Cranberry Apple Upside-Down Cake

A beautiful addition to your fall spread, this simple cranberry apple upside-down cake is full of flavor. Inspired by my pineapple upside down cake recipe, this version is 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.

Cranberry Apple Cake Recipe on

Surely you’re familiar with the classic pineapple upside-down cake, right? It’s our Easter tradition.

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

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.

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Cranberry Apple Upside-Down Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Yield: serves 8-10
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


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.



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


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


  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 325°F (163°C).
  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.


  1. Apples: Use your favorite variety of apple. I tested this recipe once with Granny Smith and once more with Honeycrisp. Loved them both.
  2. Cranberries: Somewhere between 1 cup – 1 and 1/4 cups cranberries is good.
  3. Buttermilk: You can substitute whole milk for buttermilk if desired. You could also use lower fat or nondairy milk in a pinch, but the cake won’t taste as rich and moist.

Keywords: cranberry apple upside down cake, cranberry apple cake


  1. Lori Erokan says:

    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!

    1. 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!

  2. 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!

    1. Hi Nann! My regular 9-inch pie dish seems to be sufficient for it 🙂 Hope you enjoy the cake!

  3. Is it possible to make this ahead and freeze? 

    1. Absolutely! Freeze up to 3 months.

  4. Sheila Calnan says:

    Another success. The only thing I changed, was I added some pear slices. These were canned raw in apple juice a couple of months ago, so they were still crisp, not mushy. One of the guys who had a piece, loved it. He kept telling everybody, that they had to try it. Again, Sally, thank you for a wonderful recipe.

    1. Had leftover pears and cranberries from my cranberry pear crumble pie yesterday and decided to make this! Sliced the pears and they held up shape pretty well and didn’t become mushy. Also the batter was very thick and could only be scooped. I figured that was normal because the fruits would provide a lot more moisture to the cake after baking. So delicious!

  5. Can I use a 9 inch spring form pan instead of a 9 inch pie dish for the Cranberry Apple Upside-Down Cake?

    1. Hi Scott! I don’t suggest it. The topping may seep out any cracks or crevices of the springform pan.

  6. Bridget Willis says:

    Killer recipe. I baked it in a cast iron skillet. While mixing the batter, and smelling that wonderful spice aroma, I knew this was not going to disappoint. I only wish I could score some more fresh cranberries to make it again. I did add more milk to the batter as it was too thick.

  7. I’m not a good piebaker, found out halfway that my piedish was 11 inch, but continued anyway. I love how you describe everything very clear, even the settings of the mixer to guide me through the recipe.
    The cake came out good, looks like your picture and smelled great. Instead of the spices you mentioned I used a spice mix for ‘speculaas’. It is a dutch cookie with ginger, cloves, cinamon, allspice, cardemom etc. Smells so good!

    1. Those spices sound delicious, Ingrid! I’m thrilled that this turned out well for you!

  8. Hi, Sally, I’m just wondering if it would be possible for me to make this with dried cranberries instead of fresh ones? I have a huge bag that I’m trying to get rid of

    1. Yes, definitely!

  9. I made this without cranberries and it was really good. I made it gluten free and cake turned out on the firm side. Like a short bread cookie cake?. Everyone loves it, so woo hoo.

  10. I tried this out for a Christmas party tonight. I had brown butter around and used it in the cake which made it a little more like a gingerbread cake thanks to the spices and dark color. Baked it in a 10″ cast iron pan. Everyone loved it. Being we are in Ireland I served it with a vanilla custard sauce which is typical with most desserts and it was particularly nice.
    Thanks for the lovely recipe.

    1. I bet this was delicious with brown butter! I’m so glad it was a hit!

  11. I have been looking for an upside-down pear cake recipe. Can I use this recipe and swap out the apples and cranberries and use two pears instead?

    Thank you!

    1. Definitely! Or, if you like gingerbread, I’d highly recommend my Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread Cake. Enjoy!

  12. Did anybody else have problems with it coming out undercooked? I mean WAAAAAYYYY undercooked. My oven temp was good — in fact, it runs a little hot. When I took it out after 44 minutes, only the outside 1.5″ were “cake”. The rest was still raw batter. When I took the toothpick out of the center, it WAS “clean” but it was wettish. It made me nervous but since it was at the max end of cooking time and it was clean, I took it out. After turning out at 10 minutes and cutting a couple slices at about 35 minutes (the warm batter was delicious ;-)), I’ve put it back in the oven, fruit side up, on a sheet pan with foil over it. After 20 minutes, it was down to only the center 1.5″ still being batter, so I’m baking it for 10 minutes more and calling it done. Any thoughts?

  13. If I use frozen cranberries, do they need to be thawed first? Thanks!

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