I somtimes pair bright, tart, fresh cranberries with something sweet to offset their tartness, like fresh cherries, but I usually pair cranberries with an equally bright citrus flavor, like orange. Orange juice and zest has that brightness that is usually associated with citrus, but it is sweet and provides a great balance to the natural tartness of the cranberries. Lemons can work, but there is a chance that your dessert might turn out to be a bit too tart if you have particularly zesty lemons. Meyer lemons, on the other hand, are a fantastic alternative to either orange or lemon when it comes to cranberries.
Meyer lemons have a great lemon flavor, but they are slightly sweeter and much less acidic than regular lemons. You don’t need to add additional sugar to a recipe, for instance, to counteract that acidity. With cranberries, this lack of acidity means that they’ll provide a complimentary flavor without turning the dessert into something that will make your mouth pucker! In other words, they are what make this Meyer Lemon Cranberry Upside Down Cake so delicious.
The cake has a dense, moist texture that is almost like that of a pound cake. It has a nice buttery, lemony flavor to it and provides a nice backdrop to the berries, both in terms of flavor and stability. I mention stability because this cake has to be flipped out onto a cooling rack after it has baked – cranberries and brown sugar are cooked together at the bottom of the pan to make the delicious, colorful topping – to prevent the cranberries from adhering to the bottom of the baking pan! The cake is a great any time cake and would be a perfect addition to just about any fall or winter meal – Thanksgiving and Christmas, included – and I am sure it would be well received at a holiday brunch, as well.
You should be able to find meyer lemons are many farmers markets and even many grocery stores, as they are continuing to grown in popularity and become more common. If you can’t find them, you can use regular lemon juice in this recipe, but consider using a blend of orange and lemon juice if you don’t like things too tart!
Meyer Lemon Cranberry Upside Down Cake
1 cup brown sugar
12-oz fresh or frozen cranberries (approx 3 cups)
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F.
Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan. Spread brown sugar in an even layer over the bottom of the pan and spread cranberries evenly on top of it. Frozen cranberries do not need to be defrosted, if not using fresh.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir 1/3 of the flour mixture into the butter mixture, followed by the Meyer lemon juice. Add in additional 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by the milk and vanilla extract. Stir in all remaining flour, mixing only until no streaks of dry ingredients remain visible. Gently pour batter over cranberries, smoothing it into an even layer.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Serve warm or at room temperature.