This wholesome sweet cherry upside down cake is a sweet, yet wholesome treat at any time of year. Try it with fresh cherries in the summertime and frozen cherries in winter!

A slice of cherry cake is placed on a white dessert plate and about to be eaten.

Each year, I work hard to mete out my excitement about holiday recipes . Delving into festive baking and cooking is just like putting up decorations. Too late is too late. But there’s such a thing as too early, also.

I’ve been waiting patiently this year, but now it’s time. This vegan sweet cherry upside down cake is my first Thanksgiving/holiday recipe of the season, and it’s a great one to start with.

Better still, the cherry upside down cake is easy. It’s a recipe that you can ease into holiday cooking with. Because who wants to take an elaborate pie or frosted cookies right out of the gate?

The beauty of upside down cakes

What’s easier than an upside down cake?

I love upside down cakes. I love that the require no decoration. Their fruit toppings bake and caramelize along with the batter, reducing to sticky sweetness. And they always seem to make a beautiful presentation in spite of how little effort they demand.

This cherry upside down cake is especially easy. You don’t need to arrange the cherry topping in any fancy or particular way. You simply layer chopped cherries and walnuts in the bottom of a springform pan, pour a simple cake batter over them, and bake.

The cake was inspired by Laurie Colwin‘s Nantucket cranberry pie. It’s actually a cake, not a pie, and I’ve made a vegan version that’s now a Thanksgiving favorite.

The fruit here is sweet cherries, not cranberries, which gives the cake more natural sweetness (and less need for added sugar). In addition, this cake gets flipped over, rather than sliced directly in the pan. The sweet cherry layer ends up on top, rather than bottom.

An angled photograph of a neat slice of vegan cherry upside down cake.

The right cooking vessel for cherry upside down cake

The choice of a baking dish matters a lot for this recipe!

I recommend using a 9-inch, springform cake pan. This will make it very easy to release the cake. It should also help ease the process of flipping the cake and unveiling its top cherry layer.

If you don’t have a springform cake pan, then it’s also fine to use a good, nonstick round cake pan. I have this 9-inch cake pan, and it’s one of my most trusted, steadily used pieces of bakeware. I use it not only for this recipe, but also for my carrot cake and banana cake.

Sweet cherries at any time of year

Of course it’s a real joy to bake with fresh, sweet cherries in the summertime. But cherries are one of my favorite dessert ingredients, and I don’t like to limit my use of them to three months only!

That’s why I used frozen, sweet cherries for this cherry upside down cake. I have no trouble finding them in the winter, and they’re frozen right when they’re picked. As a result, they maintain their nutritional integrity.

Speaking of that, sweet cherries are packed with health offerings. They’re a good source of potassium. They’ve been associated with anti-inflammatory benefits. And they’re rich in antioxidants that may reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including cancer and gout.

Sweet cherries are also full of fiber, which aids in digestive and cardiac health. Finally, they contain melatonin, which may help to reinforce healthy sleep patterns.

From a culinary standpoint, cherries create sweetness in desserts without the need for too much added sugar. For more on this, you can check out an infographic from Northwest Cherry Growers.

Cherry upside down cake ingredients

Whole grain flour

I made this cherry upside down cake with a whole grain flour. This helps to give the cake a mildly nutty flavor, and it makes the cake a little richer in dietary fiber.

White whole wheat flour is my favorite whole grain baking flour these days. It’s made with white whole wheat, so it allows whole grain baked goods to retain a light color. (Most 100% whole wheat flour will be much darker in color.)

If you don’t have white whole wheat flour, you can use regular whole wheat flour instead.

Unbleached, all-purpose flour

Even when I use whole grain flours in baking, I usually incorporate a percentage of all-purpose flour, too. This contributes to a light, fluffy crumb in baked goods (especially cake).

Dark, sweet cherries

You can use fresh (and pitted), frozen, or preserved cherries for this recipe. Just be sure to choose dark, sweet cherries, rather than tart cherries. Tart cherries won’t give the same flavor or sweetness in the cake.

Walnuts

Chopped walnuts are yet another reason why this cherry upside down cake has some wholesome goodness. They’re a source of healthful, Omega-3 fatty acids and phytonutrients that may be beneficial for cardiac health.

If you don’t have walnuts, you can use chopped almonds or pecans in their place. You can also opt to skip the nuts altogether, though I like the subtle crunch that they add.

Maple syrup

I use cane sugar to sweeten many of my cakes. But I think maple syrup works even better for some baked goods. My chocolate pear cake is one example. And I think maple syrup is also excellent here. It gives the cake a slight hint of caramel flavor.

Maple syrup is a costly ingredient, so feel free to use agave syrup or Steen’s Cane Syrup (my secret trick for gingerbread cake) in its place.

Can the cake be made gluten-free?

Definitely! If you avoid gluten, you can make a gluten free version of the cherry upside down cake. Replace both flours (1 3/4 cups total) with a trusted, gluten-free, all-purpose flour blend.

My GF baking blend of choice is King Arthur’s measure for measure.

Storing cherry upside down cake

The cherry upside down cake can be covered and stored at room temperature for about three days. After day three, I recommend transferring it to the fridge.

Can this cake be frozen?

Yes! If you plan to keep the cake for more than five days after baking, I recommend freezing it in slices. Leftover cake that goes into the freezer sooner will remain more fresh than cake that’s frozen at room temperature.

More sweet cherry desserts

If you love cherries in baked goods as much as I do, I have a few more favorite recipes to recommend:

A slice of fruit-topped dessert is positioned on a small white dessert plate and being cut into with a fork.
A slice of cherry cake is placed on a white dessert plate and about to be eaten.
5 from 3 votes

Wholesome Sweet Cherry Upside Down Cake

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Yields: 12 servings

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 350F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform cake pan with parchment paper and lightly oil the sides.
  • Place the cherries, walnuts, and sugar in the bottom of the cake pan.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda and powder, and salt. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the oil, water, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until they're just combined (a few clumps is OK). Pour the cake batter over the cherries and walnuts.
  • Transfer the cake pan to the oven. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden and the top is firm and set. Allow the cake to cool for an hour before releasing it from the springform pan and using a plate or platter to invert it. Slice and serve.
A close up photograph of a fork, slicing into a piece of fruit-filled cake.

There will be a lot more holiday cooking to savor in the coming weeks, but I’m happy to be starting with dessert. A dessert that doesn’t stress me out now, and wouldn’t stress me out even if I had a giant feast to prepare.

I have a feeling this one might come to my rescue often during the holiday season. The fact that it’s packed with healthful fruit will make me feel good about its arrival.

xo

This post is sponsored by the Northwest Cherry Growers. All opinions are my own, and I love filling my dessert plate with the goodness sweet cherries! Thanks for your support.

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    12 Comments
  1. Sounds amazing, will try it. Can you make these into muffins? Same temp and time? Thanks

  2. This the short season for cherries where I live. Just picked !! . I used almonds and almond extract since I didn’t have vanilla and I used coconut oil instead of olive oil.
    This will be a great 4th of July picnic dessert. Thank you Gena

  3. Hello Gena. What a beautiful dessert!! I am absolutely bringing this to my Thanksgiving table. If you use frozen cherries, you’ll want to defrost them first correct? Then lightly chop them? I just worry that they’ll make the cake soggy. Finding fresh right now doesn’t seem to be an option for me. Thanks a ton! And happy Thanksgiving from Philadelphia!

    • Happy Thanksgiving to you, Jessica!

      I let mine thaw mostly, in a colander, but I didn’t wait for them to be room temp. If they’re still a little frozen, that’s fine. Then chop ’em! Sincerely hope you enjoy the cake.

  4. Ooh, I wonder if this would work as muffins or cupcakes? The only issue would be the upside-down part. I’ll think about it!

  5. A lovely cake with rich tart cherries… Gena, I would wait all day for this! Simple yet rich flavors. Heaven! I freeze a ton of cherries when they’re in season.. my freezer is packed with them, along side blueberries. They are my favorites in green smoothies especially. Not too early my dear… just right. 😀