I skipped the traditional Thanksgiving meal this year because I was visiting family in Thailand during the holiday. I didn’t feel like I missed out on any of the usual Thanksgiving foods, except that I had a craving for cranberries. So, after taking a break from baking for a few weeks (ovens are not common place among the regular household in Thailand), I promptly baked a Cranberry Upside Down Cake when I returned home. Like most upside down cakes, this Cranberry Upside Down Cake is fairly straight forward to make. The only “special” instruction is to whip the egg whites and then fold them into the batter. The whipped egg whites made the cake light, airy, and tender, but this extra step was more trouble than it’s worth if I wanted to just throw a cake together. That said, this cake has a nice contrast of flavors with a rich, tender vanilla cake that’s offset by the tart and tangy cranberries immersed in a caramelized brown sugar topping.
Cranberry Upside Down Cake
(from Alice Waters)
Makes one 9-inch cake
My notes are in [ ] below.
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
¾ cup brown sugar
9 ounces (2 2/3 cups) fresh cranberries [this is less than one package, and I was tempted to use the whole package, but I’m glad I didn’t because the cake probably would have overflowed the pan I was using)
¼ cup fresh orange juice
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, separated
½ cup whole milk [I used equal parts heavy cream and 2% milk]
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Put the butter and brown sugar in a 9-inch round cake pan, and put it in the oven.
- As the sugar dissolves, stir to distribute the mixture evenly over the pan. [Make sure to watch the pan carefully because the sugar starts to cook very quickly after a certain point and can burn easily.]
- When the sugar starts to caramelize, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool. [I interpreted this instruction as when the sugar has melted and starts to thicken up a little, then it’s ready to be removed from the oven.]
- In a small bowl, combine the cranberries and orange juice. Toss to coat the berries well.
- Spread the berries evenly in the pan, and sprinkle with any juice remaining in bowl. Set the pan aside, and prepare the cake batter.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- Using an electric mixer, cream the butter with sugar until pale, light, and fluffy.
- Add the vanilla, and beat in the egg yolks one at a time, scraping the bowl once or twice.
- Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, ending with the dry ingredients. Set the batter aside.
- Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar just until the whites are stiff enough to hold a slight peak.
- Fold the egg whites into the batter, 1/3 at a time.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, and spread it evenly over the cranberries.
- Bake until the top is browned and the cake pulls away slightly from edges of pan, 25 to 35 minutes. [This was not nearly enough time for my cake to be completely baked, and my oven tends to run hot. It took about 40 minutes or maybe even a few minutes more before my center was set. Make sure to test the cake with a toothpick or cake tester. The center should not be loose/jiggly.]
- Let the cake cool for 15 minutes before turning it onto a cake plate.
- Serve with slightly sweetened whipped cream, flavored, if desired, with orange liqueur. [I served my cake plain, and it was delicious.]