Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

For decades since 1975, I had always made a German apple coffee cake, Apfelkuchen, from a genuine German recipe as a pot-luck dessert. Then one day I got a hankering for a change and decided to try pineapple upside-down cake.

So I did what I usually do when researching a new recipe. I searched on-line for several recipes, printed out the likely ones, and merged what I liked to create my own recipe. It's easy to make and has been very well received. It wasn't until I wrote the recipe down for my sister that I realized I should post it here too.

Summary and Recipe Considerations

A basic pineapple upside-down cake involves cake batter, and a topping that most commonly includes pineapple rings, cherries, melted butter or margarine, and brown sugar. The topping is laid down in the bottom of the baking vessel (sorry for the contrived terminology), the batter is poured in over it, the cake is baked, and finally the cake is removed by laying a serving plate over the baking vessel and inverted the both of them together to transfer the cake to the serving plate.

What I've seen used as a baking vessel is a baking pan (eg, 13x9-inch Pyrex pan), a skillet (I use an 11-inch ScanPan), or a Bundt pan. One factor affected by your choice of baking vessel will be the number of pineapple rings you will need. For example, my 11-inch skillet makes a 117 square-inch cake for which 10 rings are ideal (three of them are cut in half and go onto the sides). A 13×9-inch pan would make a 95 square-inch cake, plus the geometry would be different (a rectangle instead of a circle), so a different number of rings might be called for. You will need to work out those details for yourself.

Using a Bundt pan raises a few issues. Rounding up the thickness slightly, my cake turns out to be about 214 cubic inches in volume (11-inch diameter, about 2.25 inches thick) or about 15 cups, so you would need a Bundt pan large enough to contain that or else figure out how to divide up the batter, including how much batter to put in a smaller pan accounting for how much it will rise. Using the Bundt pan would also require some creativity in arranging the toppings. In the single Bundt recipe I looked at, the pineapple rings were all sliced in half or thirds and set into the depressions in the pan alternating with the cherries. If you do a search for pineapple upside-down Bundt cake, then they will give you a better description.

You can make the batter from scratch or with a cake mix; I use a cake mix. One of the ingredients for the mix is a cup of water, but every single recipe I found called for you to use the pineapple juice that the pineapple rings came in, adding only enough water to make it come out a full cup (the canned rings I use come in very nearly a full cup of juice). I think that gives the cake itself more of a pineapple flavor.

The Bundt recipe included a small packet of vanilla instant pudding mix, a practice which I have adopted. I did not use it in my first cake and I found that the cake tended to fall apart a bit too easily. The Bundt cake would need more body and could not afford to fall apart so easily, so I reasoned that the purpose of the pudding mix was to give it that body. And so for that reason I also add the pudding mix. Everybody I tell that to says that the pudding mix makes the cake moister, so there's that too.

I experimented a couple times with adding a few teaspoons of crushed pineapple. I thought that it might add to the flavor and texture, but it didn't seem to add much. Plus I was in danger of disturbing the balance between wet and dry ingredients, so I discontinued that experiment.

The serving plate is another concern. Recipes call for it to be heat-proof because you're going to plop a hot cake on it. Also, it has to be big enough for the cake. I have only one plate that fits that bill and at every pot-luck I had to watch it like a hawk -- if you ever took Tupperware to a pot-luck, you know that feeling all too well (housewives, such as my ex-wife, are extremely protective of their Tupperware and promise to do you great harm should you lose it). So at a dollar store I bought a few 13-in round plastic serving plates. The heat of the cake does not seem to affect it and at a dollar a pop they're practically disposable; you don't care if you have to leave it behind.

When I go shopping for the ingredients, here is what I buy:


Recipe for Pineapple Upside-Down Cake in a Skillet

Total Time: about 1 hour


Cake Batter:
1 small box vanilla instant pudding mix
1 boxYellow cake mix

Ingredients called for by the mix:

1 cupPineapple juice (substitute for the water)
1/2 cupVegetable oil (or butter if you got a butter cake mix)
1/4 cupButter
1/2 to 1 cupBrown sugar
10Pineapple slices
13 Maraschino cherries, jumbo


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  2. Prepare the topping:
    In the skillet, create a layer of melted butter and brown sugar, then arrange the pineapple slices and cherries in it.
    1. Over a low to medium flame, melt the butter in the skillet.
    2. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly into the melted butter. As you do so, it absorbs the melted butter, so apply enough so that the very top layer of the sugar remains somewhat dry.
    3. Remove the pineapple slices from the can and save the juice for the batter:
      1. Open the can of pineapple slices part-way and pour the pineapple juice into a measuring cup.
      2. Finish opening the can completely and remove the pineapple slices by placing a clean bowl over the can, inverting the bowl and can together, then carefully lifting the can allowing the slices to remain stacked in the bowl.
    4. Arrange seven (7) of the pineapple slices in the brown sugar. Place one in the center and the remaining six (6) around it.
    5. Cut the remaining three (3) slices in half. Arrange them along the sides between the slices of the outer ring and with the open end up.
    6. There will be some pineapple juice left in the bowl, so pour that into the measuring cup containing the rest of the juice. If that does not measure a full cup, then add enough water to make it a full cup.
    7. Transfer the cherries to a clean bowl to allow the juice to run off them. You could even place them on a paper towel to soak off the juice. Then place one cherry in the center of each pineapple slice. For the half-slices along the sides, you could place half of a cherry, especially if you are running out of cherries.

  3. Prepare the batter:
    For the most part, you will simply follow the instructions on the cake mix box. The only differences will be the addition of the instant pudding and substituting pineapple juice for the water.
    1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix and the instant pudding mix.
    2. Add the oil, eggs, and pineapple juice.
    3. With an electric mixer, beat the ingredients into a smooth batter, just as you would with any other cake mix.

  4. Carefully pour the batter into the skillet, moving the bowl about so that you don't cause the slices or cherries to move.

  5. When the oven has come up to temperature (350°F), place the skillet into the oven and bake for about 45 minutes -- one recipe says "42 to 48 minutes."

  6. After 45 minutes, test whether the cake is done. If it springs back when you lightly press the center, then you can start applying the standard toothpick test. I've found that if it's not done yet, which is usually the case, then it will quiver when I lightly touch it in the center. If it's not done yet, then give it 3 to 5 more minutes.

  7. When the cake is done, then remove it from the oven and let it cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Be sure to handle the skillet with an oven mitt or a potholder, because it will be hot enough to burn your hand.

  8. When the cake has cooled for 5 to 10 minutes, then you transfer it to the serving plate:
    1. The skillet handle will still be hot, so at all times protect your hand and handle the skillet with an oven mitt or potholder.
    2. Run a butter knife along the edge to loosen it.
    3. Place a heat-proof serving plate over the skillet and invert them both to transfer the cake to the plate.
    4. Carefully lift the skillet. I've been having a problem of a few pineapple slices sticking to the skillet, so I carefully lift them with a fork and return them in their rightful place on the cake.

  9. Let the cake cool on the plate for at least another 30 minutes.

  10. You can serve the cake warm or cooled in the refrigerator.

  11. For transporting the cake to a pot-luck, I place waxed paper over the cake and then cover that with plastic wrap.

Et voilà!

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First uploaded on 2017 November 28.