Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Until a couple years ago, I'd never had Pineapple Upside Down Cake.  Maybe that's odd, but I just never had the opportunity to try it.  No one I knew had ever made it, and I'd never had it at a restaurant.  I love pineapple though, so a couple years ago, when my mom asked me what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday, I requested Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

Is it odd to have your mom make you a birthday cake when you're an adult?  I feel lucky to have a mom you loves to cook and bake...and who takes requests.  She used a recipe she found in a cookbook, and I remember she was worried that the pan was too big which made the cake shorter than expected.  I remember loving the taste though.  Really, that's what it's all about.

Last year my husband and I threw our first luau party.  We always love to cook for our parties, and we love to practice recipes ahead of time to make sure they're party-worthy.  Of course our menu included Kalua Pork and Coconut Rice.  For dessert, I decided to make a Pineapple Upside Down Cake.  I took the easy way out and used the following box mix recipe.

I made the cake exactly as directed, except I melted the butter for the topping in the microwave instead of in a pan, and I baked the cake in a star-shaped cake pan instead of a cast-iron skillet.  I can't believe I didn't take any pictures of the finished cake, but I can't find pictures of it anywhere.  It was really a nice looking cake, and it tasted amazing.  I don't think there could be a better pineapple upside down cake.

I made the "practice" cake right before my birthday, just to make sure it was luau-party-worthy.  It definitely was.  My husband and I went out of town for my birthday last year, and we brought the pineapple upside down cake with us.  One of the highlights was having a big piece of cake for breakfast on my birthday.  Yes, cake for breakfast.  Hey, it was my birthday!  The only picture I have of that cake is the piece I ate on my birthday.  Breakfast doesn't get better than that!

One of the things I love the most about pineapple upside down cake is that you don't have to refrigerate it.  It stays great on the counter and even tastes a little better after it's a couple days old.  Time seems to help all the flavors meld together.  Of course, you can refrigerate it.  I usually prefer my cake cold.  It's just nice to be able to leave the cake setting out during a party without worrying about it spoiling.

Speaking of parties, the cake was a huge hit at our luau party.  We got a lot of compliments on it and requests for the recipe.  It was so easy to make too.  I really love how great the cake turns out with this easy Duncan Hines recipe.

So, a couple days ago, I decided that I was really in the mood for Pineapple Upside Down Cake.  It had been almost a year since I first made it with the recipe indicated above.  Maybe there's something about August that makes me crave pineapple.  Anyway, I was debating about whether to try making it from scratch or to make it the same way I did last year.  Knowing I'd be writing about it in this blog, I was tempted to try to make it from scratch.  It seemed like it'd be more impressive to tell you that that's what I did.  However, I remembered my mom's pineapple upside down cake and how she didn't seem to think that it was very easy to make from scratch.  I decided to take the easy way out.

If you look at the Duncan Hines recipe, it calls for Duncan Hines® Moist Deluxe® Pineapple Supreme Cake Mix.  My husband is in the Air Force reserves, and I'm 99% sure that I found this cake mix at the Commissary at the Air Force base in El Segundo last year.  It was so easy.  It was just there saying "buy me."  We don't live close to the Air Force base, and I didn't have a chance to drive down there yet.  I didn't think I'd need to.  I thought I could just find the cake mix at any 'ol grocery store.  I checked Target.  I checked Ralphs.  I checked Vons.  I checked Food4Less.  No one had it.  It wasn't that they were sold out.  They just didn't carry it.  I decided to check another Target.  No luck.

I read some of the comments on the recipe page, and some people said they used a yellow cake mix instead of the pineapple cake mix.  I decided that I had no other choice.  I bought a yellow cake mix.

Then I went home and did one more search to see if I could buy the pineapple cake mix online.  Yes, you can order it from several different websites, but I also saw that you can buy it at Walmart.  Why hadn't I thought of Walmart?  According to, the pineapple cake mix was in stock at my local store.  I jumped in the car and drove over.  I found the cake mix section and saw where the pineapple cake mix should be, but they didn't have any in stock.  At least they sell it there, but for now, I'm still stuck using a yellow cake mix.

So, I finally decided on a plan.  I'd use the yellow cake mix and substitute pineapple juice for the water called for in the recipe.  I'd melt the butter in the microwave like I did last year, and I'd bake it in my star-shaped cake pan like I did last year.  I think the star-shape is a fun shape for this cake.  Have I mentioned how much I love fun baking pans?  Because I really do love fun baking pans!

Here is my slightly modified version of the Duncan Hines recipe:

Pineapple Upside Down Cake


1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup packed brown sugar (light brown sugar or dark brown sugar will work)
1 20oz can pineapple slices (10 slices)
10 Marachino cherries (one to put inside each pineapple ring...or as many as you want for decoration)

1 box yellow cake mix (any brand) or (if you can find it) Duncan Hines® Moist Deluxe® Pineapple Supreme Cake Mix
1 box (3.4oz) vanilla instant pudding and pie filling (Jello brand)
4 eggs
1 cup pineapple juice (the leftover juice from the can of pineapple slices should work perfectly)
1/2 cup vegetable oil


Preheat your oven to 350.

For the topping, melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl.  Stir in the brown sugar.  Pour into the bottom of a cake pan.  Arrange pineapple slices and Marachino cherries.
For the cake, mix all ingredients with an electric mixer.  Pour slowly and evenly over the fruit in the cake pan.

Bake for 40-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The bigger your cake pan, the quicker the cake will bake.

Invert the cake immediately onto a serving plate, platter, or cookie sheet.  If a pineapple slice or Marachino cherry falls off, just stick it back on the cake.

Let the cake cool completely and then cover it loosely.  You can keep the cake on the counter for a few days or up to a week in the refrigerator.

One thing I particularly love about Pineapple Upside Down Cake is that it doesn't need frosting since the topping (which goes in the bottom of the pan) is basically like frosting (butter and brown sugar).  I love the way the cake tastes with this topping baked into it.  I also love that I don't have to wait for the cake to cool and then attempt to decorate it perfectly with frosting.  I love that basically the first thing you do is decorate the cake by arranging the pineapple and Marachino cherries on top of the butter and brown sugar mixture.

You can arrange the pineapple slices and Marachino cherries however you like.  I tend to think, the more Marachino cherries the better.  I only had a few whole cherries, which I put in the middle of the pineapple slices in the center of the cake.  I had a whole bunch of Marachino cherry halves though (I use them in fruit salads), so I used those everywhere else.  I put them cut-side facing up so that once the cake was baked, they would look like whole cherries.  I think I may actually prefer the cherry halves.

After arranging the pineapple slices in the cake pan, I had just enough pineapple juice left over (1 cup) to mix into the cake instead of water.  I whipped up the yellow cake mix, pineapple juice, pudding, eggs and oil in my stand mixer.  Then I poured it a little at a time evenly over the pineapple/Marachino cherry decoration.  I loved that I could see the topping (butter and brown sugar) oozing up the sides of the pan.  My thought: this is gonna be good!

I put the cake in a preheated 350 degree oven.  My oven tends to cook a little fast, so I set the timer for 50 minutes.  While it was baking, I tasted the little bit of batter that was still stuck to the sides of the mixing bowl.  It tasted good.  I didn't necessarily taste the pineapple juice, but after baking it, the flavors should meld together and taste even better.

I checked the cake at about 30 minutes, and it was already pretty brown.  I stuck a toothpick in to check, and it seemed like it could probably use a few more minutes.  10 minutes later, I took the cake out of the oven.

The hardest part about using a star-shaped cake pan is finding a cake plate big enough to invert the cake onto.  I guess you could use a cookie sheet, but I like to be a little more decorative if possible.  Last year, I discovered that the cake fit perfectly on a deep-dish serving tray that I have.  I have another serving tray that's slightly smaller that I use as a lid/cover once the cake is completely cool.

Inverting the cake always scares me more than anything else.  That's the moment of truth.  I had my husband invert it for me both times I made this cake last year.  This time, my husband wasn't home when the cake came out of the oven, so I got out my trusty deep-dish serving tray and inverted the cake myself.  Be sure to wear oven mitts when you do this step.  You don't want to forget that the cake just came out of the oven.

The cake inverted beautifully.  When I pulled off the cake pan, one pineapple ring was still clinging to the inside of the pan, but I just placed it gently back on top of the cake.  Perfect.  Now the cake is cooling on the counter.

See that little bit of juice at the top of the photo on the right?  That's melted butter and brown sugar. You could wipe it up for better presentation, but I'll end up wiping it up with a piece of cake!  My husband and I are making Kalua Pork and Coconut Rice for dinner, and this cake is dessert. 

This Pineapple Upside Down Cake is super easy to make and is perfect for a luau-themed party or any summer celebration.  If you find a star-shaped cake pan and copy my design, it'd be perfect for any patriotic celebration like Memorial Day or the 4th of July.

For a Spring or Summertime celebration, you can also easily make this cake into a butterfly shape.  Check out this link to my other blog (Pretty Creative Stuff) for directions on how to make this cake shape.  All you need is a round cake pan.

Happy eating!

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