To make Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, canned pineapple rings are arranged in the bottom of a baking vessel (a cake pan or a frying pan.) Ideally, a maraschino cherry is placed in the centre of each ring. Some recipes sprinkle chopped walnuts or pecans over the pineapple rings as well. The rings are then covered with a syrup sauce, or with melted butter and sugar. Cake batter is poured on top, and it is baked, then inverted to serve, causing the fruit on the bottom of the cake to be on the top.
Most recipes give you a recipe for the cake batter, though a few just advise using a cake mix from the store.
Often the cake is a sponge-type cake, though variations such as chocolate, gingerbread, etc, exist.
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is very easy to make, because when you turn the cake out, it looks fabulous on its own — no decorating is required.
Baking it in a frying pan with a handle makes it easier to flip afterwards. There are also special recipes for making them in electric frying pans.
They can be served warm or room temperature. They are often served with whipped cream or ice cream.
You can buy special cake pans just for Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. Some have ring indents in the bottom indicating exactly where the pineapple slices should be placed.
Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes are now considered “retro.”
To freeze Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes pop in the freezer uncovered for an hour. Then remove, wrap and freeze (this helps prevent the wrapping from getting attached to the sticky fruit on top.)
The recipe for Pineapple Upside-Down Cake could only have come along after canned pineapple came along, as an everyday recipe served at church dinners and suburban buffet tables everywhere. James Dole first sold canned pineapple in 1903, and by 1919, had increased the speed of his production line dramatically, enabling increased availability.
In 1923, under the heading of “Unusual Prune Dishes”, The Syracuse Herald gives a recipe for an Upside-Down Cake (with a hyphen) that calls for prunes. It’s made in an iron frying pan, and baked in the oven. (Syracuse Herald Thursday Evening, 15 March 1923, page 15.)
In 1925 and 1926, the Dole Pineapple Company and Gold Medal Flour jointly took out ads in cookbooks (as used to be the practice) promoting Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.
In 1925, the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (aka Dole today) held a contest for recipes using tinned pineapple slices. Approximately 2,500 of the 60,000 suggestions they received were for Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.
In 1926, The Port Arthur News (Texas. Saturday, 11 September 1926, page 5) gives a recipe in its “Menus for the Family” column for “Upside Down Cake” (no hyphen) that uses pitted cherries as the fruit. That same year, the Syracuse Herald opts for prunes again, repeating its 1923 recipe, this time though separating the ingredients out of the directions, and putting prunes in the name of the recipe “California Prune Upside Down Cake” (no hyphen). Sunday, 12 December 1926 Syracuse, New York
“I have a letter from Mrs A.V.B. who writes as follows: — ‘Have you a recipe for making Upside-down cake other than pineapple? Would like especially one using prunes or apricots. Could one use fresh apricots or would the dried fruit have to be used’ In reply to this letter, the fruit in any Upside-down cake is used more as a matter of decoration than anything else, though of course the flavor adds greatly to the cake when eaten. There is no reason why you should not use any fruit you desire and think would be good, or any combination of fruits.” — Martha Lee. Home Economics Department column. Oakland Tribune Magazine (Oakland, California). 24 March 1927, page 22.
In Sunday, 15 May 1927, page 17, Syracuse Herald (Syracuse, New York) mentions “Pineapple Upside Down Cake” in a list of suggested menus on a page titled “Simplicity in Dinners for Two: Seven Dinners Easily Prepared in a Maidless Menage” by Dorothy Mills Latham and gives a recipe for “Upside Down Cake” (no hyphen) later in the year (Friday, 18 November 1927, page 30) in its “Herald Home Institute” column by Mrs Robert E. Gooley that uses pineapple.
In 1927, the Southtown Economist of Chicago, Illinois ran a prune Upside-Down cake recipe twice in the same week.(Tuesday, 8 February and Friday, 11 February 1927 Chicago, Illinois), and on Friday, 25 November 1927, page 7, suggests an apricot Upside-Down cake (What Shall I Cook Today? Daily Menus Prepared by Julia Jane Abbott.)
On Friday, 15 June 1928, page 10, the Daily Tribune of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, reported that it had received a request for Upside-Down Cake recipes, and sent out a call to its readers. One week later, on Friday, 22 June 1928, page 8, it ran a recipe it had received for Pineapple Upside-Down Cake from a Mrs Henry J. Giese, and awarded her a $2.00 cash prize for it. (a Mrs Joe E. Peters got a consolation prize of $1.00 for her Upside-Down cake recipe using rhubarb.)
On 16 January 1928, Martha Lee (Home Economics Department column. Oakland Tribune Magazine. Oakland, California, page 18), sticks to her guns (see above) that any fruit can be used, and defiantly gives a recipe using peaches.
But less than two weeks later, Tuesday, 31 January (page 30), she has changed her tune. She devotes her entire column to pineapple. “What a useful fruit pineapple is in our dietary! And it seems to me it is daily becoming more popular.” She writes further “…surely somebody invented the popular “Upside-Down Cake” to show just how decorative the rings of pineapple could be.” She doesn’t give a recipe for it though, instead suggesting the use of pineapple in salads, stuffed baked tomatoes, stuffed mutton chops, and pie.
In March 1928, the Southtown Economist suggests Apricot Upside-Down cake again (Tuesday, 6 March 1929, page 12. Chicago, Illinois.)
On Friday, 25 January 1929, the inimitable Martha Lee, of the Oakland Tribune’s Home Economics Department fame, publishes a recipe for Gingerbread Upsidedown (all one word) Cake on page 34, but cautions readers “If you are fond of “Upside Down” cakes I am sure you will enjoy the one above made with gingerbread. Each year this type of cake seems to become more popular and here is a new idea. Many home-makers server too large a slice of “upside down” cake. It must be remembered that this cake is very rich, particularly when served with whipped cream. Serve small sections.”
In 1932, the Chicago Metallic Manufacturing Company produced a cake pan especially designed for Upside-Down Cakes. The pan had a rounded bottom. Its design was meant to overcome one of the problems people sometimes encountered with Upside-Down Cakes, which was their sagging in the middle when turned out. The label inside the pan had printed on it a recipe for Pineapple Upside-Down cake.
On Friday, 13 November 1936, the The Hammond Times of Hammond, Indiana proclaimed in a headline, “Hooray! It’s Pineapple Upside-Down Cake today! — that’s how your family will rave above this tempting new cake.”
By the 1940s, almost half of all “Upside Down Cake” recipes mention Pineapple in their title; many of the remainder that don’t, still use it as the fruit anyway. In November 1944, building on the popularity of the cake, Dole even took out a full-page colour ad in Better Homes and Gardens promoting Pineapple Upside-Down Salad.