Cranberry Orange Upside Down Cake

Cranberry Orange Upside Down Cake

If you want to light up a table with a gorgeous blast of color this season, you’d be hard pressed to find anything that could top cranberries.  Their bold and bright jeweled saturation, especially when simmered or baked, is pretty stunning.

And what better application than to have them crown an upside down cake?  This cake is a simple dessert that highlights not only a gorgeous layer of gooey cranberries but a few slices of the always reliable pop of sunshine of sliced oranges.  Burrowed in a butter and brown sugar mixture, they bake into a luscious topping for a tender cake laced with vanilla and orange zest.

This cake was baked each winter at Chez Panisse for years.  It’s rustic and spare but also befitting a centerpiece.  It's delicious served with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream enhanced with a splash of vanilla or perhaps Grand Marnier.

Here’s wishing everyone a sumptuous and warm Thanksgiving.  I hope you are surrounded with irresistibly good food and cherished loved ones, savoring every tidbit in a grand gesture of gratitude.

Bench notes:

- I bought a medium and a small orange for a fun decorative variation in size. 

- I line the bottom of the pan with parchment after greasing so the topping releases in one piece.

- The amount of cranberries you’ll use will depend on the size of your orange slices.  Do crowd the cranberries in one layer as tightly as possible.

- Although the recipe states a 55 minute bake time, check the cake at 45 minutes.  Mine was done, although I suspect my oven is running rather hot these days.

- Let the cake cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes before turning it out.  You want the cake to cool enough so that the topping stays in tact but also warm enough so it releases easily.

- Add about 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom or cinnamon to the batter for a different flavor profile.

Cranberry Orange Upside Down Cake

adapted from Chez Panisse Café Cookbook and Room for Dessert by David Lebovitz

Serves 8


  • 2 oz (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) brown sugar, packed
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz) flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) granulated sugar
Read the whole recipe on Pastry Studio