the side of your apple cake?!

Chewy, not cakey.

Sally's Baking Addiction Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Have a great fall weekend! Philadelphia readers, I hope to see you at my book signing tomorrow. Thank you so much for your support. I seriously can’t wait to meet you!

92 comments

  1. If I add pumpkin puree to the cake mix, will I need to add additional dry ingredients to balance it out?

  2. I made this today, was worth the extra effort! Thanks for all the tips! 
    -Kate 

  3. Made a gluten free version for Christmas! It turned out so good! I just substituted equal amounts of brown rice and oat flour for the regular flour also added 1 cup of walnuts and a Tbsp of orange zest.
    It did have to bake for closer to 65 min but turned out totally delicious! Needed a little salt though and was way easier to cut after it had been refrigerated. Thanks for the recipe!

  4. Sally, this recipe has been on my computer desktop for two years. Today I looked at the title, remembered that I have some frozen crannies in the freezer and decided to make it. It’s in the oven now, and I can tell it will be excellent. But a question on procedure: when I melted the butter and added the brown sugar, everything went according to your instructions. I let the sweet goo cool for “a few minutes,” which in my case was three minutes. But by then, it was on its way to being candy: the butter stuff had separated, and the brown sugar stuff was clumped together. I couldn’t figure out how to “pour” it over the apples and cranberries. I heated it up again, and that helped, but it wasn’t as smooth as the first time. In the end, I just dumped bits and kinda smooshed it down, but it wasn’t anything that could have been poured. Suggestions? What did I do wrong? I don’t think it really matters, because with the cake batter on top, it will all bake together, but I’d like to do it the right way next time. Thanks for any advice, and thanks for sharing what smells like a great cake!

    • It hardly matters at all– while the cake bakes, it will all heat up and become this syrup-y topping. I hope you enjoy it!

  5. Well, I finally decided to try this scrumptious sounding cake. It’s in the oven as I am typing and smells wonderful. One thing I’m concerned about is the size of the pan. 9″ seems awfully small for such a large amount of ingredients. The apple sliced down to about 1-1/2 layers so it might have been a touch large but after the layer of cranberries was put down and then the batter, there was an avalanche of cake. Shouldn’t this be prepared in a deep dish? Anyway, I’ll let you all know how it turns out.
    Thanks for sharing, Sally!

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