Cranberry Pecan Upside Down Cake

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Nantucket Cranberry Upside Down Pie

I wasn’t sure what to call this. The recipe that I adapted it from is called a pie, and it bakes in a pie pan, but we all know a pie, and this is no pie. Cobbler would have a higher proportion of fruit, crisp would be, well, crisp. Torte seems too highbrow. This combination of sweet tart cranberries, caramelized sugar, crunchy nuts and a dense, sweet buttery dough is definitely not highbrow. It takes maybe 10 minutes to throw together (if you move slowly) and is homey and delicious and beautiful. Cake is perhaps the closest approximation, though light and fluffy this is not.

Nantucket Pie

It’s always nice to have this kind of dessert around for the holidays. Something you can throw together for a dinner party, to keep around the house for visitors to nibble on, or to serve as an alternative to pie on any groaning dessert table. This is particularly good — the cranberries and pecans are pure Americana, making this a perfect dessert for Thanksgiving, and the cranberries are a gorgeous red color that sets a festive tone for Christmas. And butter is good any time of year. The tartness of the cranberries cuts the sweetness from the butter sugar topping, but the butter and sugar do give the cake a delicious sticky crunchy texture in the crust.

Nantucket Pie 2

I like this flavored with cardamom — my favorite baking spice around the holidays — but if you’re of a more traditional bent, don’t be afraid to use cinnamon and nutmeg. Mine is flavored with vanilla, but almond extract or even a bit of rum or brandy would also be nice. You can serve it straight from the pan, perhaps topped with some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream — or turn it out onto a plate for a showstopper dessert. It’s rich, forgiving, and beautiful – just like your favorite relative — and perfect for the holidays.

Cranberry Pecan Upside Down Cake
Serves: 6
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
  • 1 cup melted butter, divided
  • 1½ cup sugar, divided
  • 2 cups cranberries
  • ½ cup toasted pecans (do not skip the toasting. Toasting the pecans is essential!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a 9" glass pie plate, melt ¼ cup (1/2 stick of the butter) and combine with ½ cup of sugar. Add cranberries, then pecans.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix remaining ¾ cup melted butter and 1 cup sugar with eggs, flour, vanilla, salt, and cardamom. Pour over the cranberry pecan mixture.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, then loosen the edges with a thin knife and turn out onto a plate.
Adapted from Laurie Colwin's Nantucket Cranberry Pie. Seriously, have you bought all her books yet? Why not?



  1. casacaudill November 9, 2011
  2. Anne November 9, 2011
  3. Kathryn November 10, 2011
  4. Amy November 14, 2011
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