One-Bowl Apple Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

published Nov 10, 2022
One-Bowl Apple Cranberry Upside-Down Cake Recipe

This pretty fruit-topped treat is glazed with a cinnamon caramel and comes together in an hour.


Prep20 minutes

Cook40 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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upside down cake on serving platter
Credit: Photo: Paola + Murray; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

If I told you that you could bake up a jammy, apple- and cranberry-topped vanilla cake glazed with a cinnamon caramel in an hour (maybe less), my guess is you wouldn’t believe me. And yet that is indeed the tasty little secret about upside-down cakes: They truly could not be easier.

Here, the cake is one-bowl to boot, as the caramel is assembled in the pan in which you bake the cake, as opposed to in a saucepan on the stovetop. Moreover, the cake is an oil-based one, which means that making this cake does not require softening and creaming of butter. So, I don’t want you anywhere near your stand or hand mixer when you assemble this cutie: Just grab a whisk, a bowl, and a flexible spatula and you’re good to go.

The most time-consuming part of whipping up this upside-down cake is the peeling, coring, and slicing of the apples. And I hear you — I, too, get a little agita when staring down a bunch of apples in need of baking prep. But the good news is that this recipe calls for only two (you’re welcome). And once the apples are sliced, things really pick up speed. Butter is melted; brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt are added; apples and cranberries are tossed and bathed in the caramel for a few minutes in the oven.

Credit: Photo: Paola + Murray; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

The cake takes all of five minutes to assemble and benefits from a sneaky little trick that I called upon with abandon when writing my last book, Snackable Bakes. Rather than whisking the dry ingredients in a separate bowl at the start of the recipe, I have you add the leavening and salt directly to the wet ingredients, and then the flour is folded in solo at the end. This ensures that the assembly of the recipe is limited to one bowl, and also guarantees even distribution of the baking powder and salt. This method also encourages a gentle hand when flour-folding (read: no need to aggressively stir in the flour an effort to thoroughly incorporate the leavening/salt, as they are already in the mix).

The batter is poured over the caramel-coated fruit and the cake is popped in the oven. Once removed, the cake rests for a mere five minutes before being flipped out onto a serving plate. Didn’t mean to bury the lede here, but when it comes to upside-down cake baking, the bottom of the cake (aka the caramel-covered fruit) becomes the top post-bake.

Some recipes suggest you wait to flip the cake for 15 minutes or so. Others say to do so as soon as the cake leaves the oven, but I happen to think five minutes is the sweet spot. And I know, I know: The idea of flipping a cake out of its pan when it is still warm and covered in caramel-coated fruit is nobody’s idea of a good time. But here’s the thing: Upside-down cakes are wonderfully forgiving. Any and all errant pieces of fruit, or even a caramel-soaked piece of cake that remains in the pan post-flip, is easily removed from the pan and “surgically” replaced on the cake and no one will be the wiser (promise).

The cooked fruit is terrifically malleable, and the caramel is like a camouflage all its own. So have fun and make a quick cake that screams autumn, while simultaneously impressing your friends and family, who can’t imagine how you whipped up something so gorgeous and fast and spectacularly yummy. But don’t worry — I’ll never tell.

One-Bowl Apple Cranberry Upside-Down Cake Recipe

This pretty fruit-topped treat is glazed with a cinnamon caramel and comes together in an hour.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes

Serves 8

Nutritional Info


For the fruit:

  • 2

    medium firm baking apples, such as Granny Smith or Jonagold

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick)

    unsalted butter, plus more for the pan

  • 1/2 cup

    packed light brown sugar

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 1/4 cups

    fresh or frozen cranberries (do not thaw)

For the cake:

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 3/4 cup

    sour cream

  • 1/2 cup

    vegetable oil or 8 tablespoons (1 stick) melted unsalted butter

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1

    large egg yolk

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    baking powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 1/2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving


Make the fruit:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, coat just the sides of a 9-inch round cake pan with unsalted butter. Peel, halve, and core 2 firm baking apples. Cut the apples into 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick slices (about 2 cups).

  2. Place 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in the cake pan and bake until melted, about 3 minutes. Carefully remove the pan from the oven. Add 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir with a flexible spatula until the sugar melts. Add the apples and 1 1/4 cups cranberries. Stir to coat.

  3. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the cranberries soften and the caramel mixture melts, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven again. Nudge the fruit around with a flexible spatula until it evenly covers the bottom of the pan. Make sure some of the cranberries are directly against the bottom of the pan (which will be the top of your cake) for optimal prettiness. Set aside to cool slightly while you make the cake batter.

Make the cake:

  1. Place 1 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup vegetable oil or 1 stick melted unsalted butter, 1 large egg, 1 large egg yolk, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon kosher in a large bowl and whisk until combined.

  2. Add 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and gently fold in with a flexible spatula just until the last streak disappears. Do not overmix. Scrape the batter into the pan and gently push it towards the edges so it completely covers the fruit.

  3. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean with only a moist crumb or two, about 20 minutes more.

  4. Immediately run a thin knife around the edge of the pan. Let cool for 5 minutes. Invert a serving platter over the cake. Grasping both the platter and the cake pan with both hands (careful, it’s hot!), flip over. Remove the cake pan. If bits of apple or an errant cranberry stick to the bottom of the pan, carefully remove them, and return them to the top of the cake.

  5. Let cool until the topping sets a bit, about 30 minutes, or let cool to room temperature. Serve with vanilla ice cream. The cake is best the day it is made.

Recipe Notes

Storage: The cake is best eaten within a day, but leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature (they will be a little soggy).