Upside-down Cranberry Pecan Coffee Cake

Name the foods that remind you of the holidays. Pumpkin, peppermint, gingerbread, squash, split peas, apples and cranberries. Those are mine. Cranberries are undeniably festive with their pungent tartness and their gorgeous jewel tones that, sadly, only appear for a short time each year. But perhaps their fleeting presence is what makes them so special. Would we really love them like we do if they imposed themselves upon us twelve months a year? We would take them for granted. We would forget what a perfect foil they are for everything from warm spices to braised meats. We would resent them for their flashy coats masking their pucker-inducing, almost inedible sourness. Instead, every year when cranberry season comes around we get to look forward to everything they bring to a holiday table. I think that’s for the best.

We all have favorite holiday recipes. Recipes that remind us of family and good times and warmth and snowmen and christmas trees and fireplaces. Warm socks and mulling spices and Ella and Louis and Baby it’s Cold Outside. God I love Christmas.  This is one of the recipes that reminds me of all those things. I can’t really explain it, since I don’t think it exerts the same effect on the rest of my family as it does on me. I would hesitate to say that it even makes an appearance every year. None-the-less, this coffee cake is what I crave on Christmas morning every year.

I was blessed to grow up with multiple great cooks; I’ve been surrounded by good food my whole life. It’s funny how I attribute certain things to each of my parents. My mom gets the borscht, lemon curd, mac and cheese, focaccia and clam pasta. My dad gets the sandwiches, pancakes and dutch babies, the poached pears and all things grilled. They really are both amazing chefs. This particular recipe is one of my dad’s-a riff on an old recipe from Canadian Living (I think- Dad, correct me if I’m wrong!). As far as I’m concerned, its perfect. Molten butter and brown sugar with just enough cinnamon, sprinkled with plumped dried cranberries and pecans and topped with the fluffiest possible sour cream batter, again with just a touch of cinnamon to warm the whole dish up just a tad. Not too sweet, not too tart, not too cinnamon-y (yes, there is such thing), incredibly tender and moist. Perfect. Christmas.

This time of year, it’s likely that you’ll have at least one morning where you’re feeding guests. This is the perfect cake for that. It comes together easily, remains moist for a long time and pleases everyone. Of course, if you can manage to serve it straight out of the oven, bravo. I have a confession to make: this is the second time I’ve made this cake in 5 days. What it comes down to is when I need a breakfast dish that transports easily, and it’s anytime after a Halloween, I have trouble saying no to this recipe. You will too-because ’tis the season and Baby It’s Cold Outside.

Upside-down Cranberry Pecan Coffee Cake

Adapted by my dad from Canadian Living. Feeds 8ish- or just me.

You can do 2 things. You can soak your cranberries for 2 hours in juice or, as my dad just suggested over the phone, booze (rad). Or, if you’re in a hurry like I always am, you can boil them briefly in the same liquid until they get plump and juicy. Wrap your pan in foil AND place it on a cookie sheet. Believe me, you want to avoid the sugary mess that may or may not currently be marring the bottom of my oven.


1/2 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1 c. sour cream
2/3 c. packed brown sugar
1/3 c. butter
1/4 t. cinnamon
1 1/4 c. dried cranberries soaked in juice for 2 hours, and drained
1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • In sauce pan, bring sugar,  butter, and cinnamon to boil over med heat, stirring.  Pour into greased 9″ springform
  • Sprinkle with cranberries and pecans. If you have leakage problems, wrap your pan in foil and place on a cookie sheet
  • In large bowl, combine butter and sugar ’til fluffy
  • Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then vanilla
  • In another medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt
  • Stir half of dry ingredients into creamed butter mixture; stir in sour cream and remaining flour mixture
  • Spread batter over cranberry layer pushing batter higher around edges. Batter will be reasonably thick, so dollop!
  • Bake for one hour or until cake tester in center comes out clean
  • Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto serving platter and serve warm (or room temp, really)


3 thoughts on “Upside-down Cranberry Pecan Coffee Cake

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