Cranberry Upside Down Cake with Two Beers Pumpkin Spice Ale

3 November 2012 by bri

Every fall I look forward to two things with an equal amount of excitement: pumpkin beers and fresh hop beers. Luckily, living in Seattle means I don’t have to worry about going without.

Another fantastic element of life in Seattle is the abundance of beer festivals. My favorite is held in the autumn — the Elysian Great Pumpkin Beer Festival (GPBF). Breweries from all over town and across the globe come together and provide us Seattleites with the nectar of the gourds, sweet fermented liquid of squashiness. A true beer-lover’s celebration of the great fruit of fall.

This year did not disappoint. My favorites (in no particular order) included some new local breweries. Reuben’s Brews made a Pumpkin Rye that had an obvious rye spiciness to compliment pumpkin pie spices in the concoction. Bainbridge Island Brewing aged a pumpkin ale in a whisky barrel and dubbed the brew Whisky Jack. Just enough whisky to warm your senses and amplify the pumpkin flavor. Epic Ales made a Pumpkin Pie Gose, a sour and salty beer that benefited from the squashy and spicy undertones.

I left the festival hungry for a sweet and tart pumpkin ale inspired dessert, and this cranberry upside-down cake made with Two Beers Pumpkin Spice Ale really hit the spot.

This recipe is aptly inspired by two beers I tried at GPBF. A new Belgium and Elysian collaboration beer, Kick, a sour pumpkin-cranberry ale, and Two Beers Pumpkin Spice Ale – a nicely balanced not-too-sweet but perfectly spiced beer. I haven’t tried this idea yet, but I’d bet that a blend of the two beers would be awesome.

The beer:

Two Beers Pumpkin Spice Ale

Style: Pumpkin Ale! While this isn’t really a BJCP style on its own (they include pumpkin ales in the “Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer” category… even though pumpkin is technically a fruit, heh) I like to think of it as its own style of beer. Usually made with pumpkins or some type of squash with spices added, these beers tend to be low in bitterness and accentuate the spices and pumpkin flavor with sweet malty flavors.

Tasting notes: This is the first year I’ve seen a pumpkin ale from Two Beers, and they bottled it! As compared to my default pumpkin ale, Elysian Night Owl, this beer is heavier on the spices and I especially like the amount of nutmeg in the flavor profile. Nutmeg is delicious in the right amount paired with cranberries, so the beer really elevates this simple dessert.

Other beers that would be appropriate:

Elysian Night Owl: This was the first of the style I ever tasted. Spicy, smooth, sweet, and delicious. In pastry school I learned that all pumpkin ales are not created equal by substituting an inferior but ubiquitous pumpkin ale for Night Owl in a mousse base. Just like with wine, when cooking or baking with beer always keep in mind that the beer flavors become highly concentrated when reduced or heated with other ingredients. If you don’t like to drink it – you definitely won’t like it in your dessert!

Elysian Great Pumpkin: This is the sweeter, stronger, and bigger-in-every-way older sister of Night Owl. It’s a limited batch each year, and in my opinion, slightly different each year. This year is sweeter than last year, and the spices are just right.

Southern Tier Pumking: If you want a sweet and cloying (in a good way) pumpkin ale, this is the beer for you. This will make a fantastic cake, and it would also make for some fantastic pumpkin pie!

Howe Sound Pumpkineater: This BC brewery bottles their beer in cute flip-top bottles, so they’re easy to spot on the shelves. They come out with different seasonals every few months, and this pumpkin ale was one of my favorites this fall. It’s sweet and spicy but refreshing at the same time.

The pastry recipes:

Cranberry Upside Down Cake with Two Beers Pumpkin Spice Ale
(makes one 8-inch round cake)

1 oz (2T) butter
¼ C (2 oz) granulated sugar
¼ C (1.5 oz) brown sugar
pinch cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg
2 C (7 oz) frozen cranberries
5 oz (½ C + 2T) butter
½ C (4 oz) granulated sugar
1 ea egg
½ t vanilla extract
¾ C (6 oz) Two Beers Pumpkin Spice Ale
1¼ C (6¼ oz) AP flour
1½ t baking powder
¼ t salt


1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Use 1 oz (2T) of butter to grease an 8-inch cake pan. Combine ¼C of granulated and brown sugars with spices and sprinkle evenly over the bottom of the pan. Scatter frozen cranberries over the sugar mixture in an even layer.

3. Cream ½C + 2T (5 oz) butter and ½C (4 oz) of granulated sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (you can use a hand mixer instead) until light and fluffy.

4. Combine egg, vanilla, and beer and add to the butter mixture, alternating with dry ingredients. Mix until combined.


5. Use a piping bag or a plastic bag with the corner cut off to pipe cake batter in an even layer on top of cranberries and smooth with spatula.

6. Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes, turning once, or until cake springs back to the touch in the middle and appears a light golden brown color.

7. Allow to cool for 30 minutes and then run a pairing knife around the outside and invert on to a platter. Enjoy with a glass of pumpkin ale!

Next up, I made Mr. Beerfordessert’s birthday dessert with Hair of the Dog Adam again. This year it’s a totally different kind of birthday cake, and Adam makes it especially yummy.


  1. jen says:

    Ooh! I was just asking Mr. B whether you’d made anything pumpkin-y recently. I share your love of pumpkin beer and can’t wait to give this a try!

  2. Rich Isaacs says:

    Looks fantastic. I even have that exact glass since Elysian did an event over here in Philly with pumpkin beers.

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