Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

A good cake any time of the year is this American classic.  What makes it American is the pineapple. 

The technique itself has been around for centuries and is traced back to the Middle Ages where fruits were put into the bottom of a cast-iron skillet covered with a cake batter and cooked on the stove top.  These 'cakes' were traditionally made with apples, cherries and other seasonal fruits.   The fruits, being naturally sweet, thickened and when turned out (upside down) onto a serving plate, provided a glazed topping that dripped down and soaked into the cake.  Yum!

However it wasn't until 1903 when Jim Dole of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company perfected a way to can pineapples that they were used in this now classic recipe.  In 1925, the company placed ads in popular women's magazines asking housewives to submit creative ways to use their canned pineapples.  They reportedly received 2500 recipes for pineapple upside down cake.  Jean Anderson, in her American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century (p. 432) includes the following note:

According to John Mariani's ( The Dictionary of American Food and Drink , Revised Edition, 1994), "The first mention in print of such a cake was in 1930, and was so listed in the 1936 Sears Roebuck catalog, but the cake is somewhat older." In Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads (1995), Sylvia Lovegren traces pineapple upside-down cake to a 1924 Seattle fund-raising cookbook...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. The date: November 1925."

The next year (1926) the Hawaiian Pineapple company capitalized on the popularity of the Pineapple Upside Down Cake by running a national ad campaign featuring the recipe, further solidifying its place in culinary history. 
There are many recipes available online and most all of them seem to come out quite well, so I'm not going to provide you with another one here.  You'll notice that most recipes call for using a cake pan (square or round) and using rings of canned pineapple and the prepared maraschino cherries.  I guess this is the corporate presentation of choice as it is the one still shown on the Dole website.  I however, prefer a more rustic version prepared in the skillet (as shown top of this entry).  I particularly like this recipe from Inn Cuisine, which includes pecans.  But I have friends that make great versions in cake pans and some that make them right-side up (i.e., they put the cake on the bottom of the pan and the pineapple on the top and bake it this way, never turning it out.)  So if you haven't made this American classic in a while, it's time to treat your friends and family.
Inn Cuisine's Decadent
Cast Iron Skillet Pineapple Upside Down Cake

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