Remember the first time you watched your mom make a pineapple upside down cake? I was mesmerized. I stood stoic, across the counter, watching as she carefully arranged and layered the ingredients in the pan. I stood vigil, peering through the glass, at the oven while it baked. I stood breathless, fingers crossed behind my back, when she inverted it out of the pan. In the end, I didn't know whether to joyfully jump up and down or hug her with pride -- I think I did both.
I was five or six at the time, and, that Norman Rockwell moment of my life, is, what life was like back in the late '50's and early '60's. It was picture perfect, and, it didn't matter that a boxed cake mix was used, the pineapple came out of can, and, the maraschino cherries were full of toxic Red Dye #4. It still doesn't -- a cake mix isn't a crime, canned pineapple is not a compromise, and, they've since switched to FD&C Red Dye #40. Peace, love, rock and roll.
A bit about pineapple and upside down cake: Pineapple was introduced to the United States in the mid 19th Century via South American trade routes north to the Caribbean and into the West Indies, where Christopher Columbus found them. In Caribbean native tongue, the pineapple's original name was "anana", meaning "excellent fruit". The European explorers called it the "pine of the Indies", and, when the fruit started being exported to English-speaking parts of Europe via The Columbian Exchange, the suffix "apple" was added (to associate it with their favorite "excellent fruit", the apple).
From there, the pineapple spread to other parts of civilization and was placed on sailing ships because, like oranges, they were found to prevent scurvy. It was on one of these voyages the pineapple arrived in Hawaii, and, was presented to King Kahehameha by his Spanish advisor, Don Francisco de Paula y Marin. On January 11, 1813 the first pineapples were planted in Hawaiian soil. In 1901, James Drummond Dole founded the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, and, within a few short years, the pineapple symbolized Hawaii.
^Meet a Pennsylvania pineapple. Joe grows two or three in pots on our deck every year!
Upside down cakes are a uniquely American dessert as they were first baked in a cast iron skillet for lack of any fancy bakeware -- a brown sugar glaze was prepared on the stovetop in the skillet, any juicy-type of sliced fruit was decoratively arranged in the glaze, an easy to make batter was poured on top of the fruit, and, the "skillet cake" was placed in the oven to bake. Once baked and cooled a bit, the cake was inverted onto a plate and very appealing glazed cake appeared.
The pineapple upside down cake has been around for almost a Century, with recipes appearing on Gold Medal flour bags and cans of Dole pineapple in 1925.
Canned pineapple was available everywhere by then and it was very popular with the American housewife. It was only natural that a pineapple upside down cake with pretty pineapple rings and bright red cherries on top would become a hit at parties and potlucks nationwide.
9" springform pan
For the glaze:
1 cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick)
no-stick spray, for preparing the springform pan
1 well-drained 20-ounce can of 10 pineapple slices, leave one slice whole and round, cut six of the slices into half moon shapes (you need a total of 7 slices), or:
trim and slice a fresh, fully-ripened juicy pineapple into 7 slightly-thicker than 1/4" slices if you are so inclined
13 maraschino cherries, well-drained
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups Softasilk cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 tablespoon pure butter rum extract
1/2 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
~ Step 1. To prepare the pan, using a pencil or a pen, trace the bottom of the springform pan onto a sheet of parchment paper and using a pair of kitchen shears, cut out the circle. Insert the pan bottom into the sides and clamp the pan closed. Spray the inside and bottom of the pan with no-stick spray, insert the parchment and give the surface of the parchment a spray too.
~ Step 2. To prepare the glaze, in the microwave melt the butter. In 2-4 tablespoon increments, add the brown sugar to the melted butter, stirring thoroughly after each addition. Pour and distribute (I spread it with a spoon) the glaze evenly over the bottom of the pan, but not up the sides or over the top of the parchment. You don't want the glaze to seep underneath the parchment.
~ Step 3. To arrange the pineapple and the maraschino cherries, drain and pat dry the pineapple slices and maraschino cherries on a few paper towels. Slice 6 of the pineapple slices as directed into half-moon shapes. Place one whole slice on top of the glaze, directly in the center pan. Arrange the half moon shapes around the perimeter. Place a cherry, stemmed side up (you want the pretty side of each cherry facing down for the finished cake), in the center of the whole pineapple slice, and, one cherry between each half-slice. That sure does look pretty!
Place two eggs in a large bowl. (Note: there are 4 eggs in this photo. I'm making two cakes today so I'm doubling the batter.)
Measure and have ready the sugar.
In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients: cake flour, baking powder and salt.
Stir butter rum extract into cream.
Note: Don't take any short cuts with this step -- beat for the entire 6 minutes. It does make a difference.
Note: Once again, take the time to mix well after each addition as this gives the sugar time to dissolve.
~ Step 5. On medium-speed of mixer, alternating the cream mixture with the dry ingredients, mix until all of the cream and all of the dry ingredients have been added, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula almost constantly. This will take about 3 minutes. Remove mixer, and lastly, fold in the coconut.
~ Step 6. Bake cake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for 38-40 minutes until golden brown and puffed through to the center, and, a cake tester inserted in the center in 2-3 spots comes out clean. Note: Only insert the cake tester to the center because, if you go lower, you will poke into the pineapple and bubbling sugar glaze.
Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool in pan for 45-60 minutes. Remove sides from pan.
It's a bit messy, but, you really do want to remove the sides from the pan while the cake is still warm (even if you're planning on serving the cake at room temperature. Do this while the cake is still sitting on the parchment-lined baking pan -- it will clean up super easy.
Invert the cake onto a serving plate, remove the pan bottom and parchment. Slice and serve warm, or continue to cool to and slice and serve later, at room temperature.
My favorite way to eat this star-spangled American cake...
Special Equipment List: 9" springform pan; parchment paper; pencil or pen; kitchen shears; 1-cup measuring container; paper towels; cutting board; paring knife; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 17 1/2" x 12 1/1/2" baking pan
Cook's Note: Say "cobbler" -- apples and peaches usually come to mind. That said, pineapple makes wonderful cobbler too. My recipe for ~ A Simple Summertime Treat: Pineapple Cobbler ~ can be found in Categories 6, 10 or 20.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)