Easy Cranberry Orange Cake Makes a Perfect Dessert for the Holidays

While culling my files for a dessert to use up the cranberries remaining in my fridge, something fortuitous happened. I was tagged on Instagram by a person whose handle is #bakerynerd. The writer posted that they had recently baked a cranberry orange upside down cake created by me! It took a few minutes to locate the recipe that had originally appeared in 1999 in my former syndicated column, “That’s Entertaining.” I was thrilled that this mystery baker had enjoyed the cake, and pulled out the recipe to try it 20 years later.

Nothing could have be simpler. Cranberries, quickly simmered with sugar and orange juice along with a pat of butter, were spooned into a cake pan and then topped with a rich cake batter scented with more orange and some cardamom. The Instagram baker noted that they had added a touch of Grand Marnier to the berries, and thought the cardamom could be increased. I did too, and tested the latest version with the new tweaks.

Served warm with dollops of orange-scented whipped cream or scoops of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt, this cake would make a delectable dessert for Christmas Eve or on Christmas day as a sweet ending for brunch or dinner. As a bonus for the harried holiday cook, it can be baked a day ahead and reheated at serving time.            

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Cranberry Orange Upside Down Torte

1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp orange juice
1/2 tsp grated orange zest
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups cranberries
2 tsp orange liqueur such as Triple Sec or Grand Marnier

Cake and Garnish
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
Pinch salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp grated orange zest
Confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling
Orange-Scented Whipped Cream (recipe follows) or 1 pt vanilla ice cream or vanilla frozen yogurt


1.Arrange rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch straight-sided cake pan well and set aside. (Do not flour the pan.)

2. For cranberries, combine sugar and orange juice in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir mixture until sugar dissolves, a minute or less. Add orange zest and butter, and cook a few seconds more until melted. Remove pan from heat and add cranberries and orange liqueur. Stir to coat well. Spoon berries into a single layer in prepared pan.

3. For cake, with an electric mixer on medium speed, cream butter and sugar for 2 minutes or until well blended. Reduce speed to low, and add flour, baking powder, cardamom, salt, eggs, and orange zest. Beat just to mix well. Pour batter (which will be thick) over cranberries in pan, using a spatula to smooth the top evenly. Bake until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove and cool 10 minutes. 

4 To unmold, run a small sharp knife around inside edge of cake pan. Cover pan with a dinner or serving plate, and invert. (Cake can be made 1 day ahead; cool, cover with plastic wrap, and either refrigerate or leave out at cool room temperature. Remove plastic wrap, transfer to a baking sheet, and reheat in a preheated 300-degree oven until warm, 10 minutes or more.

5.To serve, sprinkle cake with confectioners’ sugar. Garnish each slice with a generous dollop of Orange Scented Whipped Cream or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. Serves 6.

Orange-Scented Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy or whipping cream
2 tsp confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp orange scented liqueur such as Triple Sec or Grand Marnier

With an electric mixer on medium high speed, whip cream until soft peaks form. Then add the sugar and orange liqueur. Beat a few seconds more until incorporated. Transfer to a serving bowl. (Cream can be prepared 3 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate.)

Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2019s


2 thoughts on “Easy Cranberry Orange Cake Makes a Perfect Dessert for the Holidays

  1. Made this torte for a New Years Dinner with friends and it was just perfect. Festive, citrusy, radiant with pops of bright red cranberries, and a rich buttery thin layer of cake underneath. May all our dinners in 2020 be as satisfying.

    • Hi Pat,
      I’m so glad you liked this special cake and welcomed the new year with it! Happy New Year to you too! Betty

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