So I hear Pineapple Upside Down Cake is out of fashion; not popular, relegated to the annals of history as something from ‘back in the day.’ Well, guess I’m out of fashion because it’s one of my favorites. I haven’t had one in a very long time though but circumstances beyond my control made this meant to be. I received a gorgeous fruit basket from Harry and David recently and it included a perfectly fresh pineapple. I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted to use it for this cake; a tweet I saw a few days ago about an ‘Americana’ blogging event sealed the deal.
Upside down cakes have been made for centuries in this country using cast iron skillets that were placed over a fire; the practice of putting fruit and sugar in the bottom made for a simple preparation with the topping cooking at the same time as the cake. Pineapple became a popular fruit for decorating these skillet cakes in the early 1900’s after James Dole’s engineer invented a machine to both core and cut pineapples into rings…the addition of maraschino cherries was to simply add a boost of color.
The first mention of this cake was in 1925 in a Gold Medal Flour ad that featured a full page photo of Pineapple Upside Down Cake and described it as we still know it today; a round cake with slices of pineapple, candied red cherries and a brown sugar/butter glaze. Researchers have discovered several references through the next decade, most notably the 1936 Sears and Roebuck catalog. I’ve been making this cake for as long as I can remember and I won’t deny that for most of those years it included canned pineapple and a boxed cake mix; those conveniences are certainly what helped the cake gain notoriety during the 1960’s and 1970’s when women were leaving some of their traditional roles and demanding more ease in the kitchen.
Fast forward to today when many of us prefer to circumvent that ease and enjoy doing things ‘from scratch.’ From my experience, the extra effort is so worth it. Even peeling that pineapple was easy. I wasn’t concerned about the peeling which is really pretty easy; cut off the top and bottom and slice the outer skin off by starting at the top and and slicing downwards following the curve of the fruit. My challenge was to figure out how I would remove the core without making a mess that would ruin the whole look. To the rescue? A biscuit cutter! My biscuit cutter has a piece that is removable that make a center hole…so I removed it and used it to core each slice…yes, I was pretty doggone pleased with the results!
This recipe is so old, the card it was written on when I first decided to type it up was barely legible; I think it may have been my Grandmother Vaden’s recipe. I most often remember baking and cooking with my Grandma Bathe, my Dad’s mom, but it was true then and I’m reminded of this fact today; my Grandma Bathe was the ‘pie’ Grandma and Grandmother Vaden was the ‘cake’ Grandma. So if this was handed down from a Grandma of mine…well, Luda Vaden it must have been!
Am I am so single minded in my thinking that I no longer offer any surprises? I guess we are all creatures of some type of habit right? So…want to guess what I added to this cake? I mean…really, how could I not? Pineapple. Brown Sugar. Butter. Don’t those just CRY out for Rum? I thought so too! I’ve updated this time honored recipe to include some dark rum…oh baby was that a good idea! The title is the truth; The Best Pineapple Upside Down Cake has Rum!
Almost a hundred years of history; my own family history of half that time; pineapples from Hawaii (thank you for joining the Union or I might be in trouble), those bright maraschino cherries…what about all that is NOT American? I hope you will dust off any notion that this is old or old fashioned. I prefer timeless or vintage; it is most definitely a cake that should not be forgotten. Come over and have a slice; you’ll see what I mean.