For the most part, we always said "if it can be baked, we can make it!" Very rarely did I ever tell a customer "no, I can't do it." We did turn down requests for sour dough bread because of the storage issue and I experimented (badly) with pumpernickel bread. So, when a man asked if we could bake a pineapple upside-down cake, of course the answer was "yes."
I started searching through my cookbook collection. A lot of the newer books didn't even have a recipe for this heritage cake. I struck gold with "Blue Ribbon Recipes", published in 1968. When Gramma passed away in 2004, I received her collection of cookbooks and this book was in there. I was a little surprised to see it listed and available on Amazon. If you have an appreciation for heritage recipes, this book is a steal at $8.95. "Blue Ribbon Recipes" is a compilation of county fair prize-winning recipes from throughout the country during the fifties and sixties. Some of the ingredients might make your inner foodie say "eewww" but I've been able to modify successfully.
A pineapple upside-down cake is basically a moist, vanilla-flavored cake baked in an iron skillet that has been layered with melted butter, brown sugar, pineapple rings and maraschino cherries for color. It's a simple cake that comes out of the pan already decorated. One word of warning - don't be tempted to let the cake cool in the pan before turning it onto a plate. The brown-sugar glaze will stay in the pan!
This recipe doubles easily in order to make a 9 x 13 inch sheet cake. The original customer came back the very next week and ordered TWO 9 x 13 cakes. It will be a little less thick than those baked in a skillet, but it will be just as moist. I've also baked the batter strictly as cupcakes or cake layers (double the recipe for a 2-layer cake) and it is the most moist, delicious cake I've ever made. Beats any box ever!
So, Kathy Poe of Placerville, Calif. who won a ribbon at the El Dorado County Fair: if you are still out there, thank you for this recipe.
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
6 canned, sliced pineapple rings in natural juice, drained
6 maraschino cherries
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, softened**
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt 1/3 cup of butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium low heat. When melted, remove from heat and sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the butter. Arrange the pineapple slices and cherries over the brown sugar/butter mixture and set the pan aside.
In a medium mixing bowl (or your stand mixer), combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix thoroughly. Add the softened butter, milk and vanilla extract.*** Mix on low speed for 2 minutes or "300 vigorous strokes by hand". Add the egg and mix for 2 more minutes.
Pour the batter over the fruit and bake in the preheated oven 40-50 minutes or until a tester is clean. Immediately invert the cake onto the serving plate. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving (the caramelized sauce will stick to you and burn!)
**Ms. Poe used "soft shortening" rather than butter in her recipe.
***I know that current cake gurus recommend creaming the sugar and fat, then alternately adding the dry and wet ingredients, ending with the dry. I used my stand mixer but figured if Ms. Poe could win a ribbon with this recipe, I should probably follow her method.