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Celebrity Chefs Recipes: Emily Luchetti's Pumpkin Upside-Down Cake

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Photos: Vic Chin, Video: Vic Chin and Peter Ruocco

The concept of an upside-down cake is brilliant. There’s a gooey brown sugar topping, moist cake and fruit. The traditional upside-down cake with pineapple and maraschino cherry, while delicious, can go in so many different flavor directions. Rhubarb with a cardamom cake or plum with cinnamon cake. This fall variation is the perfect anecdote to seeing and eating too much pumpkin pie. Once you taste it, you will be impatiently waiting for autumn to arrive, so you can make it again. Plus, once you discover how delicious it is, you will add it to your holiday dessert table.

Lining the bottom of the pan with parchment paper makes sure the gooey brown sugar topping will stick to the cake and not the pan. It’s so good you don’t want to lose any of it. It’s a beautiful cake, as well, with the glistening cranberries and pecans on top.

If you desire, the cake can be made a day in advance and stored at room temperature. If you do make it a day ahead, to ensure the top is glistening and looking its best, store overnight in the pan. Put it in a 300-degree oven for about 10 minutes, until the topping is melted, then invert onto a platter and serve with plenty of whipped cream.

Pumpkin Upside-Down Cake with Cranberry Pecan Topping

Serves 8 to 10

Emily Luchetti's Pumpkin Upside-Down Cake topped with fresh whipped cream.
Emily Luchetti's Pumpkin Upside-Down Cake topped with fresh whipped cream. (Vic Chin)


  • 8 ounces (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
  • 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
  • Whipped cream, for serving (see recipe below)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and whisk until smooth. Pour the brown sugar mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the cranberries and pecans. Scatter the mixture in an even layer over the brown sugar mixture.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, and oil.
  5. In another bowl, sift together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture, and mix until just combined.
  6. Drop spoonfuls of the batter over the cranberries and carefully spread the batter over the cranberry pecan layer.
  7. Bake the cake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, 25-35 minutes. Let the cake cool, in the pan, for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Place a large plate or platter on top of the cake, invert the cake and plate together, then remove the pan. Carefully peel off the parchment paper.
  8. Let cool to warm or room temperature before serving. Serve with plenty of whipped cream.

Luscious Chantilly Cream

Makes 2 cups

Luscious chantilly cream is the perfect topping for this cake.
Luscious chantilly cream is the perfect topping for this cake. (Vic Chin)

I’m very picky about whipped cream. Too many people, pastry chefs included, over whip it. Over whipped cream makes desserts taste dry. Perfectly whipped cream should be soft, billowy and satiny. Be sure to use granulated sugar. Confectioners’ sugar has cornstarch to prevent it from lumping and gives an off taste. When possible, avoid high pasteurized cream. It goes from unwhipped to overwhipped very quickly and doesn’t have the same texture.



  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Combine all of the ingredients and whisk until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until you are ready to use.
Chef Emily Luchetti with a slice of Pumpkin Upside-Down Cake.
Chef Emily Luchetti with a slice of Pumpkin Upside-Down Cake. (Vic Chin)

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