A Southern Grace: downside up

February 4, 2013

downside up


Why do we say upside-down instead of downside-up? They're both true--the top becomes the bottom and the bottom becomes the top, yet downside-up is pretty much never used. These are the questions that keep me up at night.

I won't beat around the bush: This is one of the easiest, most lovely and delicious cakes I've made in a long time. It takes about 20 minutes of active work, which is well worth the spectacular finished product. Heck, I might even be willing to put in a full half-hour for this one. The cranberries are beautifully vibrant and, it's important to note, consistently come off the pan perfectly (knock on wood).

On top of the attractive downside that came up, the cake is so tasty. Buttermilk in the batter makes the cake part very moist, and it has a great crumb too. The deal-sealer is the topping. The cranberries are tart, but that makes them a perfect balance to the sweet, buttery glaze that forms atop the cranberries and in their nooks and crannies. (Cranberry crannies.) The walnuts might seem superfluous, but they're not--their crunch and nuttiness is important too!

Lest you be misled by my title, there is no downside to this downside-up cake. It's simple, scrumptious, and stunning. I can't promote this cake enough--make it now and be dazzled!

Cranberry Walnut Downside-Up Cake
Adapted slightly from Epicurious
For topping:
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (7 ounces; do not thaw if frozen)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
For cake:
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
Make topping:
Melt butter in a 9-inch skillet or sturdy cake pan* over moderate heat, then swirl to coat bottom and side of skillet and stir in brown sugar. Simmer, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes, then sprinkle cranberries and walnuts evenly over butter mixture and remove from heat.

*I boldly used a regular 9-inch aluminum cake pan over a gas-lit eye on my stove-top, and it didn't scorch or anything. Your mileage may vary.

Make cake:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 6 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture alternately in batches with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until just combined.

Bake cake:
Heat topping in skillet over moderately high heat until it starts to bubble, then gently spoon batter over topping and spread evenly. Quickly transfer to oven; bake until cake is golden brown and a wooden skewer comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around inside edge of pan, then invert a serving plate over pan and invert cake onto plate. Cool completely on plate on rack, 1 hour. Serve cake at room temperature.


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Magnificent! Upside-down cakes are great and I love this version.



Alicia Foodycat said...

Glorious. Definitely my kind of cake!

pam said...

This looks like a cake even I could attemtp!

lisa is cooking said...

I love the look of the shiny fruit on a downside-up cake. The walnuts and cranberries sound like a great final top!

Amanda said...

I can almost imagine this beautiful flavor and texture combination... I just might have to make it! :)

~~louise~~ said...

Good question Grace. I've often wondered the same thing myself:)

Whichever way you "flip it" your Cranberry Walnut cake looks scrumptious!

Thanks for sharing...

Beth said...

Your cake looks spectacular and mouth-watering! I can't wait to try this gorgeous recipe.

Pam said...

Mmmmm. I've never made an upside down cake before. This one looks like a great one to start with!

Anonymous said...

Love your blog! Have you seen the youtube video Sh%t Southern Women Say? I think you'd find it funny :)

Barbara said...

Cranberry Upside Down Cake was one of most successful recipes last year....I'm going to add nuts to it next time. Would never have occurred to me!
Pineapple upside down cake has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. There's just something about flipping all that goodness out on a plate! :)

Unknown said...

Haven't baked a cake in ages and this looks like a scrumptious starting point.I don't have a skillet that is that thick, but think I could adapt it to a pan..... what do you think? Thanks for posting this, can't wait to try it.

Blond Duck said...

I need a bib when I come to your blog!

Choc Chip Uru @ Go Bake Yourself said...

That looks utterly gorgeous and delicious :)

Choc Chip Uru

grace said...

@Patricia: i should have added that i used a regular 9-inch cake pan in lieu of a cast-iron skillet! i've edited the recipe, and i'm here to tell you that it works just fine--just be careful!

Joanne said...

Hmmm I've never thought of it that way, but you are totally right. Upside down makes absolutely ZERO sense!

I'm so glad I have cranberries in my freezer. Need this in my life.

Betty said...

A beautiful cake! Those bags of cranberries in my freezer are already feeling the love. Now have you ever contemplated outside-in? :)

Erica said...

LOL! Love reading your posts....That cake looks amazing,Grace!

Letters from a Mermaid said...

oh. my. goodness. Is this real?! looks so delicious!

Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

It is a dazzling cake! I wish I had a slice for a snack right now...

Hungry Dog said...

How gorgeous! I love downside-up cakes and think I happen to have some cranberries in my freezer. That color is incredible.

vanillasugarblog said...

i went the entire fall without baking anything cranberry!
this post just made me realize that!

kimberleyblue said...

I just made a cranberry cake! I think they're the perfect berry for cakes - the tart always balances out with the sweet.

I will make upside down anything, yet haven't done a cranberry one. Love the look of it!

Carolyn Jung said...

Thank goodness I hoarded some extra bags of cranberries in my freezer. This cake looks amazing.

Laura said...

That is gorgeous! Love it!

Did I ask you if you were watching Continuum?

~~louise~~ said...

It's so funny that you posted this recipe today Grace, who needs Thanksgiving to enjoy such yumminess anyway! I just happen to just bought some fresh cranberries and now I don't have to go through my bookmarks to find this cake!!!

Thanks once again for sharing, Grace...

P.S. I'm guessing you know your comments are closed for today's Turkey Trot post:)