pumpkin cranberry upside-down cake gluten-free dessert recipe

Pumpkin Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

My son’s viola teacher, Sandra, asked for advice regarding traditional Thanksgiving family fare. The next thing I knew, she had given me a copy of a recipe for Pumpkin Cranberry Upside-Down Cake featured in Sunset Magazine’s November 2007 issue. I made several changes to it, most notably removing the sugar, dairy and gluten and was pleased with the results.

This dessert is a rich, moist cross between a pumpkin cake and a pumpkin pie. Perfect for that post-Halloween, pre-Thanksgiving time of year. Try it on a windy day with a warm cup of tea.

Pumpkin Cranberry Upside-Down Cake
Serves: 24
  1. Line an 8 x 8 inch baking dish with a piece of parchment paper (use scissors to cut to size)
  2. In a medium bowl, combine cranberries, walnuts, agave and grapeseed oil (or shortening)
  3. Pour cranberry mixture into lined baking dish
  4. In a large bowl, stir together almond flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
  5. In a vitamix, combine oil, agave, eggs and cooked pumpkin; blend on high speed for 30 seconds or until smooth like pudding
  6. Stir wet ingredients into dry
  7. Pour batter evenly over cranberry mixture
  8. Bake at 350° for 40 to 50 minutes
  9. Remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes
  10. Run a knife around the edge of the baking dish, then place a large plate over the cake and invert cake and plate together
  11. Remove the baking dish from the cake and then peel off the parchment paper
  12. Allow to cool to room temperature and serve

Be forewarned, this may be the most complicated recipe I have posted to date. Even saying the multi-syllabic name of the recipe is work. The most challenging part in making this fall comfort food is getting all of the ingredients together. After that, it’s really just a quick three step process.

Thus far, this gluten free, dairy free, naturally sweetened pumpkin cake appears to be a big hit with young and old. My little boy and his friend Leo recently devoured half the cake in one afternoon.


  1. Maria says

    I just love your recipes but I am on a sugar detox so I cannot use Agave or honey (or any form of sugar) I would really like to try this recipe and many of your others. Do you have a conversion for Stevia rather than the other sugars. Thanks!

  2. Pia says

    Yum! This was fantastic. I am not much of a baker and this was easy and delicious. I will definitely make this cake again and maybe share it outside the home if my family doesn’t devour it first.

  3. Stephanie L. says

    Elana — I made the Pumpkin Cranberry Upside Down Cake as this evening’s dessert and I had to write to let you know of its success. A few days ago I finally had the opportunity to roast the pumpkins I used as the Thanksgiving centerpiece. Better late than never! I made some substitutions in the ingredients: fresh cranberries for the dried, honey for the agave nectar and coconut oil (melted down) for the grapeseed oil. Although it took longer to bake (75 min.), it was well received by my taste tester husband. Of course, it was not served naked but with freshly made whipped cream with a teaspoon of almond extract added. Two pieces later, I thought he was done. The only analogy I can think of is it was akin to the Thanksgiving turkey that gets picked on as time goes on. He finally announced to me at one point, “No more.”

    Every recipe I’ve made of yours was a resounding success. Thank you. I do have a question though: When baked, the cake does not seem as “baked dry” as a regular flour-based cake. I always need to bake them much longer, sometimes resulting in a “burned” look to the finished product. Is there a way this can be avoided? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    • says

      Hi Stephanie,

      This cake is not going to be your typical “baked dry” cake, with all of the pumpkin, it is extremely moist. My other cake recipes are designed so that the cakes will bake fairly dry, so that when you stick a knife or toothpick in at the end of the baking time, it will come out with just a few moist crumbs attached.

      If the outside of the cakes you are making are burning, then I would recommend as a first step, making sure that your oven is properly calibrated. I actually keep an oven thermometer in my oven at all times to make sure it is baking at the temperature the oven is set to. You may want to try this as your first troubleshooting step with the cake burning issue.

      Please keep us posted and let us know how it goes :-)


      • Caitlin says

        I have had this same issue with several of your recipes. They all turn out delicious, but I am new to using a lot of these ingredients, so have pulled some things out when you suggest and they are not near done. I have a thermometer in my oven (even double checked that with a second one for a bit!) and the temp is right on. I live in Bozeman, Montana, which is about 600 feet lower in elevation than Boulder. Would I need to adjust for that? I need to learn how to not be so invested in my dishes because I can get rather upset if I mess up after all the time and money spent on making something. Not sure if you can help me with that issue :) but any ideas on why they might take so much longer to bake? Mine turned out like pumpkin pie and is sooo delicious, but I’m not sure if it is done enough for me to devour it. Thanks, and I love your site!

  4. says

    Thank you for this recipe and your entire website! I’m in the middle of an elimination diet to test for food intollerances and I was looking for something that I could make to celebrate my first wedding anniversary. I couldn’t have the dried fruit so I skipped the upside down cake, but I used the rest of the recipe and it was great! I paired it with cashew cream icing from this link: http://www.food.com/recipe/carrot-orange-cake-with-cashew-cream-icing-323713

    I do plan to try the coconut icing with some other recipes I’ll be making for the holidays. I’ve uploaded some photos of my cake here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/33777289@N00/sets/72157625497257160/

  5. Ann says

    I just made this to have around the house for Thanksgiving week snacking. It was OUTSTANDING. I made it exactly as written, with no substitutions, and I can’t say enough how good it was. My whole family loved it and they’re not too big on pumpkin pie, so I was thrilled. So glad I found this recipe.

  6. Debbie says

    I made muffins using this recipe with fresh roasted pumpkin, and substituted honey for agave in a 1:1 ratio. I made half with the fruit/nuts on the bottom and half with them mixed in and baked them for about 30 minutes on 325. They were divine! My non GF friends loved them, too!

  7. Davie says

    So I made this cake tonight because I wanted something sweet and I’m trying to stay away from flour and sugar. The consistency came out very mushy…is it supposed to be this way? I have made a plain almond cake with agave before and consistency is always perfect. Is it because I used canned pumpkin? would that make it mushy?

    Thanks for any advice you could give :)

  8. Heidi David says

    So very excited as my Honeyville Almond Flour has arrived!! Planning on making the pumpkin cake recipe above, but it looks like pyrex no longer makes 8 x 8 pans (can’t find them in the stores). I have a metal 8 x 8, or I suppose I could opt for a 7 x 11 pyrex. Does any one have any advice? I’ve noticed that many of Elana’s recipes use pyrex, having never tried one of the almond flour recipes before I’m looking for advice. My family’s counting on me to bring the healthy delicious desserts, I would hate to blow it cause of the pan, so any help would be appreciated!! PS: Elana, I’ve made the almond butter blondies, the chocolate banana cake, the kale w/cherries, and absolutely every one of your recipes brings rave reviews. Thank you so much for this amazing website & Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Val says

      i made this delicious recipe in a vintage pyrex that was approx 9.5 inches by 6.5 inches. I left it to bake a little longer than suggested for the 8X8. Plan on using the same next time I make it.

  9. li says

    I’ve made this a couple times now. The first time I used fresh pumpkin, the other ~3 times I’ve used canned pumpkin. Elena’s ratios in the recipe definitely work best with fresh pumpkin–I haven’t been able to tweak it to get the right texture with canned yet. I’ve tried adding more almond meal, adding another egg, etc…Although it seems that fresh pumpkin gives a better texture, it’s still delicious with canned!

  10. Christina says

    I did make this and offer it as one of the dessert choices for Thanksgiving. I am allergic to eggs as well as dairy, grains, cane sugar and gluten, (basically vegan PLUS meat, :) )so I replaced the 3 eggs with 3 T flax seeds ground and 7 T of water. I also hadn’t read the forum yet, that suggested that Bobs RM almond flour was not a good choice.

    It came out AWESOME! The texture was a LOT like pumpkin pie. I think I could have even baked it in a pie dish and left it upside down with the walnut, cranberry as a crust.

    My next quest will be to try to convert a vegan pumpkin ice cream recipe that I found on the web to agave instead of using brown sugar. Have you tried anything like that yet?

    Thank you again – for sharing. There were several of your recipes on my Thanksgiving table – including the cranberry relish and pumpkin custard.

  11. says

    Do you think fresh cranberries (chopped) would work the same? Should I adjust the amount? I think this would be a great dessert to bring to my family’s Thanksgiving feast!

  12. says


    Thanks for sharing the results of your experimentation with us. I think the chocolate version sounds really interesting, I wouldn’t have thought of that. I bet my boys would love it.

    Thanks Again,

  13. li says

    Thanks for this absolutely delicious recipe!!

    I made this for Canadian Thanksgiving and it was fabulous!

    I made a few substitutions/changes because I didn’t have any grapeseed oil and was running low on almond meal and agave nectar:

    -used 4 eggs instead of 3 and omitted the grapeseed oil
    -used about 2 1/2 c almond meal (maybe even a little less)
    -substituted about 2 tbs maple syrup for some of the agave nectar (in each the walnut-cranberry step and the wet mixture step)
    -added about 2 tbs of rum to each the walnut-cranberry step and the wet mixture step
    -added some ginger (say 1/2 tsp) to the dry mixture

    I also tried dairy-free choco chips instead of cranberries (and baked in a separate pan). I think the chocolate overpowered the delicious pumpkin flavor and wouldn’t recommend it…everyone liked the cranberry version better!

  14. says


    I’m not sure how everything would turn out as I haven’t made this recipe with canned pumpkin. This would be a great experiment! If you try it, please let us know your results either here or in the forums.

    If you don’t want to experiment, you can always pose your question in the forums to see if anyone else has tried it.


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