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Cranberry and Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

Cranberry and Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

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“Good for dessert but even better for breakfast.” –Brad Leone, test kitchen manager


  • 11 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • ½ cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

Recipe Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Heat 3 Tbsp. butter and brown sugar in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Stir in cranberries; remove from heat.

  • Beat together granulated sugar and remaining 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) butter until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Stir in sour cream. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt; mix into egg mixture. Scrape batter over cranberries in pan and bake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 25–30 minutes. Invert immediately onto a wire rack (sugared fruit will stick to pan if left to cool).

Nutritional Content

Calories (kcal) 298 Fat (g) 12.5 Saturated Fat (g) 8 Cholesterol (mg) 31 Carbohydrates (g) 45 Dietary Fiber (g) 3 Total Sugars (g) 27 Protein (g) 4 Sodium (mg) 298Reviews Sectiondelicious and easy to make

Cranberry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake & Review of The Whole Grain Promise

Not all cookbooks are created equal. I have some in my collection that, it turns out, don’t really have many recipes I’m interested in making. Others are full of interesting ideas, but require too much time or too many specialty ingredients. This is not at all the case with The Whole Grain Promise by Robin Asbell.

I am really excited about this cookbook. Almost all of the recipes sounded right up my alley and the ones I’ve tried so far (Cranberry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake, Egg Curry Breakfast Bowl and Big Cinnamon-Oat Pancakes with Berries) have been clear, straightforward, hearty and delicious. This is not a vegetarian cookbook, but very few of the recipes include meat. Similarly, The Whole Grain Promise features only a couple recipes that utilize a meat substitute (tofu). This is a whole grain, whole food, flexitarian-friendly cookbook. In short, these are recipes that I’m actually going to make. Be prepared to see this cookbook popping up in a lot of my menu plans.

Because I’m a big nerd, I’m almost as excited about the book’s layout as I am about the content. The Whole Grain Promise is broken into sections by type of dish (breakfast, salads, sides, quick snacks, desserts, etc.). The table of contents lists all of the recipes in each section, making it really simple to find what you’re looking for without hunting through the thorough index. There beginning of the book features useful guides including “Getting Started” and “Strategies for Making It Easy (and Saving Money)”. The book also has a super helpful grain cooking guide, which I’ve bookmarked and already referred to multiple times because I can never remember ratios. There are lovely photographs every few pages, along with occasional extra tips and bits of information. But my favorite thing about the layout of this book is that every recipe fits on a single page. It’s a small thing, but it makes using the book so much more convenient.

Robin gave the bloggers participating in her cookbook potluck the opportunity to choose from a number of recipes to share. I immediately knew that I wanted to make the Cranberry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake. I don’t make desserts too often, but this one sounded awesome and easy. My hopes were fulfilled: the cake didn’t take long to assemble and resulted in few dishes (always a plus!). The instructions say to wrap the springform pan in foil so it doesn’t leak. Don’t skip this step – even with a foil jacket, my pan still leaked and I ended up putting a cookie sheet on the rack below. But that minor glitch didn’t affect the outcome of the recipe. The cake easily flipped out of the pan after baking (well, easily for Brian — I was scared I was going to drop it and made him turn it out). I was thrilled with how close to the cookbook photo my result looked and even happier with the taste of this cake. The brown sugar top has a nice crunch and the tart cranberries are perfectly complemented by the cornmeal cake. This beautiful cake would impress almost any audience. I’m already brainstorming opportunities to make it again I think this cake would be a beautiful addition to a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal.

  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened, divided
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice plus 1/4 cup, divided
  • 1 12-ounce bag cranberries, thawed if frozen
  • ¾ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup canola oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup low-fat milk, at room temperature
  • Whipped cream for garnish

Heat brown sugar and 2 tablespoons each butter and orange juice in a large ovenproof skillet, preferably cast-iron, over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter melts and the mixture starts to bubble, about 3 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Coat the sides of the pan with cooking spray.

Bring the remaining 1/4 cup orange juice and cranberries to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until about half the cranberries have popped, about 5 minutes. Pour evenly over the cooled sugar mixture in the pan.

Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

Separate egg whites and yolks. Place the yolks in a large bowl and add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, oil, granulated sugar and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour mixture alternately with milk, using a rubber spatula, starting and ending with the flour. Stir just until the flour is incorporated.

Beat the egg whites in a clean dry bowl with clean dry beaters on medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Stir one-third of the egg whites into the batter, then gently fold in the rest until almost no white streaks remain. Spread the batter over the cranberries.

Bake until the top is golden brown and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and carefully invert the cake onto a serving plate. Let cool for at least 30 minutes more before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired.

One Comment on &ldquoI believe in the Magic of Macy’s!– (and Cranberry Cornmeal Upside Down Cake)&rdquo

Hi Chef Darin
I enjoyed the presentation and usually I am afraid of new things but was so impressed with the dish I actually tried to cook it on Sunday for dinner. Well after going to 3 stores I finally found the Polenta and forgot that they don’t sell alcohol on Sundays used the chicken broth as a substitute and mine didnt come out as good as yours. But I enjoyed it anyway. Thanks for
The new lessons on cooking and we learned a lot.

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Recipe Summary

  • ½ cup chopped cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ⅓ cups milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Grease an 8-inch square baking dish.

Stir cranberries with 1 tablespoon of sugar in a bowl. Whisk flour, cornmeal, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Whisk milk, eggs, and melted butter together in a third bowl. Pour milk mixture into dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Stir cranberries into batter pour into prepared baking dish.

Bake in the preheated oven until corn bread is golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely in pan before cutting into squares for serving.

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/4 cups cranberries (about 8 ounces, fresh or frozen and thawed)
  • 1 orange (zest and juice, divided)
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (preferably aluminum-free)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Separate the eggs. Put the egg whites in a small stainless steel or glass mixing bowl and set aside. Put the egg yolks in a small bowl or cup and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Combine the brown sugar and butter in a 9-inch round cake pan (not springform) and place it in the oven. When the butter has melted, stir and continue cooking for 5 minutes, or until bubbling all over. Remove the pan from the oven and set it on a rack.

In a bowl, toss the cranberries with the orange juice. Sprinkle the cranberries over the brown sugar and butter mixture.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt stir to blend thoroughly and set aside.

In a mixing bowl using an electric beater, beat the granulated sugar with the 1/2 cup of butter for about 4 minutes, or until light and fluffy.

Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and orange zest.

Add about one-third of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat on low speed until blended. Beat in half of the milk.

Add another one-third of the flour and blend well. Beat in the remaining milk and then beat in the remaining flour mixture. Beat until well blended.

With clean beaters, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar or lemon juice until soft peaks form.

Fold the egg whites into the batter.

Spread the batter evenly over the cranberry layer.

Bake the cake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes, and then carefully invert it onto a cake plate.

Cranberry and Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake - Recipes

This exceptional and super 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 cake combines fresh fruit, orange juice, brown sugar, and cornmeal with a box cake 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 and 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 cake that is as beautiful as it is delicious. And, it will make an elegant addition to your Thanksgiving or Christmas dessert table.

You can use either fresh or frozen cranberries to make this cake. 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.

I recently received a note from a reader that was upset that I use a cake mix as the base in the recipes for my Pineapple Upside-Down Cake and Southern Pecan Praline Cake. And my answer to her was, “why not?”

I have plenty of cake recipes on my blog that are made from scratch, but when a box cake 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 cake has the perfect balance of texture and flavor.

In case you don’t know, 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.

Ultimate Cranberry Upside-Down Cake Recipe

3 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen

15.25 oz classic yellow cake mix, purchased

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!

Sharon’s Tips:

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 than what I have listed for the orange juice, eggs, or vegetable oil, use the amount specified on the box. (I replaced the water called for on the cake mix box with orange juice.)

Have your serving platter or cake plate ready when the cake comes out of the oven. If you don’t flip it over immediately while it is still hot, the cake will not come out in one piece.

Also, 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吉 inch oven-proof baking dish, but you will need more cranberries, and it will be much more challenging to get out of the pan in one piece.

This cake 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.

Cranberry and Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake - Recipes

Last year I wrote about the origins of the native cranberry and the cultural history of the fruit in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, as studied by Mary Hufford for the American Folklife Center. Now that I'm in West Virginia, I've been learning more about the cranberry glades here in the state-- in Monongahela National Forest and Dolly Sodds Wilderness. On New Years Eve when I was making a a lemon layer cake with cranberry curd and garnish, and my new friend Emily told me that she had harvested some cranberries in Tucker County this year, where Dolly Sodds is located. I assumed that they were the small wild cranberries I had seen up in Maine this September, but she said those she harvested were just as big as the store-bought variety I was using on the cake.

I'm looking forward to being in West Virginia for cranberry season this year, but for this Cranberry Upside Down Cake, I used more of the regular store-bought variety. Cranberries are my favorite thing to bake with in the wintertime-- their tartness is a pie baker's dream and their red hue is a welcome bright spot during winter's doldrums. I highly recommend stockpiling cranberries in your freezer when you can-- they don't always stick around in grocery stores past Christmas.

This cake, adapted from David Lebovitz, uses the pineapple upside down cake/tarte tatin principle, in which the fruit is caramelized in sugar over the stove, the batter or crust is poured over top, and the dessert is baked upside down in the same pan, then flipped so the fruit sits atop. Like ripping off a bandaid, it's best the flip is done in one swift motion and with courage.

I made this for Christmas dessert this year, along with a Lemon Chess Pie and Nigel Slater's Chocolate Almond Cake. It was a big hit, especially with my dad, who I still don't think has forgiven my mom and me for leaving the leftovers at our friends' house the next day.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake
Adapted only slightly from David Lebovitz

For the topping:
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 cups (1 bag) fresh or frozen cranberries

For the cake batter:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup coarse cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Grated zest of 1 small orange or lemon
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk

1. For the topping: Place the butter and brown sugar in a 9- or 10-inch skillet over low heat. Mix and melt together, stirring constantly until the sugar is liquified. When the mixture begins to bubble, remove from heat and set aside.

2. For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment, cream the 1/2 cup of butter, granulated sugar, and citrus zest on medium-high for 3-5 minutes until very light and fluffy. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs one at a time, stopping in between to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract.

4. On low-speed, add half of the flour mixture, the milk, and then the remaining flour mixture, mixing just until combined. Do not overmix.

5. Evenly distribute the cranberries in the cast-iron skillet over the brown sugar mixture (You may need to re-heat the mixture on low if it has solidified). Pour the batter over the cranberries, then use a spatula to make sure it is evenly distributed over the berries.

6. Bake the cake until the "top" is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Remove from oven and after 10 minutes, run a knife around the edge of the cake. Place a cake plate over the top of the skillet and flip onto the plate (have courage!) until the cake releases from the pan. Serve cake warm and enjoy.