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 sallysbakingaddiction.com

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 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.

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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

Description

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 sliced*
  • 1 heaping cup (130g) fresh or frozen cranberries*

Cake

  • 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*

Instructions

  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.

Notes

  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

105 Comments

  1. This is so beautiful, Sally! I am crazy about cranberries, and I love the combination of cranberries and apples. The colors are gorgeous, and I feel lie cranberries are an under-utilized fall fruit 🙂 Your upside-down cakes are always delicious, and I’m sure this is no exception. Great pictures, also…you really captured colors and textures!

    1. Thanks Caley! I appreciate all the compliments on the photos. This cake was a little hard to shoot. So many colors and a very bright (too bright!) sunny day.

  2. Wow, these colors are awesome and this is a super inventive idea!
    Now I want to try lots of different kinds. Like a caramel apple upside down cake. That could be fun, too!
    This one looks like Thanksgiving Day breakfast to me!

  3. Danielle @ Chits and Chats and Chocolate says:

    This is the prettiest.upside-down cake I’ve ever seen! And it looks perfect for Thanksgiving! Thanks, Sally!

  4. Averie @ Averie Cooks says:

    I love upside down cakes and have never had anything like this one! Those cranberries, with the apples, how perfect. I adore cranberries and so far havent seen any fresh in stock yet this season….need to check! Pinned!

  5. Julie | This Gal Cooks says:

    Oh I love this upside down cake! I’ve only ever had the classic – pineapple upside down cake. But I love the tartness of cranberries so I think I would LOVE this cake. Beautiful cake, Sally!

  6. Layla @ Brunch Time Baker says:

    this cake look perfect! I made one the other day but topped it with peaches and plums which was also delicious but cranberries always win! 😉

  7. I made a cranberry upside-down cake for Thanksgiving 3 years ago, and my family still asks for it! It was so so good. Hands down one of the best desserts I have ever made! Adding apples? Now we’re talking… Another reason to make it again, right??

    See you tomorrow! 😀 😀 😀

  8. Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh says:

    I make a cranberry apple relish every year for Thanksgiving, I just love the combination. What a great way to pair the two together as a dessert!

  9. Ohhh I love upside down cake! Sugary sweet, gooey sticky brown sugar.. yummmm Pineapple upside down is my favorite (classic) but this looks soo good too, Especially the bright red cranberries make me salivate 😀

  10. I haven’t had cranberries in such a long time (maybe since last Christmas, even!). It’s time to start baking with them again!

  11. This looks fabulous! Is there a particular kind of apple that works better with this recipe? (I usually bake with Granny Smith apples, but was wondering about how well the tartness of a Granny Smith would pair with the tart cranberries?)
    Thanks!

    1. I tested this recipe with granny smiths, actually, and I loved it. The brown sugar in the topping takes care of any tartness. I also love this with honeycrisp apples and just tried it with fuji apples too.

  12. Crannies and booberries. Haha! Baby talk at its finest! Your upside down pineapple cake is a favorite in our house! I think I’ve made it over five times now and it NEVER disappoints! Using a cast iron skillet is probably easier to invert the cake because of the handle! I never thought to use it instead of a pie pan. I usually use it for cookie cakes!

    1. And now I’m craving cookie cakes. And blue…booberries.

  13. Liz @ Tip Top Shape says:

    This is gorgeous!!

  14. Eve @ Baking the Day says:

    This looks amazing, that butter and brown sugar glaze with the apples and crannies looks too amazing! The crannies give such a pretty pop of colour as well as their tart flavour. In the picture with the crannies in the measuring cup on top of the chopping board, what are the little flecks of white on the board? This probably sounds like a really, really stupid question but I love the way they just catch the light in your photos! Pinned as well! x

    1. I’m glad you’re using the term “crannies” with me! I got that cutting board from target and the flecks are little pieces of recycled material. In case you want to buy: http://www.target.com/p/architec-cellulose-cutting-board-white/-/A-14206389#prodSlot=_1_14

  15. I have made the Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake at 3 of 4 times, and my family LOVES it! It is such a fun recipe and so easy to make!

    1. Yes! It’s one of my family’s favorites too.

  16. Stacey @ Bake.Eat.Repeat. says:

    I love the addition of cranberries to this, makes it so bright and festive! The apples and cranberries together would be absolutely delicious!

  17. Jennifer @ Show Me the Yummy says:

    Beautiful presentation! I’ve never thought about making different fruit upside down cakes…great idea 🙂

  18. Julia @ Swirls and Spice says:

    I am crazy for cranberries–and so ready to dive into this cake!

    I haven’t posted a single new pumpkin recipe this month because I’ve been having too much fun with cranberries! 🙂

    1. I’m glad you said that Julia! Cranberries are an underrated fall flavor. There is so much you can do with them! I’m having a lot of fun in the kitchen creating new recipes with them right now.

  19. Yep, this one’s going on my to-make potluck list right now. Believe it or not, I’ve never made an upside-down cake before. Lovely lovely, Sally!

  20. Julie @ Tastes of Lizzy T says:

    This is a gorgeous cake, Sally! Love that red color. 🙂

  21. Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet says:

    Oh my! I absolutely love cranberries and always stock up on them during the holidays! What a gorgeous cake, Sally! Love the glistening fruit! Pinned!

  22. Kathleen @ Yummy Crumble says:

    So gorgeous. I always love your photography! The color from the cranberries look amazing!

  23. This dessert looks so wonderful, Sally. I love the combination of apples and cranberries.

  24. Ceara @ Ceara's Kitchen says:

    This is such a festive and gorgeous looking cake Sally! It looks like the perfect Christmas or Thanksgiving cake 🙂 I love that it is covered with fruit! Love it! Pinned 🙂

  25. jenna @ just j.faye says:

    This cake is gorgeous! And I’m sure it’s delicious too 🙂

  26. Hi!

    I was wondering what food colours you use for example on your Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies?

    I tried your recipe but my cookies ended up looking like blood pancakes (finnish food) and not at all like chocolate chip cookies. 😀

    I used Dr. Oetker liquid food color, couldn’t find others from the grocery store, need to go to a special store next I guess.

    1. I always use McCormick.

  27. We are going to my sister in laws tonight for a get together. I have this cake cooking right now. It will still be warm when we get there. Can’t wait!

    1. Sweet! Hope everyone loved it.

      1. What can I say? No left overs! (and the meeting results–we just found out my widowed mother in law is moving into Ontario, AND, she found a place right between all of the kids). It was a happy evening. 🙂

  28. Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough says:

    You had me at buttery brown sugar glaze. And crannies. 😉 I might have to add this cake to our Thanksgiving menu, if I can wait that long!

    1. Crannie cake would make a fine addition. 🙂 Thanks Steph!

  29. I actually just bought 4 bags of cranberries the other day. I’ll be making this tomorrow. Yay!

    1. Let me know how you like it!

      1. Made the cake yesterday, and we loved it! 🙂

  30. Cheryl Hardison says:

    Beautiful! It will be part of our Thanksgiving table? Also can you freeze the candy cane kiss cookies?

    1. Yep, they can be frozen – up to 2-3 months. And I hope everyone enjoys this cake!

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