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What is Upside Down Cake?

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  • Written By: A Kaminsky
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 December 2016
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A uniquely American dessert first baked in a cast iron skillet, the pineapple upside down cake is one of the nation’s best-loved sweets. This cake has been around for 80 years or so and is still popular. Box cake mixes still print recipes for upside down cake on their sides, and the recipe also appears on cans of pineapple rings.

A pineapple upside down cake is a moist yellow cake and when inverted on to a plate, has pineapple rings on top, each with a maraschino cherry in the center. A brown sugar glaze covers the cake as well.

As mentioned above, the upside down cake has been around for a while. One of the first mentions of this cake comes from a Seattle, Washington cookbook published in 1924. A recipe for the upside down cake appeared in a Gold Medal Flour in 1925. Canned pineapple was readily available by then, and very popular. Also, most cooks had a cast iron skillet in their kitchens, even if they didn’t have fancy bakeware. Thus, a cake that could be baked either in the oven or on the stovetop was a good recipe. The pineapple rings and cherries arranged on the upside down cake made an attractive dessert even novice cooks could tackle.

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Pineapple was introduced into the United States in the mid-19th century and was an immediate hit. Most people found they liked pineapple, and canning it was a good way to get fresh fruit to those who were rarely able to procure it. It was natural then, that recipes featuring those pretty pineapple rings would become popular. Upside down cake became a hit at parties and potlucks nationwide.

An upside down cake starts with a cast iron or other heavy, ovenproof skillet. The brown sugar glaze is started in the pan with butter and dark brown sugar. Once this mixture has dissolved over low heat, the pineapple rings are placed on top. Cherries are then placed cut side up, in the pineapple rings. The cook then turns the yellow cake batter (sometimes flavored with the pineapple juice from the can) into the skillet and spread evenly across. The skillet goes into the oven, heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius) and the cake is baked for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

The cake is allowed to sit for 5 to 10 minutes after being removed from the oven. The cook then runs a knife or spatula around the edge of the cake and places a large plate over the top. The skillet is inverted and the cake should come out on to the plate, with the glaze spilling over the top and sides. It should be served warm. Upside down cake can also be made with peaches or other juicy fruit such as plums or strawberries.

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