I’ll concede from the start: pineapple is not local to Arkansas. At least I use organic pineapple. Pineapple is a treat food, one of those things I buy infrequently and then relish. And it was available, in canned form, when my grandparents were kids. Now that we’ve gotten the question of whether pineapple is seasonal, organic, old-school, and local out of the way, let’s talk cake.
This pineapple upside down cake is probably much lighter and considerably healthier than the ones you remember from childhood, but it is full of great flavor and texture. I have reduced the sugar (the classic recipes are all cloyingly sweet) and used whole-grain pastry flour. I’ve also used a pineapple juice and lime juice reduction to moisten the cake. It’s still dessert, but you can feel a little bit better about serving a slice to your family, and chances are they won’t know it’s a light version. My husband initially told me he just wanted a sliver. Next thing I knew, he was returning for a big slice.
Don’t be off put by the ingredient list. You can put this cake together in about ten minutes or less of active work.
As always, please use organic if you can. I had organic ingredients on hand for everything.
For the bottom (which will become the top!)
- 7-8 slices pineapple in natural juice (See below for what to do with the rest of the can, including the juice!)
- 1-2 tablespoons butter
- 1/8 to 1/4 cup brown sugar
- optional: a few walnut or pecan pieces
The cake batter
- 3 eggs (could use 1 egg and three egg whites)
- 1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup buttermilk or kefir
- 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1 to 2 tablespoons ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon vanilla
- optional: 1 teaspoon lemon or orange extract
- the juice from the large can of pineapple
- about 1/4 cup lime juice (more or less to taste)–Yes, you could use lemon juice instead.
Start by pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees F. Now heat a 10-inch cast iron frying pan on the stovetop. (Yes, any stove and oven-proof pan in the 9 or 10-inch range should work, but the cast iron will give a really good caramel topping with the pineapple.) Add the butter and melt it. Now sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the surface, taking care to distribute it evenly as you put it down. Don’t try to move it after you sprinkle it on, as you’ll likely lose it to the pan at the end of the process. Turn off the burner (and remove the pan from the stove top if you use an electric range). Put a single slice of pineapple in the very middle and then space the rest of the pineapple evenly around the central slice. If you want, add walnut or pecan pieces in the intervening spaces, including the pineapple slice holes.
In a small bowl or large measuring pitcher, beat the eggs lightly. Add the sugar and buttermilk and stir. Then quickly stir in the dry ingredients and the extracts. Pour the cake batter on the pineapple in the frying pan and then pop the whole thing in the oven for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the pineapple and lime juices, starting with less lime juice, in a small, heavy-bottomed pot. (Corning is ideal for this application.) Taste the mixture. Is it a good blend of sweet and sour, a bit more sour? Excellent, because you’re about to reduce and intensify the flavor! If you’re not happy with the flavor, add a bit more lime juice. Now bring the mixture to boil, uncovered. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the mixture is about 1/2 to 1/3 its original volume. This glaze should be ready right about the time the cake comes out.
Has it been 30 minutes? Take out the cake. Let it sit for about 4 minutes–not much longer because it will stick if you leave it. Then slide a knife around the edge to make sure none of the sugar is causing the cake to stick. Using two pot holders, invert the pan on a large, flat plate. Now poke a few holes in the top with a toothpick and pour on the pineapple-lime glaze. Let the cake cool for at least a few minutes before serving. If you’ve made the cake in a round pan, cut it into wedges like pie slices. Eat. Enjoy. Do what my husband did and cut yourself a second slice.
Using the higher levels of butter and sugar, if you made 8 slices from this cake, each slice would have about 260 calories, including almost 6 grams of protein, 2.375 grams fiber, 8.4 grams fat, and 43 grams of sugar. Go easy on it, though, and cut 16 slices, and each one will have just 130 calories, 3 grams protein, 4.2 grams fat, and 21.5 grams of sugar. And if you go with the lesser suggestions on butter and sugar (and I can assure you you won’t miss them!), you’ll drop to less than 100 calories per thin slice.
What to do with the extra pineapple slices
You need a large can of pineapple to get enough slices for this pineapple upside down cake, but you won’t quite use the whole can. We used our extra slices for homemade whole-grain pizza with (turkey, nitrite-free) Canadian bacon and pineapple. By request of a reader in another post, I’ve started adding recipes for my homemade pizza. It’s not pineapple pizza, but that one will be coming soon!