If you’re looking for a delicious dessert to make, there’s nothing better than a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. And bonus—no decorating is required! It comes right out of the pan looking amazing!
Although upside-down cakes have been around since the Middle Ages, the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is a relative newcomer. Historically upside-down cakes were made with apples, cherries, and other seasonal fruits. It wasn’t until a November 1925 advertisement that the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake phenomenon started. As Jean Anderson notes in her cookbook, The American Century Cookbook—The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century:
While rooting around in old women’s magazines I found a Gold Medal Flour ad with a full-page, four-color picture of Pineapple Upside-Down Cake–a round cake with six slices of pineapple, candied red cherries, and a brown sugar glaze.
After seeing this recipe the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (which would later become know as The Dole Food Company) took the idea and ran with it, making Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes a celebratory staple. Unfortunately, as boxed dessert mixes were popularized in the 1950s, the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake took a highly processed turn for the worse. And as this ingredient list from Duncan Hines illustrates, there’s nothing real about these boxed desserts:
Although cake certainly isn’t a health food, here are some of the most concerning ingredients in Duncan Hines Pineapple Supreme Signature Cake Mix:
- Trans fats are STILL in many brands of boxed desserts. Yes, in June 2015 the FDA finally made the determination that trans fats are a dangerous additive and no longer a GRAS (generally recognized as safe). However, the FDA has given the food industry 3 years (June 2018) to reformulate products. So don’t look for the ban to help you anytime soon. One more word of caution—don’t look for trans fats on the nutrition facts panel since food companies lobbied the FDA many years ago for a loophole (if trans fats are less than 0.5g per serving, 0g is printed on the label). So if a box, bag, or can of processed food has “partially hydrogenated” anything in the ingredient list, just put the item down.
- Artificial colors and flavors are still in many processed foods. Despite all the hoopla most food companies are making about cleaner ingredient labels, don’t trust these boxed mixes to be free of them. Who would imagine Pineapple Upside-Down Cake would need yellow and red food colorings? Crazy! Certainly, no homemade yellow cake recipe does!
- All different types of phosphates are packaged into boxed cake mixes. While most of these phosphate additives are considered safe, their overuse in processed foods has created concern with “Doctors … linking [phosphates] to higher rates of chronic kidney disease, weak bones, and premature death.” 1.
- Emulsifiers also make their way into boxed dessert mixes. Emulsifiers (such as polysorbate 80, lecithin, polyglycerols, xanthan and other “gums”) may start to receive increased scrutiny as recent studies have linked them to increased incidence of metabolic syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases.
- Lots of GMOs are also snuck into these mixes in the form of oils, sugars, corn syrup, citric acid, and soy ingredients. If your family has made the decision to eliminate GMOs, most boxed potatoes should be on your “avoid” list.
Personally, I do my best to avoid these highly processed additives, so on the rare occasion when I make dessert, it’s usually made from scratch and uses real ingredients.
My Pineapple Upside-Down Cake recipe:
Adapted from a recipe I found in Southern Living, this Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is super easy to make. In order to make it a bit healthier, I opt to use organic whole-wheat pastry flour and skip the traditional, fluorescent red maraschino cherries in favor of fresh raspberries. If you’re a maraschino die-hard, though, there’s a red dye-free version you can use. Just realize that the cherries will have a more washed-out purple color in your final baked Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.
So if you’re looking for a delicious cake for your next family celebration, definitely give this recipe a try. It really is wonderful taste treat!
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened
- ½ cup blonde coconut sugar or brown sugar, packed firmly
- 1 15-ounce can pineapple slices
- ⅔ cup pecans, halves or chopped (optional)
- ¼ cup butter
- ¾ cup maple syrup (see sugar option in notes)
- 2 eggs
- 1½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons milk or buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- fresh raspberries
- Melt butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or cake pan. Sprinkle sugar over the butter. Arrange pineapple rings on top. Sprinkle on pecans (optional).
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Cream together maple syrup and butter with an electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating briefly after each addition.
- Mix together whole-wheat pastry flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to creamed butter in 2-3 additions, alternating with milk. Don't over beat the batter. Stir in the vanilla.
- Spoon batter evenly over the pineapple topping and bake at 350 degrees F for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes clean.
- Cool cake for 5 minutes. Run a knife along the outside of the cake to help release it from the skillet/pan. Invert the cake onto a plate. If desired, garnish with fresh berries and enjoy!
I make my own baking powder since so many making baking powders have phosphates in them. It’s very easy to make: two parts cream of tartar and one part baking soda.
I like to use maple syrup for this recipe for its richer taste and to reduce the amount of processed sugars. If you prefer to use granulated sugar, replace maple syrup with 1 cup of fair-trade, organic sugar and increase the amount of milk to 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup).
If you prefer to use maraschino cherries in your Pineapple Upside Down cake, check out Tillen Farms Cherries—they use no artificial dyes or flavors. They're available on Amazon and at many food co-ops and Whole Foods.
This recipe was adapted from one found in the January 1988 issue of Southern Living.
Kitchen Tips and Resources:
- A trusty Lodge 10-inch cast iron skillet comes in handy for so many real food recipes including this Pineapple Upside-Down Cake!
- Some of the brands of ingredients I use in this recipe include Bob’s Red Mill organic whole-wheat pastry flour and Native Forest 100% organic pineapple rings.
- If you need a great hand mixer, I highly recommend this one from Cuisinart!