A Cake Turned Upside Down

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Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I've had this cake on my mind for some time. It has been years since I've eaten one-- not since childhood. I remembered it as being sticky and sweet, delicious and remarkably easy to prepare-- that is, I do not remember anyone ever slaving over the making of a Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

My fondness for the cake was shared-- to my great joy-- by a cartoon dragon who no one seems to remember any more, but has always been associated with the dessert in my head.

The upside down cake is essentially a skillet cake-- begun on the stove top and finished in the oven. Plums, apples, and cherries were popular topping (or bottomings, depending on your point of view) in the 19th century. The pineapple upside down cake, according to foodreference.com, dates to "sometime after 1903, when Jim Dole invented canned pineapple."


The Hawaiian Pineapple Company (now Dole) held a pineapple recipe contest in 1925, with judges from Fannie Farmer's School, Good Housekeeping, and McCall's magazine on the judging panel. The 100 winning recipes would be published in a cookbook the following year. More than 60,000 recipes were sent in and 2,500 of them were for Pineapple Upside Down Cake. IF the cake was popular before the contest, the Hawaiian Pineapple Company took that popularity and ran with it, running ad campaigns based on the fact that so many recipes had been submitted.

I had a very specific reason for making upside down cake this week. I had planned on baking one in honor of the birthday of someone who had, well, turned my life upside down. And turn it he did. It was an obvious metaphor, certainly, but I loved the fact that this simple cake held a secret. Its fruits and its sweetness lay hidden as the cake develops and are then suddenly--almost violently-- brought to the surface.

In a way, I'm glad I didn't make him the cake-- it's too sweet and gooey for my tastes. It is insubstantial. And the thought of eating one now makes me sick to my stomach.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

This is as close to the original recipe as I could find. Typically, the maraschino cherries are placed in the middle of the pineapple rings before baking. I have chosen to omit this step. This way, garnishing with them is still possible, but I can immediately yank them off upon consumption. I dislike maraschino cherries. Intensely.

Serves: 8.


1 large can pineapple, crushed or sliced
2 cups flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar
Maraschino cherries for garnish


1. Drain the juice from the can of pineapple.

2. Sift 2 cups flour. Sift again with 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

3. Cream 1/2 cup butter, gradually add 1 cup sugar; cream well.

4. Beat yolks and whites of eggs separately. Add yolks to creamed mixture, then add flour and milk alternately, mixing well.

5. Fold in the beaten egg whites and vanilla.

6. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large frying pan.

7. Spread 1 cup brown sugar over the pan.

8. Add pineapple, placing rings closely together in an attractive pattern.

9. Pour cake batter over fruit.

10. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

11. Remove from oven, turn upside down onto serving plate and garnish with maraschino cherries.

12. Promptly throw cake away.