Double Layer Cranberry Ginger Upside-Down Cake

October  9, 2014
8 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes 1, 9-inch double layer cake
Author Notes

Upside-down cakes are, like me, short in stature. In order to give this a much-needed boost to enable it to stand tall and proud at the pageant of desserts that is post-turkey Thanksgiving dinner, I doubled the cake component and added a filling sweetened by raspberry preserves. When the makeover is complete, a once-humble cake becomes a scene-making dessert. I love the crunch of the chopped nuts and the zing of the ginger, but you can substitute hazelnuts for another type and omit the ginger, if you like.

This recipe was adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Cranberry Upside-Downer, published in Baking From My Home to Yours. —Sarah Jampel

What You'll Need
  • For the cake:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons plus 2 sticks butter, divided
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger, more to taste
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • For the filling and ginger whipped cream:
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced fresh ginger
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup raspberry preserves
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons confectioners' sugar
  • 3 pinches ginger, more to taste
  1. Make the filling first: Add the cranberries, the ginger, the sugar, and 1/2 cup of water to a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring and mashing a little, until the cranberries begin to pop and the mixture becomes thick. Then add in the raspberry jam and mix it into the cranberry sauce until everything is smooth and incorporated. Taste for sugar, adding more as needed. (This will make extra jam, but I was extremely happy about it. I kept it in my refrigerator all week and ate it with yogurt, by the spoonful, and on Merrill's Cream Biscuits.)
  2. Now start on the cakes! Preheat the oven to 350° F. Get out two 9- x 2-inch cake pans and two baking sheets.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  4. Butter and flour the sides of one of the cake pans (not the bottom). In a small saucepan, melt 6 tablespoons of butter. Sprinkle in 6 tablespoons of sugar and cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil. Pour this evenly over the bottom of the cake pan, then scatter over the cranberries, chopped nuts, and chopped candied ginger. Smooth this layer out evenly with a spatula, pressing down gently. Set aside.
  5. Use a stand mixer or hand beaters to beat the remaining 2 sticks of butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the brown sugar and continue to beat until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla.
  6. Reduce the mixer to low speed and add 1/2 of the dry ingredients, mixing until they've only just disappeared into the batter. Mix in the milk, then the rest of the dry ingredients.
  7. Divide the batter in half (you'll want to use a kitchen scale if you're aiming for even layers). Spoon half of the batter over the cake pan with the cranberry layer and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Set the pan on a baking sheet, then butter and flour the other cake pan. Spoon the remaining batter into this cake pan, and again, smooth the top, then set the pan on a baking sheet. Put both cake pans in the oven for 40 minutes, rotating them at 20 minutes. When the cakes are golden brown and a knife inserted into the centers come out clean, they're ready to be removed from the oven (this could take up to 45 minutes, maybe more).
  8. When the cakes come out of the oven, use a blunt knife to loosen the sides. Cool the upside down cake in the pan for 10 minutes on the rack. Run your knife around it again. Invert the cake onto a flat platter or cutting board and let it sit with the pan holding it in place for another 10 minutes. Meanwhile, invert the plain cake onto a wire rack and let it cool. Remove the hot pan from the inverted cake and allow it to come to room temperature. Before assembling the cake, put the upside down layer in the refrigerator until it's thoroughly chilled. Spread the cran-raspberry jam on the plain layer, then carefully lift the cranberry cake (it works well to use two big spatulas) and place it on top, cranberry side up.
  9. To make the ginger whipped cream, whip the chilled cream, the confectioners' sugar, and the ground ginger until you get soft peaks. Taste for the ginger, whipping in more as you like.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Yiannis Psaroudis
    Yiannis Psaroudis
  • Seag
  • TandA
  • jxc
  • Linda Browne
    Linda Browne

50 Reviews

Yiannis P. November 27, 2020
I made this recipe for Thanksgiving for the first time and, naturally, was worried it'd turn out a hot mess, but it didn't. It turned out beautifully and, though not a pie, felt very on-theme. The recipe was easy to follow & the results were exceptional. PRO TIP: I was making the Chocolate Cake w/ Cranberry Buttercream, at the same time, & had some cranberry compote left over from that recipe. Warm it up, drizzle it over this cake & you'll realize you need two gravy boats at your next Thanksgiving dinner (see: Step 1 of the For the Frosting section of
kate H. November 19, 2017
Delicious. Made yesterday to make sure I wanted to serve at our Thanksgiving gathering. After reading comments I baked the cake in 8 inch cake pans. When I make next week I’ll add more nuts to the topping. I used pecans and toasted them first. I’ll also omit adding raspberry jam to the filling as I like the tartness of the cranberries. Don’t leave out the ginger- it’s a wonderful combination with the cranberries.
Seag November 24, 2016
Wonderful recipe! Cake is done, what do I do with it until dinner time? Leave outside covered?
Sarah J. November 24, 2016
Yes, just leave it on the counter (drape with parchment if you'd like!). Happy thanksgiving!!
TandA November 22, 2015
I made this last night to have for a dinner party tonight. It was delicious. In hindsight, quadruple the ginger whip cream.
lena16 February 23, 2015
A little typo correction to this piece:
As the author has correctly indicated in the introductory article to this recipe ("Cranberry Upside-Down Cake to Steal the Show"), the cake recipe is adapted from the one published in Greenspan's "Baking from My Home to Yours", not in the "Baking Chez Moi", Dorie's newest book.
Sarah J. February 23, 2015
Thank you for catching that!
jxc February 20, 2015
Love this recipe. First time around: did not divide my batter evenly and the bottom layer was scant & baked to a nice crispy cookie (delicious). So I served the upside-down top layer by itself - and it was appreciated by all. The filling I reserved for my own use on yogurt, ice cream, etc. After that experience, I use all the batter for a single upside-down cake (9" pan); and I consider the filling a separate recipe for a delicious topping.
anita December 5, 2014
This cake is now on the list of "must haves" for Thanksgiving. It is sumptuous and multi flavored. I tried a different version. It worked well with making a one layer (like a true pineapple upside down cake) and omitting the second layer and the filling. We accommodated the left over batter by putting it in a smaller round pan and baking it plain. WONDERFUL coffee cake. Just an easy variation. LOVE THIS CAKE.
Virginia December 4, 2014
My family raved about this. I baked it in a tube pan, as I wanted less fuss. It worked beautifully!
karin R. December 2, 2014
1 stick of butter is 1/2 cup or 4oz or 8Tablespoons
Carolynn December 1, 2014
Would love to make as both cranberry & ginger are my favorites.
My butter comes by the pound ... How much is in a stick.? 1/4 or 1/2 cup?
karin R. November 30, 2014
My cake turned out perfect. Looked exactly like the picture and
was was very yummy. Everyone loved it. The perfect amount of tart and sweet and crunch, and it was moist not dry. Baked the cake on Wed. and put it together Thanksgiving morning. Finished the last of it on Sat. and it held up well, did not become soggy like I was thinking. The cake makes for a beautiful presentation. I will be doing it again for Christmas.
Linda B. November 29, 2014
The cake was a little dry. If I make this again I would use 8 inch pans because the layers were very thin.
Gwen November 29, 2014
Any time that I make anything different or new, I usually have to read and reread the recipe a few times. After reading comments even though not making cake right now, I read and reread recipe. It seems pretty clear to me and anyone that has baked a bit probably would not worry about pans under cake in oven and in the future a casual reminder as why would be helpful. I am looking forward to making this cake.
Linda B. November 28, 2014
I agree that there is not enough batter for 9 inch pans. I baked it for 40 minutes and I hope it is not dry. I am taking it to an "after Thanksgiving party" so I hope it turns out ok.
Juliebell November 27, 2014
My cake looked like the picture above but was done at 32 minutes. It was a success and the ginger whipped cream was delicious.
kate H. November 27, 2014
Perhaps I didn't whip butter \ eggs up enough, but this didn't make enough batter for a layer cake in 9 inch pans and thus baked within 30 min.
karin R. November 26, 2014
Hilary thank-you for responding. My cake is finished and it looks beautiful. I just put both pans on the oven rack with no baking sheet and it worked out fine. Cake doesn't even come close to overflowing so I don't know why the baking sheet. Rotated them at 20min. Cake was finished at exactly 40min. Going to follow the advise of Sarah and not assemble the cake till tomorrow. Will be refrigerating the top half and saran wrapping the bottom. Hope this can help someone else too. Happy Thanksgiving!
Hilary-Rose S. November 26, 2014
Hi Karin, I really don't know about the baking sheets, I will try it with 1 because I have a small oven and one of the sheets would not be as centered.
Yancy B. November 26, 2014
Thank you!
karin R. November 26, 2014
Well I'm working on the cake now. Still don't understand the issue with two baking sheets under the cake pans. Glad I'm not the only one a little confused. Good Luck All & Happy Thanksgiving
Sarah J. November 26, 2014
Sorry for the confusion! It should be two cake pans, each on a baking sheet. Rotate them halfway through baking. I put cake pans on baking sheets because it helps to ensure that the heat is evenly distributed throughout the cake and it also prevents messes! Hope that helps clear things up.