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Pineapple Upside Down Cake Recipe & Video

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Pineapple Upside Down Cake is a throwback to the 1920s. A time when canned pineapple was all the rage. One look at this cake and you can see why it was so popular. It is lovely, glistening slices of sweet and sticky caramelized pineapple sitting happily on top of a fluffy white butter cake. A Pineapple Upside Down Cake begs to be served warm from the oven, with or without a dollop of softly whipped cream


When I set out to make a Pineapple Upside Down Cake, I had my mother's cake in mind. Her cake had rings of canned pineapple slices with a maraschino cherry in the center of each. But then I came across Alice Water's recipe in her informative cookbook Chez Panisse Fruit, where she used fresh pineapple, and I decided it was time to update the classic. 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 slices) are placed on top. If you like you can also garnish the top with maraschino cherries or candied red cherries (as shown in picture). 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 delicious caramelized sugar. I love to serve this cake warm with a nice dollop of whipped cream. Leftovers can be covered, stored in the refrigerator, and simply reheated.

So why did the first recipes for a Pineapple Upside Down Cake use canned pineapple instead of fresh? For the answer we have to look at the time (1920s) this recipe first appeared. 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. 

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Pineapple Upside Down Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven. Butter (or spray with a non stick vegetable spray) a 9 inch (23 cm) round cake pan with three inch (7.5 cm) sides.

Topping: Place the butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Continue cooking, without stirring, for a few more minutes or until bubbles just start to appear around the outside edges of the mixture (the sugar starts to caramelize). Then remove from heat, and pour into your prepared cake pan. Evenly arrange the fresh pineapple slices on top of the sugar mixture. (Can also garnish with cherries.)

Cake Batter: In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat in the vanilla extract. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture (in three additions), alternately with the milk (in two additions), ending with the dry ingredients.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar just until the whites hold a firm peak. With a large spatula gently fold the beaten egg whites into the cake batter in two additions. Pour the batter into the cake pan, smoothing the top. Bake in preheated oven for 45 - 55 minutes, or until the top of the cake has browned and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan (a toothpick inserted into the cake (not the pineapple) will come out clean). Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan and then invert the cake onto your serving plate. Serve with softly whipped cream.

Makes one - 9 inch (23 cm) cake. Serves 6 to 8.

Note: Can substitute one - 20 ounce (567 gram) can of pineapple slices (drained). Once drained, pat the pineapple slices dry with paper towel and arrange on top of the sugar mixture. Place a maraschino cherry in the center of each pineapple slice.

View comments on this recipe on YouTube


Anderson, Jean. The American Century Cookbook. Clarkson Potter/Publishers. New York: 1997.

Grigson, Jane. Fruit Book. Penguin Books. London: 1982.

Lovegren, Sylvia. Fashionable Food. MacMillan. New York: 1995.

Smith, Andrew F. The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. Oxford University Press. New York: 2007.

Waters, Alice. Chez Panisse Fruit. Harper Collins Publishers. New York: 2002.


4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) (55 grams) unsalted butter, cut in small pieces

3/4 cup (160 grams) light brown sugar

1 medium pineapple (peeled, quartered, cored, and sliced 1/4 inch thick)

Maraschino cherries or candied cherries (optional)

Cake Batter:

1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs, separated

1/2 cup (120 ml) milk

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar


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