Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Family Recipe Pineapple Upside Down Cake Time!

If you have read this blog regularly over the years, you should well know by now that my interest in baking as well as my baking skill set (along with many other skills and talents) were basically inherited from my mom...and hers were inherited from her mother...and hers were inherited from her mother. So on, so forth, etc., etc.

Thus, many of the recipes I use are ones that my mother used...and my grandmother used...and sometimes they were even used by my great grandmother.

So when I had the pleasure of my mom paying me a visit this past weekend, we seized the opportunity to bake a family recipe together.

Our recipe of choice this time was one from my grandmother, Gammon: pineapple upside down cake.

My mama has very fond memories of this recipe. She has told me that many times a pineapple upside down cake (or an orange juice cake) would be waiting for her and her brothers as an after school snack when they got home.

Yeah, I know, cake from scratch for a "snack," right? And no, they were not obese, for any of the health obsessed who might be reading this (although I do question why the health obsessed would be reading my cake-filled blog anyway?).

The cake is, indeed, yummy. When we baked it this weekend, it was gone, crumbs and all, in a few short hours (though I reckon it helped that we had guests over).

I figured I'd try my hand at sharing the recipe here, although be forewarned – my grandmother was not in the habit of writing down measurements for her recipes. This often means her recipes consist of a simple list of ingredients followed by "...mix the ingredients together and bake until done." She basically was the Queen of Eyeballing Measurements and the Duchess of Knowing When Things Are Done By Just Looking at Them.

Hmmm...I may have discovered few other inherited traits of mine! Which also does a lot to explain why I never even try to post recipes...

My mom and I did our best to figure out what some of the missing measurements and steps were and I think we did a good job, but we may not have perfected it just yet. The cake ended up yummy all the same, though, and Mama said the taste of it gave her flashbacks of her childhood, so it must've been right!

Also, please keep in mind I've never really written a recipe for someone else to follow, let alone for various strangers on the internet, so I'm very nervous about unleashing cooking directions to the masses when I tend to be very directionless in the kitchen myself. I eyeball, I guess, I make crap up, and if things don't turn out perfectly, I improvise, adjust, or I try again another day.

So that's my best advice to you, too.

Good luck, and enjoy!

Pineapple Upside Down Cake (a la Gammon)

You'll need a well seasoned cast iron skillet to bake it all in, and the following:

For the cake batter:

  • 1/2 cup butter (Gammon only ever used salted butter, Mama says) 
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour (it says sifted, but Mama says Gammon never sifted it)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
For the pineapple top:
  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • brown sugar (amount unspecified – we tried out 1/2 cup, so at least that or maybe 3/4 cup?)
  • crushed pineapple, drained (we used one 8 oz can and it was good, but 16 oz may be good, too)
  • about 6 canned pineapple slices*
  • about 6 maraschino cherries*


A quick note about the pineapple rings and cherries – Mama says that Gammon never put the cherries in there – that was Mama's own addition to the recipe. And as far as pineapple rings go, Mama said that most often Gammon made it with just the crushed pineapple, but she would use the pineapple rings if she had them on hand. Therefore, if you decide to skip the rings and the cherries, I would think you should definitely use the larger amount of crushed pineapple.


1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.

2. In a mixing bowl (or in a mixer), cream butter and sugar for the cake batter until light. Add eggs one at a time, mixing in thoroughly. Add dry ingredients alternating with milk. Add vanilla.

Note: Mama always makes this cake with the help of the mixer, as do I, but Mama said that Gammon often simply mixed this cake with a spoon in a bowl using softened butter.

3. Melt the remaining 1/2 cup butter and the brown sugar in the cast iron skillet. Let the brown sugar dissolve into the butter for a bit. Let it get to a consistency where it doesn't immediately close up when you pull a spoon through it, but it is still fluid.

4. Add drained, crushed pineapple over the bottom of the skillet. Stir it up a bit to mix up the pineapple and butter/sugar mixture.

Note: If there is any excess liquid from the pineapple making it too soupy, let it cook off for a bit until it's back to the consistency it was before adding the pineapple. We drained our pineapple but it still added way too much liquid to the skillet.

5. If you're opting for pineapple slices and/or cherries, blot any excess juice from them and nestle then down the the bottom of the skillet in whatever pattern or fashion you like. We wiggled the pineapple slices down in a simple flower-esque pattern around the skillet.

6. Spoon the cake batter on top of skillet mixture a dallop at a time, evening it out if you need to once it's all on there, and then place the skillet in the oven for about 45-50 minutes.

7. Remove cake from oven (be very careful, that skillet is HOT!). Run a knife around the outside of the cake to loosen it from sides, and turn out the cake by inverting it onto serving plate (Mama reminded me to make sure it's a serving plate that can take the heat without cracking!).

Note: A cast iron skillet is very heavy, and very hot. I turn out the cake by wearing lots of ovens mitts and carefully and securely holding the serving plate on top of the skillet and then turning it all over at once. I'm not gonna lie. I find this to be the hardest thing about this recipe. So please, be careful. And remember to make sure you have a nice big spot cleared off to place everything once you flip it!

 8. Although not ideal, if any pineapple bits happen to have stuck to the skillet during the flip, you can scrape them off and fill them back into the cake where they belong.

And that's it! Now eat the cake and enjoy its pineappley, buttery sweetness.
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