This has always been my favorite cake, I think. My Aunt Hi used to make it all the time when we were little. I once made it on a campfire in a Dutch oven. It takes a little nerve to flip it out onto the plate, but otherwise it’s pretty easy.

Pineapple Upside-down Cake

Fruit Topping:

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4-5 pineapple rings
  • Maraschino cherries
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces or halves


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups sour cream
  • 4 egg yolk

You will need one large cast iron skillet (10 or 11 inches). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

First prepare the top of the cake. Put the butter in the skillet and turn the heat to low. Mix the brown sugar and water together, then whisk this into the melting butter. Turn the heat to high and bring everything to a bubble. Swirl the pan around as the sugar mixture thickens to resemble maple syrup. Remove from heat. Arrange the pineapple rings in a nice pattern (sometimes I leave them whole, sometimes I cut them in half) Fill in all of the spaces in between the pineapple with cherries and nuts. Set aside to cool a little. It doesn’t have to be cold but if the skillet is too hot when you pour in the cake batter, it will rise too quickly and become crumbly.

For the cake: Sift together the dry ingredients. Beat the butter and the sour cream in a mixer, at medium speed with the paddle attachment. Beat in the egg yolks one by one. Add the dry ingredients. I finish this step by hand. The batter will be fairly thick. Drop it by the spoonful over the pineapple, and then use a spatula to spread it evenly over the whole pan. Bake for 1 hour, but check from time to time because in some ovens, the top becomes too brown before the center is set. If this seems to be happening, turn the oven down to 325. (Don’t cover the cake because the moisture in the fruit needs to escape). The cake will be done when center is springy to the touch.

Allow the cake to cool until you can hold the skillet handle comfortably. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and then move the skillet back and forth a few times to help loosen the cake. Place a large plate over the skillet and quickly flip the cake over. It should pop out nicely. Serve warm with fresh whipped cream.

Bill Smith was a finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef Southeast” award in 2009 and 2010. In 2011, Crook’s Corner was given the James Beard Foundation’s “America’s Classic” award. Smith’s cookbook “Seasoned in the South” has been recognized as a “New York Times Notable” and “Food & Wine Best-of-the-Best” cookbook.

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