Cast Iron

My Mom's Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

April 19, 2010
10 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

My mother was a good cook, and made many memorable dishes. But when I try to think of just one that typifies what she taught me about cooking, it's hands-down this cake. It's a cake that invites another bite, another slice. My Mom taught me to bake it when I was in junior high school, and it tastes just as delicious today as it did all those years ago. You must bake this in a black cast iron skillet, and I still have the skillet my Mom baked this cake in for as long as I can remember. She's been gone for a very long time now, about 25 years (forgive me for not having a photo of her to upload), but her cake lives on and always bring tears of joy to my eyes. —Abra Bennett

Test Kitchen Notes

When reading up on the origins of the pineapple upside-down cake, I came across the connotation, instead, of an upside-down pineapple. It's probably inappropriate to get into the details of that here, so consider this an internet scavenger hunt gift.

Anyway...back to the cake at hand. Pineapple upside-down cakes—or really, any cake designed top-to-bottom, with the intention of being flipped right-side-up—have always held a special place in my jigsaw-puzzle-loving heart: There's something very sweet, very 1937-technicolor Snow White, about lovingly draping slices of neon fruit into a pan. This recipe from (two-time contest winner!) Abra Bennett is no exception. Sugar and butter bubble together to form a simple caramel that floods the bottom of the cake pan. Pineapple rings and clawlike pecans nestle into that buttery sugar, and get topped with billowy, eggy cake batter. As the cake bakes, the molten sugar shellacs the fruit and nuts, creating a stained-glass effect. As the batter lifts and puffs valiantly, it soaks in all those caramelized pineapple juices. (Cue the whistling woodland creatures here.)

After 45 minutes in the oven, the cake will be cooked through and the fruit tender and burnished. Don’t skip the 30-minute rest in the pan, which will help firm everything up for the big event: the flip. Cover the rested cake with a large enough plate and flip confidently and quickly (feigned confidence will sub in just fine here). Admire your work—if a pineapple ring or pecan has fallen out, just nudge it back into place. Cut into wedges, tame with dollops of unsweetened soft-whipped cream, and eat as you think about Abra Bennett cheekily eating the entire cake by herself. —Coral Lee

  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 8 (unless you decide to eat it all by yourself)
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1 20 ounce can pineapple slices packed in juice, reserving 5 tablespoons juice
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Melt the butter in a 9-inch cast iron skillet. Add the brown sugar and stir well to thoroughly combine, then turn off the heat. Arrange 7 pineapple slices in a single layer over the brown sugar mixture (your 9-inch skillet should accommodate 7 slices without overlapping). Fill the spaces between the pineapple rings with the pecans, centering one in the middle of each ring and arranging the rest as artistically as possible. Turn the pecans upside-down, so that they will be right side up when you invert the cake later. Set the skillet aside.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl; set aside.
  4. Beat the egg yolks at medium speed until they are thick and lemon colored. Gradually add the sugar, continuing to beat. On low speed, add the flour mixture to the yolk mixture, and gently mix in the reserved pineapple juice.
  5. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the whites into the cake batter. Pour or spoon the batter evenly over the pineapple slices.
  6. Bake at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool the cake in the skillet for 30 minutes; then invert it onto a serving plate.

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33 Reviews

Susan P. October 17, 2020
Made this as a birthday gift for a friend. Turned out so beautiful with amazing aroma and sweetness. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe! ❤️
 
Gloria M. November 25, 2019
This is the same recipe I have used for about 35 years, I found it in a yellow cover hardback
McCall's cookbook, it is excellent, everyone who has tried it says it tastes like candy cake, so cool to find it 🤗
 
bettye198 October 18, 2019
This is a great try. My Mom, R.I.P. loved this cake. However, never tried separating eggs and whipping whites to fold in. A new approach! Thank you because I hate using boxed cake mixes for pineapple upside down cake.
 
Anne P. April 21, 2019
You are right. Your mother was a good cook. I followed your recipe exactly and it was excellent. Thanks for sharing a family recipe. No problems whatsoever.
 
[email protected] March 12, 2019
I have not had this since I was a kid and want to try it but was nervous about the lack of butter in the batter. I will follow the advice in some of the comments. It will be nostalgia in a cast iron pan.
 
Marlys S. March 12, 2019
I have made Pineapple Upside down cake for years. I learned that lining my iron skillet or any other container with parchment works very well for turning out the cake from pan.


 
Tracey W. November 18, 2018
Thank you for sharing. This is a favorite in our home!
 
Kim R. May 5, 2016
Perhaps the cake sticks to the skillet because it is left to cool for to long before turning out;the pineapple glaze will stick to the pan, for me, ten minutes is long enough cooling time
 
EmJu March 4, 2016
I made this cake and it was very good. My husband loved it. However I will add some butter to the batter next time to make it more yummy :-)
 
wendy October 12, 2015
I made this cake but I would recommend using 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar for the topping in the skillet and then use the other 1/4 cup of butter in cake batter. I've yet to see a pineapple upside down cake without butter or oil in the batter... The result was ok but the cake was seriously dense not having any oil.
 
Nicole L. May 10, 2015
What a great idea to use pecans in this recipe. I love love love this cake and now I will love it even more! Thank you for sharing!
 
some times a bit of the toffee/sugar stuff stays in the pan when I invert it but I just scrape it all on to the hot cake and it all melts right in and once it's cooled, you don't notice. For the entire cake to not come out, the skillet might not have been seasoned enough yet?
 
akana May 1, 2015
So... my cake is refusing to leave its skillet home. Any thought?
 
Marcia April 15, 2014
No butter/shortening in the cake..was this an omission or is it done without shortening?? Love using my skllet for upside down cakes.
 
Author Comment
Abra B. November 30, 2013
I'd say it was the skillet. I was given one of those "pre-seasoned" ones and it took weeks of use before stuff stopped sticking.
 
Author Comment
Abra B. November 30, 2013
Gosh, I've never had that happen. Was your cast iron pan well seasoned? Did you bake it too close to the bottom of the oven? And if you actually did make it with fresh pineapple, perhaps that affected the outcome somehow.
 
Anneliese B. November 30, 2013
It was a brand new (but pre-seasoned) skillet... I was wondering if maybe I should have inverted it after 10 min instead of 30, as other recipes I've seen all say to do that. Did not use fresh pineapple.
 
Anneliese B. November 30, 2013
Just made it (haven't tasted yet...) and all's well so far, except that when I inverted it onto a plate after cooling the recommended 30 min, a 1/4" layer of toffee remained in the skillet. It still looks great, but I'm wondering where I went wrong... Thoughts?
 
Anneliese B. October 24, 2013
One more question (this will be my first upside-down experiment) - any tips for making this recipes with fresh pineapple?
 
Author Comment
Abra B. October 11, 2013
You can certainly make it in a 10" skillet, it will just make for a thinner cake, and might require a few minutes less baking time.
 
Anneliese B. October 11, 2013
Thanks!
 
Anneliese B. October 10, 2013
Would a 10" skillet be too big for this recipe?