Upside-down cakes to flip over

Kate Lawson
The Detroit News

Home-baked happiness has always been my description for the old-fashioned and much beloved pineapple upside-down cake.

When I was growing up, I recall my mother serving dessert almost every evening after dinner. Pineapple upside-down cake was my father’s favorite, and when that was served, I knew everything was right with the world. Served warm with a scoop of ice cream or finessed with whipped cream, it was a pure and simple delight.

According to, the idea of cooking a cake upside down is an old technique that started centuries ago when cakes were cooked in cast iron skillets. It was easy for a cook to add fruit and sugar in the bottom of the pan with a simple cake batter on top and put it over the fire to cook. Then flipping it over onto a plate was a natural way to show the pretty fruit and let it run into the cake as well.

Today, bakers are finding new ways to showcase this favorite technique using all manner of pans, and for fruit lovers who want their cake and eat it, too, there could be no better way than with an upside-down cake.

From pineapple rings encircling bright red maraschino cherries, the variations have expanded to pears and plums, bananas and berries and, of course, apples are always a welcome addition. And you don’t need a cast iron skillet to prepare, although, in my book, that is still the best vehicle for delivering this dessert.

The recipe has been recorded in several cookbooks dating back to the 1920s. “In Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads,” author Sylvia Lovegren traces pineapple upside-down cake to a 1924 Seattle fundraising 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,” Lovegren writes.

So in honor of this long-standing delight, I am offering variations on the theme. Of course, a recipe for the cake that started it all is included, and while you may have your own tried-and-true recipe, for those novice bakers looking to make a family happy just like my own mother did, I’m giving you the perfect opportunity. This is a cake that is better warm from the oven instead of the bakery shelf and even if you think you can’t bake, I urge you to give this a try.

Cranberry Upside-Down Coffee Cake


2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup butter

1 ¼ cups cranberries

½ cup chopped pecans

½ cup butter, room temperature

¾ cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sour cream

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap the outside of a 9-inch springform pan with aluminum foil to prevent leaking. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar and 1/3 cup butter. Bring to a boil, then pour into bottom of springform pan. Sprinkle with cranberries and pecans.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and ¾ cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto serving platter and carefully remove pan. Serve warm

Serves 8.

Per serving: 528 calories; 31 g fat (16 g saturated fat; 53 percent calories from fat); 58 g carbohydrates; 34 g sugar; 118 mg cholesterol; 546 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Upside-Down Pear Cardamom Cake

Recipe from Gourmet.

For caramelized pears

4 firm-ripe Forelle or small Bosc pears

½ cup sugar

½ stick (¼ cup) unsalted butter

For cake batter

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup sugar

¾ teaspoon vanilla

1 large egg

¾ cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Make caramelized pears:

Peel pears, then halve lengthwise and core. Spread sugar on a plate, then press cut sides of pear halves into sugar to coat, reserving remaining sugar.

Melt butter in a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides. Reduce heat to low and arrange pears, cut sides down, decoratively in skillet. Sprinkle reserved sugar all around pears. Cook pears over moderately low heat until sugar begins to caramelize, about 15 minutes, and remove skillet from heat.

Make cake batter:

Whisk together flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt. Beat together butter and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg and beat well. Add flour mixture and milk alternately in 3 batches, mixing at low speed after each addition until just combined.

Spoon batter over pears in skillet, gently spreading evenly and being careful not to disturb pears (batter will not cover tops of all pears). Bake in middle of oven until golden brown and a tester comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.

Cool cake in skillet on a rack 5 minutes. Run a thin knife around edge and invert a plate over skillet. Invert cake onto plate (wearing oven mitts), keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together. Replace any fruit stuck to bottom of skillet if necessary.

Serve cake warm or at room temperature. Serves 6.

Per serving: 535 calories; 21 g fat (13 g saturated fat; 35 percent calories from fat); 83 g carbohydrates; 39 g sugar; 85 mg cholesterol; 217 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 4 g fiber.

Mini Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes

Recipe from

2 eggs

2/3 cup white sugar

4 tablespoons pineapple juice

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup butter (½ stick or 4 tablespoons)

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 (14 ounce) can pineapple rings

6 maraschino cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray large-cup muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl, add eggs, white sugar and pineapple juice. Beat for 2 minutes. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and turn mixer back on for 2 minutes.

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and add the brown sugar. Stir on low heat for one minute.

Spoon layer of the warm brown sugar mixture into the bottom of each muffin tin, then place a pineapple ring on top. Add a cherry in the middle of each pineapple. Pour cake mixture over to fill muffin tin ¾ of the way full. If you are using regular muffin tins, you will need to cut down the rings to fit or just use pineapple tidbits.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a wooden pick in the center of cakes comes out clean. Let set for 5 minutes. Put a baking sheet, upside-down, on top of the muffin tin and flip over. Allow the cakes to cool completely while still in the tin, about 1 hour. Unmold. Serves 6.

Per serving: 361 calories; 10 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 25 percent calories from fat); 66 g carbohydrates; 55 g sugar; 93 mg cholesterol; 277 mg sodium; 4 g protein; 1 g fiber.

Upside-Down German Chocolate Cake

Recipe from Taste of Home

½ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup butter, cubed

2/3 cup pecan halved

2/3 cup flaked coconut

¼ cup evaporated milk


1/3 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

4 ounces German sweet chocolate, melted

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup buttermilk

Whipped topping, optional

In a saucepan over low heat, cook and stir brown sugar and butter until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted. Spread into a greased 9-in. square baking pan. Sprinkle with pecans and coconut. Drizzle with evaporated milk; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the chocolate, eggs and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients; gradually add to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating well after each addition. Pour over topping.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. Serve with whipped topping if desired. Serves 9.

Per serving: 508 calories; 26 g fat (11 g saturated fat; 46 percent calories from fat); 63 g carbohydrates; 42 g sugar; 87 mg cholesterol; 427 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Classic Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Recipe from Southern Living. To cheat a little, see note at bottom

¼ cup butter

2/3 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar

1 (20-ounce) can pineapple slices, undrained

9 maraschino cherries

2 large eggs, separated

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (optional)

Melt butter in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet. Spread brown sugar evenly over bottom of skillet. Drain pineapple, reserving ¼ cup juice; set juice aside. Arrange pineapple slices in a single layer over brown sugar mixture, and place a cherry in center of each pineapple ring; set skillet aside.

Beat egg yolks at medium speed with an electric mixer until thick and lemon-colored; gradually add granulated sugar, beating well.

Heat reserved pineapple juice in a small saucepan over low heat. Gradually add juice mixture to the yolk mixture, beating until blended.

Combine all-purpose flour, salt, and baking powder; add dry ingredients to the yolk mixture, beating at low speed with electric mixer until blended.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; fold egg whites into batter. Spoon batter evenly over pineapple slices.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake in skillet 30 minutes; invert cake onto a serving plate. Serve warm or cold with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Per serving: 301 calories; 7 g fat (4 g saturated fat; 21 percent calories from fat); 58 g carbohydrates; 46 g sugar; 70 mg cholesterol; 145 mg sodium; 3 g protein; 1 g fiber.

Express Pineapple Upside-Down Cake:

Follow original recipe directions for first 4 ingredients. Substitute 1 (9-ounce) package golden yellow cake mix for next 5 ingredients. Prepare cake mix according to package directions, substituting ½ cup pineapple juice for ½ cup water. Spoon batter over prepared pineapple slices as directed. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Per serving: 319 calories; 10 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 28 percent calories from fat); 58 g carbohydrates; 44 g sugar; 43 mg cholesterol; 290 mg sodium; 2 g protein; 0.5 g fiber.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Shooter

If you don’t care for cake, but still want the flavor of Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, try this Pineapple Upside-down Cake Shooter recipe created by professional bartending instructor Tony Adams. The peach and bourbon combine to create the flavor of the cake itself (strange, but true!), while obviously the juices make up the fruit on the cake and the vodka adds the alcohol punch every shooter needs. This can also be made as a sipping drink if you shake and pour into a rocks glass.

Makes 1 cocktail; scale ingredients to servings.

¾ ounce vodka

½ ounce bourbon whiskey (preferably Jim Beam from the freezer)

¼ ounce peach schnapps

½ ounce pineapple juice

1 splash maraschino cherry juice

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and shake vigorously, then strain into a 2-ounce shooter glass.

Per serving: 118 calories; 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat; 0 percent calories from fat); 6 g carbohydrates; 5 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 1 mg sodium; 0 g protein; 0 g fiber.