Cranberry Upside Down Cake

Each year, just before the turn of the new year, marks the anniversary of the day I quit graduate school in physics. Though it has only been three years, it feels like a lifetime ago. I feel so much older than that bright eyed girl with high hopes and soaring dreams. The hopes are no less great, but a touch of experience has tethered me a little closer to earth. I feel as if it is difficult to keep track of all the changes since then, all the emotions—positive and negative, exciting and disappointing—that I have passed through. I’m older. Not just three years, but what feels like a decade in life and stress and growing.

I’m not the same person I was then, but I wouldn’t want to change the person I’ve become.


The past year has been exhausting. I feel as if I have been running forward, so eager to get on my path, to find where I am supposed to be, that I’ve forgotten to stop and just breathe. I have been trying to do too much, a phrase which has become my unwanted motto for many, many months. Some lessons take longer to learn than others. Since I stopped baking professionally over a year ago, I went back to grad school for a masters in education, with the goal of becoming a high school physics teacher.

When I stopped pursuing physics, I swore up and down (and left and right) that I would never stray towards science again. I had convinced myself so thoroughly of this that I threw away every physics notebook I had kept all the way back to high school in a ceremonial sweep (a sin that I have since regretted).

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

In August, I took on my first teaching job—you can call me Ms. Rosenau now. Teaching for the first time is a whirlwind. I feel as if I should have been a little more forewarned of the adventure ahead. Teaching is more overwhelming and challenging than I could have imagined, consuming all of my time and energy to create entire curriculums from scratch. Teaching is also extraordinarily rewarding. There truly is never a dull moment when surrounded by 80 sixteen and seventeen year olds both eager to learn and hungry to distract.

If you had told me three years ago that this is where I would have ended up, I may have very well laughed in your face. Life, I found, keeps me on my toes. Once I am certain I have everything figured out, it throws another curve in my path and sends me in a new direction. Even so, right now this is where I feel like I am meant to be. I just hope that life waits a few more years before sending me around the next bend.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake is tart, textured, and colorful enough to impress your holiday guests. The cranberries are cooked on the stove until they "pop" and release their juices. Mixed with raspberries and a bit of orange zest, it forms the bottom (or "top") of the cake. A quick cake batter is mixed up, which is made with brown sugar and sliced almonds for a bit of texture and greater depth of flavor. The cake itself is on the tarter side, but will not make you wish for more sugar. Share with family and friends to bring out the holiday spirit.

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Pie Espresso Bars, Maple Roasted Chickpeas, and Gingerbread Muffins
Two Years Ago: Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins, Cranberry Orange Brioche Rolls, and Cranberry Sauce
Three Years Ago: 30-Second Sangria, Raspberry Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee, and "Please, Sir, Can I Have S'more?" Cupcakes

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

Yields 9-inch cake

12 ounces (340 grams) fresh cranberries
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar, divided
6 ounces (170 grams) raspberries, fresh or frozen
1 teaspoon orange zest
10 tablespoons (140 grams) butter, divided
1/2 cup (100 grams) brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1/4 cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup (160 ml) milk
1/2 cup (80 grams) sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees C). Grease a 9-inch round pan with 2 tablespoons of butter, spreading an even thick layer on the bottom and sides. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, stir together the cranberries and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Cook over medium high heat until the cranberries burst and sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in the raspberries and orange zest. Pour into the prepared pan in an even layer.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the remaining 8 tablespoons butter with the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in the vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Mix in the ginger, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and flour. Beat in the milk until uniform. Fold in the sliced almonds.

Pour the cake batter over the berries and spread it evenly. Bake for 40-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes before flipping it over and turning it out onto a serving plate. If any of the berries stick to the bottom of the pan, loosen them with a flat spatula and arrange them back onto the cake—they will blend in nicely for a uniform appearance. Your guests (and my lovely readers) will never guess your secret.