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. 

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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 (115g) unsalted 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. I find 1 scant cup isn’t quite enough.
  3. Adapted from Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake.

Keywords: cranberry apple upside down cake, cranberry apple cake

109 Comments

  1. I love upside down cakes! Such a sweet surprise to your guests when you master that final flip to reveal soft baked fruit – yum yum!
    A few years ago I even purchased a skillet especially for making upside down cakes. It never gets used for anything else. I think this cake will be a great addition to its repertoire! Thanks Sally 🙂
    P.S. Loved that photo of you and Lynn from Fresh April Flours!

  2. When I saw this cake on friday i immediately knew I had to make it – your pics are awesome!
    So I bought some cranberries (for the first time – surprised my local supermarket had them in store) and baked it today 😀
    My brown sugar/butter mixture was way lighter than yours, probably because i cant get brown sugar here and have to mix it myself, but the cake was super easy to make and turned out beautifully ;D
    We devoured one half today and I’m really looking forward to eating another slice tomorrow!

  3. I made this on Saturday and it turned out soooo good!! I was worried about the tartness of the cranberries but they were wonderful with the apples (I used a honeycrisp!) I am seriously addicted to your blog, everything I have tried has turned out delicious 🙂 I was bummed when I saw on Saturday at 3:30 you were at King of Prussia!! I’m a half hour from there and I would have loved to be there. Next time!! Thank you for all the wonderful recipes!

  4. Seriously craving a slice of this upside down cake right now, I can only imagine how good it tastes with all that juicy fruit! Great recipe Sally.. pinned!

  5. Tried this out non-dairy for a Thanksgiving trial. Subbed margarine and coconut milk. So yummy!!! I’m sure it tastes even better with butter and buttermilk. I added a little bit over a cup of cranberries, but I think I’m going to add more next time since I loved the tart burst they give to the cake. Thanks for another winning recipe Sally!

  6. Sally. This. Is. So. Good.
    I’ve made sooo many of your recipes and they’re all awesome. And I should comment more often, I’ll work on that, but I had to comment on this immediately. My husband and I are eating this right now and it’s amazing. I made it mostly for my husband because he’s a fan of fruit in desserts. And I also wanted to test it out and maybe make it for thanksgiving. Even though I bake cakes and cookies all the time my husband isn’t a huge dessert fan so he never cares too much but he loved this! The cake is so good. The apples and cranberries are delicious! I used pink lady apples and fresh crannies. So good! I’m gonna tackle your pumpkin pie next!! Thanks for this recipe! I’ll definitely be making it for thanksgiving! And Christmas. And easter. And my birthday…

    1. Thank you Jessica!! I loved reading this comment. Because I adore this cake recipe as well! So glad it will be apart of your holidays now.

  7. Hi There! This is my first time viewing your blog and WOW …Danger! I’ll have to break out my elastic-waist pants! Everything looks sooo yummy. I was wondering what your suggestion was if I wanted to go a bit heavier on the fruit for this recipe – say 2 or 3 apples, would it support that much fruit, how would you suggest altering the baking time? It looks delish but i’m more of a fruit than cake girl so I was just wondering.
    Thanks!

    1. 2 medium apples will be just fine, but maybe reduce the cranberries a bit. The baking time wouldn’t be any longer with a little extra fruit. Thank you Ali! Enjoy.

  8. In the oven now for a Thanksgiving potluck! I am also making a vegan barley and butternut squash bake for good balance. The batter was GOOD (I laugh in the face of salmonella danger), and I can’t wait to see how gorgeous it turns out when I flip it!

    1. Troubleshooting! I have had the cake in the oven for about 65 minutes now, and it is still completely raw in the middle. I’ve covered it with foil since it was browning so much. Any idea why this may have happened? I’ve never experienced this before so have no idea. Thanks!

    1. The day before would be great– cover tightly and put into the fridge. Then allow to come to room temperature before serving.

  9. Oh my YUM!!! I loved the spice in the cake base and the fall fruit was the perfect pairing – made it last night & it’s gone. My hubby had a piece for breakfast and my daughter took a piece in her lunch. Love all of your recipes, have a blessed Thanksgiving:)

  10. What a great looking upside down cake. The 10 minute trick…genius! I just took it out of the oven and it is PERFECT….it will be a fabulous addition to our Thanksgiving dinner. THANK YOU!

  11. Hi Sally!

    I made this delicious cake twice within the last week, using pears instead of apples, sprinkling them with some chopped almonds….came out perfect! The cranberries add the right tart touch and the cake is even better when topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Also, the 10 minute trick works beautifully…it’s funny, I imagine you testing this a million times, 7 minutes, 12 minutes, etc. Your determination is admirable!

    One tip for other readers: for the second cake, I put the pie pan on a cookie sheet to catch the various cranberry juices that might ooze out (the first cake was maybe too juicy and erupted onto oven floor…oh well, I needed to clean it anyway).

    Major kudos, kiddo!!!! All the best… Trixie

  12. Just made this – it’s still in the oven & smells amazing – but I changed up the recipe just a bit out of necessity & my own taste. Haven’t seen fresh cranberries in our area yet 🙁

    Regardless, I had whole cranberry sauce in the can so I laid down a layer of those first – about 1/2 a can – and on top of that layered Fuji apples, chopped Iranian dates I was given (so plump, moist & sweet compared to the usual rubbish dates seen in western countries), a light grating of Javanese sugar (a very rich, moist, dark sugar which comes in a compressed form, called gula merah), green Saudi cardamom I was given, black cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger & a tiny bit of black pepper. I added the same spices to the cake batter as well. I was also too lazy to beat the egg whites separately (too many dishes), so just used whole eggs. The batter tastes very similar to gingerbread, which I actually didn’t intend or expect.

    I’m hoping it turns out ok! I’m guessing it may need to bake a bit longer because of the modifications I made, but if it tastes great, I’ll be making a couple more as gifts for friends I’m visiting this weekend. Wish me luck & thanks so much for the recipe! Promise I’ll beat my egg whites next time LOL Next time I’m going to try drizzling some pomegranate molasses over the apples & dates & omit the ginger. That will add an amazing tartness to the sweetness of the Javanese sugar & taste a little more Middle Eastern I think, which my M.E. friends will love!

  13. This was such a great idea. Surfed in from Pinterest. Made this as a combo dump cake/upside down cake. I layered the whole bottom with cranberries… added a pineapple jelly glaze across them, and then put the apple slices. I mixed up the cake batter with buttermilk and spread that across the top. I loved this – even though it was a little tart. Definitely a keeper for my Holiday recipe box. Thanks!

  14. Thank you for posting this, Sally! I love your blog– it’s my go-to for desserts. I just made this for Christmas, but I’m currently studying in Germany where red currants are everywhere so I subbed them for the cranberries. Sooo delicious! Great recipe! Happy holidays 🙂

  15. Sally,

    I’ve had this pinned since Fall and finally had a chance to make it yesterday for my wife’s Father’s 87th birthday. It was moist, spices, gooey, cranny and scrumptious! But most importantly, he loved it and ate every bite.
    My Pinterest boards are very dessert-centric and many of my successes and future favorites have your name on them. Thanks for your entertaining, well-written and well-photographed blog.
    Best,
    Ross

    P.S. Here is my picture of this creation. Not quite as pretty as yours but still a work of art!

    Sent from my iPad

  16. If you use frozen cranberries do they need to be thawed beforehand? Does it make any difference to the baking time?

  17. Made this yesterday as a “trial run” for Thanksgiving (aka a good reason for me to eat cake] and it was DELICIOUS! I’ll try it with chopped walnuts in the apple/cranberry glaze next time! 5 stars!

  18. “A classic method for baking upside-down cake is baking the upside-down cake in a cast iron skillet.”  This is so true!  Way back in the forties, my aunts made pineapple upsidedown cake this way.  When you took it out of the oven, the bottom (now the top) was crispy, crunchy, sweet, sticky and delicious.  (the cake wasn’t bad either.)
    I see pics of what some people call “upsidedown” cakes – they are not the same -just plain cake.

    Marilyn

  19. I made this for Christmas and it was fantastic!  A perfect Christmas dessert.  Every recipe I try from your site turns out perfectly- you are my go-to baking website!  And I bought your book for my mom for Christmas 🙂

  20. This cake is delicious. I made this for a holiday party and it was gone. I used a flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax mixed with 3 tablespoons of warm water) for each regular egg. I only had an 8 inch round pan so I used that and reduced the cooking time. Because my pan was smaller, I had a little leftover batter so I used it to make four cupcakes. Next time I will use more apple slices and use all the batter in the cake pan to get a better cake to topping ratio. I will definitely make this again. It was even better the next day warmed up and topped with vanilla ice cream!

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