If I were to guess, I would have said that the pineapple upside down cake became popular during the 1950s, when Hawaii became a state and all things Hawaiian were all the rage.
In reality, this decorative and delicious cake has been part of American culture for much longer than that. In fact, the concept of cooking a cake in a cast iron pan then inverting it onto a plate has been around since the Middle Ages.
Originally, nuts and chopped fruits such as apples and cherries were placed on the bottom of the pan, but pineapple slices became the norm around the turn of the 20th Century after Jim Dole, owner of th Hawaiian Pineapple Company (now Dole Pineapple) perfected a way to tin sliced pineapple so they could be shipped back to the mainland.
In an effort to popularize the super sweet fruit, the Hawaiian Pineapple Company sponsored a recipe contest, asking people to submit creative ways to serve pineapples. After the company received more than 2,500 recipes for pineapple upside down cake, it launched a national ad campaign to promote the cake and an American icon was born.
There are two ways to make pineapple upside down cake: the easy way and the hard way. With the easy way, you use a yellow cake mix. For the hard way, you make the cake yourself, which is the route I took.
You can buy special pans with rounded bottoms that are made exclusively for pineapple upside down cake, but because this was only the second time I’ve made this cake — and the first time was in culinary school — I decided to go with my tried and true cast iron skillet. Besides, it was more old school.
Pineapple upside down cake is by no measure a healthy dessert. It’s chocked full of butter, brown sugar and eggs. Not to mention the psychdelic-red maraschino cherries. Those things can’t possibly be good for you.
Still, a little decadence is good for you occasionally. At least that’s whay I’m going with.
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
1/4 cup Butter (1 stick)
2/3 cup Brown Sugar
20 oz can Pineapple Slices, undrained
2 Eggs, separated
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/8 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1. Melt the stick of butter in a cast iron skillet over a low heat. Remove from heat and spread the brown sugar evenly over the bottom of the skillet. Set aside.
2. Drain the pineapple, saving the juice. Arrange the pineapple slices in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Place a maraschino cherry in the center of each pineapple slice. Set aside.
3. Beat the egg yolks on medium speed until thick, about two minutes. Gradually add the granulated sugar, beating well.
4. Heat 1/4 cup of the pineapple juice over a low heat. Gradually add the juice mixture to the yolk mixturre, beating until blended.
5. In a mixing bowl, combine the AP flour, salt and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the yolk mixture, beating at low speed.
6. Beat the egg whites on medium-high until stiff peaks form, about three minutes. Fold beaten egg whites into the batter until combined, then spread the batter over the pineapple slices.
7. Bake at 325F for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool cake in the skillet about 30 minutes, then invert onto a plate. Make sure the surface of the plate is larger than the diameter of the skillet.
If you make your pineapple upside down cake using the easy way, follow steps 1 and 2, and then just follow the directions on the cake box.