What is an Upside Down Cake?
If you guessed that an upside down cake is cake which is baked upside down and then inverted onto a cake platter once it cools, then you guessed correctly! You begin by making the topping, which consists of melted butter and brown sugar cooked over medium heat until the brown sugar caramelizes. Next, the caramelized mixture is poured into the bottom of a cake pan and fruit such as pineapple is added (to produce pineapple upside down cake) or cranberries (to produce cranberry upside down cake). Then a white cake batter is prepared and poured over the topping (which is actually on bottom of the pan) and the cake is baked until golden brown. Finally, once the cake cools, it is inverted onto a cake platter – and voila! What was on the bottom of the pan now sits on top, and the cake features soft sweet pineapple slices or cranberries which have absorbed the delicious taste of caramelized sugar. Served alone or with a dollop of fresh whipped cream, upside down cakes are crowd-pleasing desert favorites!
History of Pineapple Upside Down Cakes
Did you know that the advent of canned pineapple is largely responsible for the creation of the pineapple upside down cake? Indeed, pineapple upside down cakes originated in the 1920s, after Jim Dole, the founder of the (then) Hawaiian Pineapple Company, canned up to 95% of the pineapple crop, increasing pineapple production in a huge way. Not only was pineapple more readily available to the masses, but it was much less expensive than its fresh pineapple counterpart. This set off a flurry of activity not only in the canned pineapple market but in the recipe world, as scores of recipes calling for pineapple ingredients began to emerge. When the Hawaiian Pineapple Company became known as the modern-day Dole Food Company and hosted a cooking-with-pineapple contest in 1926, over 2,500 recipes cake recipes were submitted, among them many recipes for making pineapple upside down cake. While its popularity has ebbed and flowed over the years, whether served warm from the oven, cool from the fridge, or at room temperature, pineapple upside down cakes never disappoint and are the ultimate comfort food.
Cranberry Upside Down Cake
Closely mirroring the pineapple upside down cake is its nearly identical twin, the cranberry upside down cake. Simply substitute fresh cranberries for fresh or canned pineapple and proceed as usual. You can bake upside down cakes in any sized cake pans or in cake pans of any shape. In all cases, once you invert the cake and turn it ‘right side up,’ it features glistening fruit on top for an eye-pleasing, mouth-watering cake classic desert.
French Tarte Tatin versus American Upside Down Cake
In the early 1900s in the Sologne region of France, the Tarte Tatin was created by a woman named Madame Tatin. Featuring apples specifically and a puff pastry (or sweet pastry), the Tarte Tatin was made by caramelizing apples in a skillet, pouring the mixture into a baking pan, and topping with pastry. After the fruit and pastry had baked, the Tarte Tatin was inverted so that the fruit was on top. Due to their clear similarities, some people claim that the French cake version was the precursor to the American upside down cake which emerged in the 1930s. The main difference between the two cake styles is that upside down cakes use any type of fruit and a cake batter, while the Tarte use solely apples and a puff pastry.
Upside Down Cupcakes or Muffins
To create smaller, individualized mini-cakes for your party or special occasion, simply follow the same concept and recipe for a regular upside down cake (with fruit on the bottom and cake on top), but pour batter into muffin or cupcake cups instead of a regular baking tin.
Upside Down Cake Recipe Variations
Here are few recipe variations and creative ideas for how to make and serve upside down cakes:
•- Add orange juice the brown sugar-melted butter mixture for some added zest
•- Serve as a desert or as a brunch dish
•- Serve cranberry cakes/muffins at Christmastime or Thanksgiving, when cranberries are in season and are featured in many holiday recipes
•- Place a maraschino cherry inside each fresh/canned pineapple slice