This cranberry upside-down cake appeared on David Lebovitz’s website just before Thanksgiving.
It was just the dessert I needed to bring to friends. He says it’s best served warm, and made in a cast iron pan, so I tried to erase memories of one of my biggest cooking disasters ever (a tarte tartin made and cemented into a cast iron pan) and just go for it.
Cranberry Upside-Down Cake
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup coarse cornmeal or polenta
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- grated zest of one lemon
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
In a 9- to 10”cast iron skillet, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter and the brown sugar together, stirring frequently, until the sugar is moistened and liquefied. When the mixture starts to bubble, remove from heat and set the pan aside.
Preheat the oven to 350º.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal or polenta, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or by hand in a mixing bowl with a spatula, beat the ½ cup of butter, granulated sugar and lemon zest at medium high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until very light and fluffy. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs one at a time, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides. Mix in the vanilla extract.
At low speed, add half of the flour mixture, then the milk, then the remaining dry ingredients, mixing just enough so that they’re all combined. Do not overmix.
Distribute the cranberries in the prepared pan over the brown sugar mixture and shake the pan so they are in a relatively even layer. Spoon the batter over the cranberries in four mounds, then use a spatula to spread the batter evenly over the fruit.
Bake the cake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Remove from the oven, wait 10 minutes, then run a knife around the cake. Place a serving platter overturned on top of the cake in the skillet, then using oven mitts to cover your hands, flip the two over simultaneously, until the cake releases from the pan. Serve and enjoy!
Phew! Came out of the pan beautifully and tasted great! Frank thought it could use a few more cranberries, so the next time I make it, I’ll just pour the whole bag in.
In a moment of pre-baking terror, I did give the cast iron pan a quick spray of butter, but I’m not sure if it needed it.
The only thing I wasn’t sure about was the cornmeal. It does add a crunch which Lebovitz says he likes in his baking, which Frank liked, but I’m not sure I was a huge fan. Maybe next time, I’ll try it with all flour.
The other thing I would probably do differently would be to cream the butter and sugar together using my stand mixer. I used a hand beater and while it worked fine, it took longer and was not as creamy as when I’ve pulled out the big mixer.
If cranberries aren’t in season, a mess of blueberries or other fruit would probably work just as well.