This cake is my childhood. Or at least the part of my childhood where I didn’t think I was allergic to pineapple. Turns out it’s just the No Name brand of pineapple that makes me throw up. Who knew?
This flat, dense, cakey, sugary, sticky, buttery, crispy, pineapple-y, and cherry-y masterpiece is one of my absolute favourite things. I have seen variations on the classic design on the internet but this is one of those setups I wouldn’t mess with.
You gotta do it in a cast-iron skillet. Otherwise it just ain’t the same. If you do it in an oven-safe skillet then you can do your butter melting and stuff all in the same dish.
Maraschino cherries are optional. I know that they are probably the most disgusting bit of processed food there is, but they really make this cake extra-special, so I buy them for this reason, and this reason only.
I also like to use fresh pineapple instead of the canned stuff. Less chance I might be allergic to it if I know that it hasn’t been processed.My mother has recently discovered the ease of email (crazy, I know, but we also bought our first touch-tone phone in 1991), so this recipe came to me over the interweb. The original recipe, for an 8″ cake pan, comes from a Fanny Merritt Farmer cookbook dating back a few decades, but my mother has modified it for the skillet, adding a bit more flour, sugar, and butter as appropriate. I get my lack of standardized measurements from her. Here we go.
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Melt, in your skillet, between 1/4 and 1/2 cup butter. The butter should be liquid, but not boiling hot. Burns do not make for enjoyment in baking. I suggest you remove it from the heat at this time and put it on a trivet on your counter. More elbow room, for me at least.Spread 1 cup brown sugar evenly over the butter mixture, covering the bottom of the pan. Add more if you like. It’s going to melt with the butter and turn to caramel, and it will mix with the pineapple juice and the cherry juice and it will all be so incredibly incredible. Drain a can of pineapple rings (or use a cored fresh one, as I did in this case) and lay them in the bottom of the pan, taking up as much space as you can, but don’t overlap the rings. You can see that my rings are sliced open because of the way I’ve cored the pineapple. I squeezed them together a bit so they’d fit in the pan, but they will shrink while you cook them and there will be plenty of room.If you wish, you can put maraschino cherries in all the little empty spaces, especially in the centre of the rings. I of course do so wish.Sift together 1 1/2 to 2 cups flour (depending on the size of your skillet) with 2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. In another bowl, mix together 1 egg and 1/2 cup milk and add to the flour mixture. The batter will be very dense, so you can add more milk to make it more spreadable. I ended up adding about an extra 1/2 cup of milk to my 2 cups of flour. Feel free to experiment with the batter. My mother says she sometimes adds grated orange peel to it.
Carefully spread the batter in a thin layer on top of the pineapple in the skillet. You’ll notice that the batter doesn’t spread all the way across. There will be gaps and even holes through which you can see the pineapple stuff. That is okay, as it will expand while it cooks. And it will pull away from the sides, anyway, as the butter starts to bubble up.Bake for 35 minutes or until the top is brown and crusty. If you are using a skillet this will likely take less time because the skillet is already warm and the batter is stretched across a bigger surface. For me this took about 30 minutes.
You can see how the butter/sugar mixture is still molten at this point. You want to let it cool to more of a molasses consistency, so that you don’t burn yourself and it doesn’t get everywhere. About ten minutes should do it.
Carefully flip upside down onto a serving plate. Sometimes it’s easier to put the plate on first, then flip it. My mother has this old-fashioned brown one that I covet because it is the exact size of the skillet, but I made do with this cheese plate instead, which is why the melted sugar oozed everywhere. Some stuff may still be stuck in the pan, but because your now caramelized brown sugar is still liquid you can glue it all back into place before it cools. Make sure to get all the good stuff out of the pan before it cools completely or you will never get it out.
Serve with fruit sauce or ice cream or whipped cream. I like it best just by itself. We’ve also made this recipe before using peaches and pears and plums instead of pineapple and it’s just as good.