I can’t remember how many times I ate my aunt’s upside-down cake as a child, but one thing is for sure: I ate it a lot! This is a modified version of her 40+ year-old recipe. The original version uses apples, and its deep caramel flavor coupled with the refreshing lemon undertones makes it simply unbeatable as a dessert.
I recently went back in time and rediscovered this cake. I had bought several pineapples from the local grocery store and was tempted to use them in a cake, which would have made a nice change from our usual way of eating pineapple (fresh, on its own). I fondly remembered how my aunt sliced apples picked fresh from her countryside orchard to use them in this dessert. And then, the penny dropped: Why not recreate my aunt’s upside-down cake with pineapple instead of apples? With my cooking dilemma solved, I went straight into the kitchen. 🙂
Following various online recommendations I read in preparation for this post, I decided to make the cake in my new 10.25-inch pre-seasoned cast iron round skillet. You will need to increase the quantities below proportionately if your skillet is larger.
1 small pineapple, peeled and sliced
5 eggs, with the yolks and whites separated
6 tbsp sugar (for the caramel)
5 tbsp sugar (for the cake batter)
3 tbsp sugar (for the syrup)
5 tbsp flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 medium lemon
1 cup water
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Put 6 tbsp sugar in the preheated skillet and caramelize it over a medium heat. This will take about 10-15 minutes and the skillet will become very hot in the process, so make sure to put kitchen gloves on before handling it.
When the sugar has caramelized completely, take the skillet off the heat. Move the skillet in circular motions to evenly distribute the caramel over the bottom and sides of the skillet. Set the skillet aside.
Whisk the egg whites until fluffy. Add the egg yolks and keep whisking until the mixture is homogeneous. Gradually add 5 tbsp sugar, the flour and the baking powder. Juice and zest the lemon. Add about 3/4 of the zest to the batter. Mix until the batter is light, fluffy and homogeneous.
Now it’s time to return to the skillet with the caramelized sugar, which looks like this:
Distribute the slices of pineapple evenly on top of the caramelized sugar. You may be left with a few extra slices, which is OK: It’s better to have leftovers than to overcrowd the pineapple.
Add the batter to the skillet, on top of the pineapple. Make sure to distribute the batter evenly:
Put the skillet in the preheated oven and bake for about 35 minutes or until done. You can check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. The cake is done if the toothpick comes out clean and dry.
Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool.
Make the syrup by heating up the water in a saucepan with 3 tbsp sugar, the juice of the lemon and the remaining lemon zest.
Pour the hot syrup over the cake.
Turn the cake upside down onto a plate and let it cool. While cooling, spend a few minutes examining your cake and pondering over its beauty. I think the shiny caramel coating of the pineapple is just gorgeous!
Slice your cake and serve it with a topping of your choice. We usually have it with a dollop of whipped cream, but the possibilities are endless: ice cream, crème anglaise, raspberry coulis, fresh berries (for a fresher and lighter flavor mix) etc. This is a sweet and very decadent cake, and I love it!
I was pleased with how one of the favorite cakes of my childhood turned out in my new cast iron skillet, and I plan to make this cake again over the next few weeks. The earthly simplicity of apples has left – gone, but not forgotten – and the juicy exoticism of pineapple has stepped in, pairing up with the caramel to deliver decadent sweetness like never before.
I plan to make this cake again with apples (thus staying faithful to my aunt’s original recipe), but also pears, apricots and even plums. Now is the time to enjoy, to experiment with, and to celebrate in-season flavors at their best. I promise to keep you posted on my upside-down cake experiments 🙂