Christmas Upside-Down Cake: turn over a new holiday tradition

There’s Christmas fruitcake.

And then there’s Christmas fruit cake.

The difference a single space between two words can make is nowhere more evident than here.

Fruitcake, bane of many a lame joke around Christmas sweets, is typically deep-dark-dense, super moist, and packed with fruit. Sounds pretty good, right?

Right – if you’re a fan of the neon-green cherries, bitter citron, and harshly chemical-tasting dried (make that dry) fruits with which these mass-produced fruitcakes are often packed.

Or maybe you make homemade fruitcake, redolent of brandy or rum, laced with moist apricot chunks, toasted pecans, bright-red cranberries, and tangy-sweet pineapple. Now THAT’S a good fruitcake.

But it’s still not fruit cake.

No, the fruit cake we’re talking about here is a moist, light-textured golden cake crowned with a jewel-like topping of colorful dried fruits bathed in a decadently buttery spiced syrup.

Think pineapple upside down cake – but substituting your favorite fruits for the pineapple.

It’s not fruitcake. But like I said before – THAT’S a good fruit cake.

Ready to try a new fruit cake, one that won’t end up center stage at the annual Manitou Springs Fruitcake Toss?

We’ve got you covered.

In a medium-sized pot melt over low heat:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger

Cook slowly over low heat until the butter is melted, the mixture is smooth, and you don’t feel the grit of sugar on the bottom of the pan.

Divide the topping mixture evenly between two 9″ round pans that have been greased and lined with parchment paper. Tilt and twirl the pans until you have an even layer across the bottom of the pans.

Toss together 3 cups of your favorite fruitcake fruits, candied cherries, diced peel, etc. Divide and sprinkle over the topping mixture in the pans. I like to cut the candied cherries in half so they go further; more red looks more festive to me.

You can add 1/2 cup of chopped nuts too, if desired. It’s your cake, do what you like!

Prepare your favorite double-layer yellow cake recipe, or your favorite double-layer yellow cake mix. Divide and pour over the fruits and spread to level. I love our Golden Vanilla Cake Mix; it has that true upside-down cake taste and texture from my childhood.

Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes are golden brown and begin to pull away from the sides of the pans.

Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool for 3 minutes. This will allow the cakes to set and not collapse when you turn them out.

Invert each cake over a serving plate and let sit for 30 seconds. Gravity will pull the sticky, gooey coating down over the cake. Remove the pan and scrape out any fruits that stuck.

Oh, my sweet buttery goodness…

Check out how the sided of the cake absorbed the buttery brown sugar topping.

Serve the cake warm, with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or even hard sauce.

One great thing about this recipe is that you make two cakes at once. You can bring one to a friend or neighbor, or someone who needs a holiday boost of cheer. OR you can wrap and pop one in the freezer to enjoy later on. Just warm the cake in a 300°F oven for about 10 to 15 minutes to get it sticky again before serving.

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Christmas Upside-Down Cake.

Print just the recipe.

MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...


  1. Lin King

    Fantastic cake! Very beautiful, festive and delicious! I doubled the brown sugar butter syrup. I doubled the cherries, pecans, candied pineapple, guava, and raisins. Used half as much candied orange peel. I used a golden vanilla cake mix substituting milk for the water, and added an extra egg.
    This is one fruitcake that will disappear quickly. Thank you!

  2. Nicole Boyle

    Can you recommend a source for the fruits and cherries that do NOT use sulfites, dyes, or preservatives? I have stayed away from making fruit cake because I have not been able to find the ingredients that are all natural and not chocked full of chemicals. I appreciate your help! Thank you so much!

  3. misoranomegami

    Sorry, yes it calls for 1/2 a cup of pineapple juice in the batter. I substituted orange because it occurred to me the acidity might have been calculating in with the leavening. It’s a bit too sweet for me but the people at the party liked it!
    Thanks for the follow up. Maybe next time use part water and part OJ. Ah, the endless variations! ~ MaryJane

  4. misoranomegami

    I’m absolutely making this tonight. I actually have a favorite pineappple upside down cake recipe though and it calls for 1/2 cup of the reserved pineapple juice. When I make this with apples I substitute the apple juice but I wonder what you might recommend. I could just do water but I feel like that’s wasting an opportunity. Maybe apple cider?
    Hey there,
    I’m guessing I need a little more coffee, I’m a bit confused. Do you put the pineapple/apple juice in the cake, or in the topping, or ??. If it goes in the cake, I think apple juice would work very nicely. Let me know if I’m off base, I’ll be at the java machine. 🙂 ~ MaryJane

  5. Cindy Leigh

    Looks delicious, MJ!
    I have a pan I bought at the KAF store this summer, with individual cakes, sort of like mini bundts, but the shape is like an open flower blossom- so it’s depressed in the center. Would this work in that, or does the cake need to be flat for the fruits to stay distributed?
    I’m trying to think of something to bake in those beautiful pans.
    Okay, I think it would work, but I’m guessing if the bottom isn’t completely flat, you might end up with more of a ring of fruit around the edge. I guess what I would do to test it is to pour some honey or something thick into the bottom of the pan, and see how it settles. If it stays pretty even, you’d be good to go. If it pools around the edges, that will give you a good idea of where the fruit will end up. I hope this makes sense. I’m gesturing wildly with my hands, but there just isn’t a way to type that! 😉 ~ MaryJane

  6. solsken

    Looks really good – in the way i loved the orange cranberry nut fruit cake – i’m going to do this one in a similar way – the only glace style fruit will be cherries, other than that i’m going with some dried cranberries, pecans, apricots… and i think i’ll throw in a dash of orange zest to the batter to off set the lack of ‘fruit cake fruit’

    yum! thats this weekends baking!
    That sounds delicious! I’m glad we are all taking a giant leap forward from just pineapple! ~ MaryJane

  7. Gene

    That looks SO good! And, I DO love a GOOD fruitcake as well.
    Definitely give this one a try. All the goodness of fruitcake coated in buttery goodness. ~ MaryJane


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