Pineapple Upside-Down Cake


The pineapple upside down
cake is a throwback from the 1920s, a time when canned pineapple was all the rage. The 1920s was the beginning of widespread availability of canned pineapple at reasonable prices. (At the time fresh pineapple was not widely available and if you could find it, it was very expensive.) This widespread availability happened because Jim Dole, who founded the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (later known as Dole Food Co.) in the early 1900s, increased pineapple production dramatically. He canned about 95% of the crop so this eventually led to a huge expansion of the canned pineapple market. As with all new foods, with time pineapple recipes began to appear in magazines, newspapers, and cookbooks. So popular was Pineapple Upside Down Cake in the 1920s, that Jean Anderson in her The American Century Cookbook tells us that when the Dole Food Co. held a cooking-with-pineapple contest in 1926 they received over 2,500 recipes for Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Since then the popularity of Pineapple Upside Down Cake has ebbed and flowed, and now it is often thought of as comfort food. 

Pineapple Upside Down Cake begins with melting butter with brown sugar until it starts to caramelize. This mixture is then poured into a cake pan and fresh pineapple slices (or you can use canned pineapple) are placed on top. A buttery white cake batter is then poured over the pineapple slices and the cake is baked until golden brown. Once the cake cools, it is inverted onto a cake platter so the top of the cake features the pineapple slices that have become wonderfully soft and sweet from absorbing all that caramelized sugar. 
This pineapple upside-down cake is one of my favorite recipes. The cake is wonderfully dense with sweetness from caramel and pineapple; it begs to be served warm. Leftovers can be covered, stored in the refrigerator, and simply reheated.

Preparation and baking time: 1 hr – 15 minutes

  • 1/4 cup butter 
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 can (14-16oz.) crushed pineapple drained (fresh crushed pineapple can also be used) 
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • Start by making the caramel topping. Preheat oven to 350°F. In 9-inch diameter pan, melt butter in oven. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over melted butter.
  • Drain a can of crushed pineapple reserving the syrup and spread over the caramel mixture. Place it in oven to heat while mixing cake batter.
  • In medium bowl, beat remaining ingredients with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on high speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour batter over caramel and pineapple in pan.
  • Bake cake until tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto a platter. 
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.