This recipe for exceptionally moist Cranberry Upside-Down Cake, topped with luscious deep garnet cranberries, is a unique twist on the more familiar pineapple upside-down cake. This quick and easy confection combines fresh fruit, orange juice, brown sugar, and cornmeal with a box mix and takes only minutes to prepare.
Cranberry Upside-Down Cake made in a cast-iron skillet fairly sparkles with jewel-like caramelized cranberries in this sweet and slightly tart uniquely flavored cake. This delicious and versatile cranberry cake makes a light and delightful end to any meal. It also pairs perfectly with a cup of coffee for breakfast or a snack.
If you are like me and love cranberries, you will be in cranberry heaven with this simple but flavorful dessert that is as beautiful as it is delicious. And, it makes an elegant addition to your Thanksgiving or Christmas dessert table.
Here’s what you will need:
- Unsalted butter: adds a rich buttery taste to the cranberry topping. You can also use salted butter if that’s all you have.
- Light brown sugar: adds a mild sweet caramel flavor to the tart cranberry topping.
- Cranberries: while these ruby red superstars are tart on their own, the carmalized brown sugar and butter topping adds just the right amount of sweetness, without being too sweet.
- Yellow cake mix: yes, I use a mix in this recipe. It is delicious and works perfectly with the luscious fruit topping.
- Orange juice: I like to add orange juice to add a citrus note to the cake.
- Vegetable oil: is a necessary ingredient in the cake. I use peanut oil, but you can use any vegetable oil you like.
- Cornmeal: I like to add just a bit of cornmeal to improve the texture and add an almost imperceptible crunch to this dessert.
- Eggs: are the glue that binds everything together.
How to make it:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Melt the butter in a 10-inch well-seasoned cast-iron skillet.
Add the brown sugar and stir to combine. Stir continuously until the sugar melts which should take two to three minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the cranberries, a few at a time until the entire surface of the butter and sugar mixture is completely covered.
Add the cake mix, orange juice, vegetable oil, cornmeal, and eggs to a large bowl and mix with an electric mixer for two minutes.
Carefully pour the batter over the cranberries.
Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
As soon as the pan comes out of the oven, immediately place a serving plate over the top of the skillet. Use potholders and holding the plate and skillet together, carefully, and quickly turn them both upside down. Remove the pan.
Voila, Cranberry Upside-Down Cake!
Frequently asked questions:
What is an upside-down cake?
An upside-down cake is one that is baked in a single cake pan or, this case, in a cast-iron skillet, with its toppings in the bottom of the pan. After the cake is baked, the cake is turned “upside-down” on a serving plate, and the fruit or toppings come out on top!
The most famous example is the classic pineapple upside-down cake. The key to getting the cake to come out in one piece with the topping intact is lots of butter. That’s one of the reasons upside-down cakes are so moist and delicious.
Why use a cake mix?
I have plenty of recipes on my blog that are made from scratch, but when a box mix can simplify your life and save time without compromising taste, I say go for it! With just a few simple tweaks like the addition of orange juice and cornmeal, this dessert has the perfect balance of texture and flavor.
Frozen cranberries vs. fresh cranberries?
You can use either fresh or frozen cranberries to make this dessert. The minute fresh cranberries start showing up in the grocery store; I buy multiple bags of the tart fruit. Then I store them in the freezer to have them on hand throughout the year. Fresh cranberries freeze well, and you can leave them right in the bag they came in for freezing.
According to Medical News Today, cranberries are classified as a superfood. They are native to North America and harvested in September and October.
- I used Duncan Hines Classic Yellow Cake Mix in this recipe because that’s what I had on hand. You can use any brand of cake mix that you like. If the ingredient amounts called for on the back of the box are different from what I have listed for the orange juice, eggs, or vegetable oil, use the amounts specified on the box. (I replaced the water called for on the box with orange juice.)
- Have your serving platter or plate ready when it comes out of the oven. If you don’t flip it over immediately while it is still hot, it will not come out in one piece.
- Be sure to also use a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or non-stick pan to ensure your cake comes out easily.
- You can make this cake in a 9×13 inch oven-proof baking dish, but you will need more cranberries, and it will be much more challenging to get it out of the pan in one piece.
This confection will keep covered on your countertop for up to three days, so it’s the perfect make-ahead dessert. I have not tried freezing it yet. It doesn’t last that long in our house. But, I suspect it would freeze just fine.
More cranberry recipes:
By now, I think we have established that I love cranberry anything. If you are like me, you might also like these easy recipes that feature cranberries:
- Cranberry Cake with Hard Sauce
- Broccoli Cauliflower Salad with Cranberries
- Cranberry Pecan Mini Goat Cheese Balls
- Easy Frozen Cranberry Margaritas
- 3-Ingredient Easy Cranberry Brie Bites
- Cornish Game Hens with Cranberry Stuffing
- Easy No-Bake Cranberry Cheesecake
- Cranberry Infused Vodka
- Cranberry Jalapeno Cream Cheese Dip
★ If you make this recipe, please leave a comment and give this recipe a star rating. I would love to know how you liked it!
Thanks so much for visiting Grits and Pinecones!
Cranberry Upside-Down Cake Recipe
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 3 cups cranberries fresh or frozen
- 15.25 oz box yellow cake mix
- 1 cup orange juice
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- ¼ cup cornmeal
- 3 eggs large or extra-large
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Melt the butter in a 10-inch well-seasoned cast-iron skillet.
- Add the brown sugar and stir to combine. Stir continuously until the sugar melts which should take 2-3 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the cranberries, a few at a time until the entire surface of the butter and sugar mixture is completely covered.
- Add the cake mix, orange juice, vegetable oil, cornmeal, and eggs to a large bowl and mix with an electric mixer for two minutes.
- Carefully pour the cake batter over the cranberries.
- Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, immediately place a serving plate over the top of the skillet. Use potholders and holding the plate and skillet together, carefully and quickly turn them both upside down. Remove the pan.
- Voila, Cranberry Upside-Down Cake!