A few weeks ago, a woman at my work brought in a pineapple upside-down cake for a birthday party. I was in the lunchroom, minding my own business, doing my best to ignore the fruity aroma invading my senses, when I was offered a piece. Vegan it was not, but I had to try it. The cake was light and moist, the pineapple was soft and syrupy, and the brown sugar streusel topping really did it in. I’ve never had much of an opinion on pineapple upside-down cake—I could take it or leave it, and it had never entered my baking radar at all—but I knew then I had to make one myself soon.
Needless to say, the cake I tasted at work had sky-high amounts of fat and sugar. It was nice to have a few bites of, and it’s no secret I don’t mind ultra-richness and super-sweetness one bit, but I don’t really need anything that caloric tempting me in my own home. Though it didn’t have the buttery melt-in-your-mouth quality of the work cake, mine turned out quite tasty, and satisfied my craving just fine.
1 can of pineapple rings
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
2T brown sugar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Maraschino cherries (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch cake pan. Drain the can of pineapple rings, pouring the juice into a bowl or measuring cup. Add the canola oil and vanilla to the pineapple juice. Lay out the pineapple rings on a plate to allow any extra juice to drain (add any drained juice to the juice-oil mixture).
Arrange the pineapple rings in the bottom of the cake pan, overlapping them slightly. Add a pitted cherry to the center of each ring, if desired, and sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the pineapple. I didn’t have any cherries, but I had the juice remaining from an old jar—I knew I’d find a use for it someday! I drizzled the cherry juice (about 2T) over the pineapple before topping it with the brown sugar.
Mix together the flour, white sugar, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir to combine.
Pour the batter over the pineapple rings…
…and use a spatula to gently spread it to the edge of the pan.
Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the top is completely golden. It will start to look brown very early on, but don’t be fooled! The juicy pineapple at the bottom makes it take longer to bake than other cakes its size.
Cool the cake for at least 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan. Put a large plate upside down on top of the cake pan. Wearing oven mitts, flip the cake pan and plate over at the same time, so the cake lands on the plate.
Let the cake continue to cool as long as you can stand, then cut and serve.
This cake is a study in layers. The pineapple on top, saturated by the cherry juice and sweetened up by the brown sugar, melts right into the next layer, a moist stratum of tender cake soaked with pineapple juice. Below that, the cake is less dense, giving birth to airy crumbs with every stab of the fork, and it’s perched atop a dry base that supports and seals in everything above. It’s not too rich and not too sweet—the light, tropical flavor is just right.
Yield: 8 slices. Per slice: 210 calories, 7g fat (1g sat), 35g carbs, 3g fiber, 3g protein.