pineapple upside-down birthday cake

This is the second time that Joe has requested a pineapple upside-down cake for his birthday. Sticking with the same recipe, I was able to convince him that layering two cakes would be extra fun this year.

Pineapple upside-down cake has a retro feel to me - mostly because it is so rarely desired by anyone under the age of 50… just kidding.

Although fun to prepare, this is not a dessert that I would make on a whim. (“I just need some pineapple cake… nope.”) But, underneath that layer of fake fruit, is where I find happiness. Something magical happens during the baking process that allows the butter, brown sugar and fruit juices to become best friends.

Given the upside-down quality, the top exterior of this cake caramelizes and becomes super gooey; perfectly complementing the moist yellow cake. While this may not be my top birthday choice, I can certainly get into it, (and it is even better the next day).

A menu of maple ham and asiago cheese croissant pockets, homemade bbq beans, and baked dinosaur macaroni and cheese led us to the dessert round. However, everyone was pretty full by that point.

pineapple upside-down cake

yield: one 9-inch cake

20-ounce can unsweetened pineapple
3 TBSP unsalted butter
¾ C packed brown sugar (I mixed dark and light)
19 maraschino cherries
2 large eggs
2 TBSP buttermilk
½ tsp pure vanilla
1 C AP flour
¾ C granulated sugar
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
6 TBSP unsalted butter, softened
6 TBSP buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Have ready a 9-inch cast-iron skillet or a 9x2-inch round cake pan.

Drain seven slices pineapple and place in one layer on paper towels to absorb excess juice.

Place three tablespoons of butter in the skillet or cake pan and melt in the oven (or stove top). Remove from heat and tilt to coat all sides with butter. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the bottom of the pan. (For a gooier topping, you can increase the melted butter to six tablespoons and the brown sugar to one cup.)

Place one pineapple ring in the center of the sugar-butter pan and arrange six more around it. Then place the cherries in the center of each ring and in the spaces between them (use all 19).

In a small bowl with a fork, whisk together the eggs, two tablespoons buttermilk and vanilla. Set aside, (referred to as egg mixture below).

In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add six tablespoons softened butter and six tablespoons buttermilk. Beat on low speed just until the flour is moistened, then increase the speed to medium and beat for exactly 1.5 minutes. The batter will be stiff. Add one-third of the egg mixture at a time, beating for exactly 20 seconds and scraping the bowl after each addition. Scrape the batter over the fruit in the pan and spread evenly.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and tilt the pan in all directions to detach it from the sides of the pan. Let cool for 2 to 3 minutes before unmolding. 

Invert a serving platter on top of the pan. Cover your hands with oven mitts and turn the cake onto the platter. Lift off the pan. If any fruit is askew, use a fork to push back into place. If any brown sugar is left in the pan, scrape it up and spoon it over the cake. Serve warm or cool.

Variation: For a double-decker birthday cake, I baked two cakes and stacked them once cooled. The gooey topping will hold the top layer in place.

Recipe from Joy of Cooking.