Schatzi: One of the earliest cakes to make an impression on me was a Pineapple Upside Down Cake. It was at a potluck in a beach house somewhere on the North Shore, I think, and I was very little and it was the early Eighties. And there was this stunning sheet cake, covered in slices of golden pineapple and electric red maraschino cherries, glistening in the sun. Oh, it was beautiful and delicious. When I was away at college, living on a tiny campus and forced to eat in the dining hall, pineapple upside down cake was one of the few desserts Sodexho-Marriot did not ruin. It has both glamour, and a comforting kitsch quality, and it doesn’t hurt that it tastes wonderful. Many people associate the pineapple upside down cake with the Fifties and Sixties, perhaps as a remnant of the Tiki craze, but it has a much longer history in America.
Though it doesn’t appear in print until the early Twenties (sources differ on the exact date), the upside down cake’s precursor skillet cake was popular through the nineteenth century. Cooked on stovetops in cast iron skillets with seasonal fruits such as apples, cherries, or peaches, the earliest upside down cakes were homey frontier confections. Thanks to Dole’s (then the Hawaiian Pineapple Company) debut of canned pineapple in 1901, the upside down cake was revamped and became a breathtaking and fashionable treat for company by the Twenties. In 1925, Dole ran a recipe contest using canned pineapple, and out of sixty thousand entries, twenty-five hundred were for pineapple upside down cakes. The pineapple upside down cake was a genuine sensation.
You might recall that it was one of the treats Eli made for me when I was sick a while back. I’d been begging him to make another, and since my roommate Jenni’s birthday was approaching, and since she loves pineapple, he made on for her. Here is his recipe, based on a cake from AllRecipes.
- 1 cup butter
- 2 ½ cups white sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 ½ cups buttermilk
- 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 can sliced pineapple rings
- 1 jar Maraschino Cherries
- 1 cup whole pecan pieces
- 2 ½ cups brown sugar
- ¼ cup butter
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9×13 inch pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda.
2. In a separate large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk, mixing until just combined.
4. Place the brown sugar in the dish and pack evenly. Cut butter into pieces and scatter on top of the brown sugar. Place pineapple rings on top of that in a single layer. Place a cherry in center of each ring and place pecans anywhere desired. Pour batter on top evenly and place on center rack on the oven.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges to free them from the sides. Now invert the cake onto a surface such as a tray and carefully free from pan.