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.
Light and moist, this is the best kind of pineapple upside down cake...not too much cake!
For the topping
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp dark rum
- Approximately 20 oz of sliced pineapple (use fresh or canned)
- Maraschino cherries
- 6-8 pecans
For the Cake
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs, separated
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 Tbsp dark rum (or substitute with pineapple juice)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees; position a rack in the center of the oven.
- Add the butter to a 9-inch-round baking pan. Place the pan inside of the pre-heated oven until melted, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven and add the brown sugar and rum; stir until mixed well and even.
- Arrange the pineapple slices evenly in the pan; place a cherry in the center of each one and fill the center and any other open space with either additional pineapple pieces or pecans.
To make the cake:
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt and whisk to combine.
- Using a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until fluffy; scrape into a clean bowl.
- Using the same mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and creamy; add the rum and vanilla extract and mix well..
- Add the flour mixture and beat until well combined.
- Using a spatula, fold in the egg whites until just mixed in.
- Pour the batter over the fruit in the cake pan and smooth to the edges.
- Bake for 40 minutes until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.
- Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake. Place a serving plate over the pan and invert carefully allowing the cake to slide out of the pan.
- Serve warm or at room temperature; dollop with whipping cream if desired.
This is the original recipe. To make enough for my large (12") cast iron skillet I increased each item by 50% and it was still a bit thin; your cake will probably be a bit taller.
The most difficult part of that? Turning that skillet over with a large plate!