Pineapple Upside Down Cake


The first thing a lot of people learn about making anything with batter is to not over mix it. Unfortunately, that’s all a lot of folks ever learn and there’s certainly more to know when making a great cake. Last weekend, I took an excellent class on cake baking at Zingerman’s Bake House. In the class, I learned how to make (and take home) three complete cakes each requiring a different mixing technique—Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Angel Food Cake, and Flourless Chocolate Truffle Cake.

For those who aren’t familiar, Zingermans is a gourmet food business headquartered right here in Ann Arbor. Their slogan is: “You really can taste the difference,” and they offer baking classes to educate consumers about the products they sell. I left my four hour class with three cakes in tow, armed with tons of new knowledge about baking cakes. Today, I want to share the recipe for pineapple upside down cake.

Pineapple upside down cake is a classic American dessert that was very popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s. An upside down cake, according to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, is “a cake baked with a bottom layer of fruit and turned upside down before serving.” Today, this cake is still going strong—and boldly taking on new, adventurous flavors such as chocolate fudge and maple syrup. I would be remiss not to note that cooking a cake or tart with a fruit layer on the bottom and afterwards inverting it is neither new nor indigenous to America. Among the most famous of these treats is the French tarte tatin, an early 20th century upside-down apple tart. Stay tuned later this month for a recipe on this classic French dessert!


Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Original Recipe from Zingerman’s Delicatessen

Pineapple Topping Ingredients
1/4 cup butter (melted)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup pineapple (cut into 1/4 thick rings)
1/2 cup pitted cherries

Cake Ingredients
1/2 cup + 1/3 cup cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup + 1/8 cup buttermilk (room temperature)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit 20 minutes before baking the cake.

Spray a 9” round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray, and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Melt the butter and pour into the prepared cake pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar onto the melted butter. Top with pineapple rings and place cherries between the pineapple pieces. Set aside, while working on your cake batter.

Onto a parchment paper, sift together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Once all of the egg yolks are incorporated, add the vanilla extract and mix in.

Alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, 1/3 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Start with 1/3 of the dry, mix well, and then add 1/3 of the buttermilk, and repeat two more times with remaining ingredients. Once everything is incorporated, beat well with a rubber spatula to make sure your batter is fully mixed and fluffy.

Pour batter into prepared pan with topping, and smooth with the spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. Check the cake after 20 minutes. When it is done, the top of the cake should be golden brown and spring back when lightly pressed in the center. A cake tester should come out clean. It should have begun to shrink away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan to a cooling rack. Let rest 5 minutes. Run a small knife or metal spatula around the sides of the pan and invert the cake onto a cooling rack or cardboard cake round. Serve warm or and room temperature.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Fat plays a very important role in baking. It tenderizes the product by coating and weakening the gluten bonds within the structure. In fact, the name shortening was coined as such because it shortens the gluten strands when baking. The point behind all of this is to provide a word of caution when substituting other ingredients for fat in recipes. Often the structure and texture of a cake will be significantly different when you begin to substitute for fat. Definitely don’t try it in this recipe!



22 thoughts on “Pineapple Upside Down Cake

  1. I always seem to read your posts when I’m really hungry! I remember Pineapple Upside Down cake very much from my childhood but it doesn’t seem to appear very often on the menu these days. We need a revival! I remember it as one of my favourites, and Angel Cake! Mmmm, thanks Heather, I can taste it now… :-)


    • It definitely is one of those classic desserts, and I remember it from when I was younger as well! For me the appeal is that it’s so easy to pull together and it still looks a little fancy. It’s so good just by itself you don’t even have to worry about buying ice cream or something else to go with it! For some occasions you just need those no fuss dishes : )


  2. Hi Heather, this cake looks REALLY good. My mom’s favorite cake is pineapple upside down, so I have a soft spot for it :-)

    I’ve never made an upside down cake before, even though I’ve seen several great recipes for one. I’m thinking about making my mom one for Mother’s Day. Great post :-D


  3. I love your story about the cooking class. I had no idea it was 4 hours long. It looked like you brought your own cooking pans. What a fun adventure! I am now drooling looking at the pictures in this fun post as well al remembering my grandmother and then me making this cake, too.


    • Oh how fun! This is such an old fashioned cake that I think everyone has memories of it being made when they were younger :-) The baking class was a wonderful adventure! I was impressed that we were able to fit three cakes into the four hour time period!


  4. I don’t think I have ever had a slice of this gorgeous-looking cake. It looks so moist. Your cooking class sounds wonderful. You sure had a lot of fun! Looking forward to reading about the other recipes. :-)


  5. Mmmm….. I love this cake, but my version is too cloyingly sweet. I’m going to try yours next time. The buttermilk has got to help make it more multi-dimensional in taste. I also like the way you cut the rings (makes room for more pineapple!) Clever.


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