At my mom’s house, having pineapple upside down cake for the holidays is akin to holiday fruit cake for other families. It’s a favorite of my dad’s. I prefer it soaked in cream or drizzled in cherry juice because, well, isn’t everything better that way?
When my father’s birthday rolls around in April each year, he inevitably asks for one of two cakes: German chocolate cake or pineapple upside down cake. At 85 years old, dad has seen a lot of birthdays…and I’ve watched mom make a lot of his birthday cakes. Both of my dad’s favorite cakes are classic vintage recipes made over the last 100 years for countless potlucks, holidays, and other special occasions.
Recipes for upside down cakes with caramelized fruit bottoms appeared in cookbooks in the early 1900’s. I found one recipe in the June/July 1925 edition of American Cookery, which suggested both pineapples and prunes as ideal fruit options. The French and Europeans were making similar versions of caramelized fruit and/or nut bottom desserts long before that.
Pineapple upside down cake has stood the test of time, and is still popular today, much like hummingbird cakes and ice cream, all of which are part of our long culinary history.
The recipe below is my mother’s pineapple upside down cake (who learned it from her mother). Of course, it’s my favorite version and includes whole pecans. Feel free to substitute other classic nuts such as walnuts.
- ½ stick butter
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 can pineapple slices
- 9 cherries
- whole pecans
- yellow cake mix
- pineapple juice from can of pineapple slices
- Warm oven to 350 degrees.
- Place ½ stick of butter in the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch dark pan.
- Place in warm oven to allow butter to melt, about 2 minutes.
- Add ½ cup brown sugar and mix with a spatula.
- Spread butter/sugar mix across bottom of the pan.
- Place pineapple slices in a single layer across bottom of the pan.
- Place half cherries in the middle of each pineapple slice.
- Place pecans in open spaces along bottom of the pan.
- Mix cake mix according to directions on the box. Replace water with pineapple juice from the can of pineapple slices. If there isn't enough juice to meet the requirements of the cake mix recipe, top with water to the required amount per the mix.
- Gently pour the cake mix across the top of the pineapple slices, cherries and pecans.
- Bake at 350 degrees about 55 minutes.
- While cake is still warm, gently flip the pan upside down so that the carmelized bottom becomes the top of your cake.
- No icing is needed as the caramelized pineapples/pecans/cherries topping is scrumptious!