Pineapple Upside Down Cake or sometimes called the Skillet Cake

The mixture of butter, brown sugar, pineapple and cherries baked into cake batter makes for a moist cake with a gooey fruit topping. It made the kitchen circuit during the 1950s and 60s. The earliest version I’ve been able to locate is found in the 1920s but the 1930s Better Homes and Garden Cookbook has a recipe as well. It was called Pineapple Skillet Sponge but there are several variations on the name. The original recipe was baked in an iron skillet but today a 9inch cake pan works fine.

If you’ve ever asked for a favorite family recipe, this narrative might sound familiar.

Adele Cochran’s Pineapple Upside Down Cake as recorded by her daughter, Maddie Turner, 1950s.

“This is roughly it, from memory. Melt brown sugar and margarine in the bottom of the frying pan. How much? Hmm. Put down pineapple slices with cherries in the centers and walnut in between the slices of pineapple. Mix up a yellow or pineapple cake mix, according to directions on the package. Pour batter on top of first layer. Cook in the oven (not on the stovetop) at 350 degrees. For how long? Hmm.”

“Did you burn many handles?”

“Oh sure. I didn’t learn to cook when I was at home because your grandma didn’t want us in the kitchen. We practiced playing marimba in the evenings after dinner (one hour a night) and I helped with the ironing. So I didn’t know how to cook when your dad and I got married. Dad used to kid mom that she didn’t know how to boil water when they got married. But she was a good cook as far back as I can remember.”

Submitted by Judy Turner L. (Adele’s granddaughter), California

This is my personal favorite.

pineapplecake 012Pineapple Upside Down Cake

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water or pineapple juice
  • 1 large can pineapple slices, drained (you’ll have extra slices for snacking)
  • Whole Maraschino cherries, drained (some recipes call for cherry halves)
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon Superior brand vanilla, butter and nut flavoring or vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees. As oven is preheating, melt 3 tablespoons butter in 9-inch round or square cake pan or skillet Add brown sugar and 1 tablespoon pineapple juice. Mix and spread over pan. Arrange pineapple slices and cherries over the sugar-butter mixture. Some recipes call for pecans instead of cherries.  Set aside.

Mix together flour, baking powder and sugar. Add softened butter, milk, egg and vanilla. Beat until blended. Beat one more minute. Spoon batter over pineapple and cherries. Bake at 350 degree for 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 5 minutes. Loosen the sides and invert on cake plate. Serve warm.

pineapplecake 015Upside Down Cake:

Mrs. Ashley’s Recipe. From Gamma Smith’s recipe box, 1940s. More than a little confusing!

Melt 3 tablespoons melted butter. Add ¾ cup brown sugar. Place canned sliced pineapple over the melted butter and sugar. Maraschino cherries may be added if wanted or nuts. Pour over the following mixture.

  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, well, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 4 tablespoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Cream butter, add sugar, gradually to egg. Mix flour baking powder  & salt. Add alternately to other mixture. Serve with whipped cream. Do not turn the cake over until read to serve-it will not be soggy. (I suggest baking the cake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes. My guess is that this version was made in an iron skillet.)

Other thoughts: A number of recipes call for yellow cake mixes and using 9×13 baking pans for baking. I’ll save those for another time.

Facts About Food Nobody Taught You, 1977 Reader’s Digest

What are maraschino cherries?

A sweet cherry, bleached, pitted, steeped in a syrup of sugar, water, oil of bitter almond and food coloring, both red and green.

Are black Bing and pie cherries interchangeable?

No. The sweet dark rich Bings, named after a Chinese worker who developed them in 1875 in Oregon, are best for eating. Pies, or sour cherries, are used for cooking. (and sour they are). Other sweet cherries include Tartarian, Lambert, Republican and Sweets.

This might be a cherry tasting party in the making. Add some artisan cheeses and local sweet wines.