A Last-Minute Sweet Thought

Just when I thought I had my Thanskgiving dessert detail covered, with pies of both lard-laden and vegan varieties, I got swept away by an upside down cake. I couldn't resist.

Upside-down pumpkin cake topped with cranberries and pecans. (Kim O'Donnel)

Check out this beauty! I found her in pastry chef Emily Luchetti's "A Passion for Desserts." It's hard to find pumpkin-y desserts that are just a little bit different, which is why I got all fired up over Luchetti's recipe for a pumpkin upside down cake.

So, if you're fretting over pie dough at the last minute, drop it now. Make this cake instead. You can be done, start to finish, in under two hours. All stirring is done by hand. All the ingredients are simple and scream autumn. Wait til you see how the cranberry-pecan topping, when cake is inverted, shimmers like a Christmas tree.

I'll bring some on the air for Sam Litzinger to taste, today at 2 p.m. ET (1500 AM, 107.7 FM or online here ). Sam and I will be taking your calls for an entire hour today, for all you last-minute nervous nellies. Join us, why dontcha? I'll save a few extra pieces of cake, just in case.

Pumpkin Upside Down Cake with Cranberry Pecan Topping
From "A Passion for Desserts" by Emily Luchetti

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups cranberries
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom of 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and whisk until smooth. Pour brown sugar mixture into bottom of prepared pan.

In a medium bowl, combine cranberries and pecans. Place them in the pan over the brown sugar mixture.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin puree and oil. In another bowl, sift together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Carefully spread the batter over the cranberry pecan topping.

Bake cake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, 40-50 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes. Place large plate on top of the cake. Invert the cake and plate together, then remove the pan. Carefully peel off the parchment paper.

Let cool completely before serving.

Can be made a day in advance; wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

By Kim ODonnel |  November 22, 2006; 9:44 AM ET Thanksgiving
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Kim, you said, in the pumpkin upside-down cake lead-in: "All the ingredients are simple an scream fall." Kim, are you into the Thanksgiving sherry? Whatever does that MEAN?

Love to the Great Blogger and all chatsters and lurkers on the eve of a great cooking day!

Posted by: Sharon | November 22, 2006 5:54 PM

Sharon, not yet on the sherry, but soon, my dear, soon! Thanks for catching the typo, which is now fixed. Have a delicious Thanksgiving!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | November 22, 2006 6:00 PM

I have a great recipe for a pear cranberry upside down cake (which I think came from Martha Stewart one year) that I make for those who don't like pumpkin. The cake itself is a basic upside down cake recipe and the fruit part is a pear slices arranged in a star burst and cranberries filling in all the rest of the space with a butter brown sugar base. Also very fall-ish.

Posted by: Karen | November 22, 2006 6:22 PM

oh my gosh - that looks wonderful - but 2 sticks of butter and 6 tb of oil - is there a way to lower the fat content?

Posted by: maria | November 28, 2006 4:38 PM

I made this cake (I got the recipe from The Splendid Table newsletter) and when I tested it, it seemed done, but later, after I had inverted it and cut into it, it was way underdone. Your version has a longer bake time, so I may try it again. The topping, though, did taste delicious.

Posted by: EEM | November 29, 2006 1:57 PM

I made this cake last night -- it was so easy! I brought some to work and everyone raved. I'm not the best baker, but this turned out really well.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 29, 2006 2:37 PM

I've been lusting after this cake since it was first posted, and made it last night. It is even better than it looks! I made it in an 8x8 pan because that's what I had, and used 1/2 cup of sugar in the batter, and it turned out WONDERFUL. I can't wait to make it for a party, it's just so beautiful. Also, I think that you could decrease the oil to 4 TB or so, and the butter to one and a half sticks (or even noe stick) with no awful consequences.

Posted by: Jasmine | November 30, 2006 3:11 PM

So I made this cake again (I couldn't help it!), and experimented this time, and instead of using any oil in the cake batter, I just used a lot more pumpkin puree (probably about 1 and 1/2 to 1 and 3/4 cups), and it turned out great. I also used only a half a cup of sugar in the cake batter each time, and it was still excellent.

Posted by: Jasmine | December 7, 2006 2:05 AM

Jasmine, this is great news. I too have wondered about reducing the amount of butter, as some have pointed out, in the topping. I think one might be able to get away with one stick rather than 2! Thanks for checking in with your field report.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | December 7, 2006 9:28 AM

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