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Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

There was a time decades ago when I would make poppy seed cake using a cake mix; and — ok I fess up — Harvey Wallbanger cake using a cake mix; and lots of other concoctions using cake mixes that I wouldn’t think of doing today. Except this one.  While I long ago moved past those commercial products and have prepared my own cakes from scratch for years, this cake mix holds a spot near and dear to me. It’s the cake I loved the most growing up and the one I always requested my mother to bake for my birthday.

She baked it in a heavy duty aluminum pan. And she used a cake mix. She had a whole set of these pans as a young bride in the late 1940s. This is the one that survived and this is the one I inherited when she died. There are lots of childhood memories in this pan. I can still remember the brown sugar dissolving into the melted butter and how I’d try to snitch a spoonful of the sweet mixture before my mom shooed me away. How she’d always plunk the frighteningly red maraschino cherries into the center of the pineapple rings even though I always picked them out later.
A couple of times I tried making a pineapple-upside down cake from scratch. But it wasn’t the same. It didn’t bring back those memories. And sometimes, like on my birthday, memories are more important than ever — and those of you who know me personally know what I’m talking about.  So I continue to use a cake mix for this cake and for this cake alone. It is a little gussied up with some extra ingredients, so maybe that gives me a free pass for those of you who are the “cake police.” If it doesn’t, well I don’t care. I’ll continue to make it my mother’s way, and now my way.
I wish I still had my mom to bake this cake for me, but she passed away decades ago, much too early in her life. So today, on my birthday, I present the cake to you. Complete with frighteningly red maraschino cherries. Feel free to pick them out. And I would love it if you let a young child standing nearby snitch a spoonful of that gooey brown sugar-butter mixture while its melting in the pan.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
printable recipe here

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 20-ounce can sliced pineapple
6-8 maraschino cherries, cut in half
pecan halves, optional
1 18-ounce package pineapple cake mix
1 5-ounce package vanilla instant pudding mix
1 cup pineapple juice (use the juice from the canned pineapple)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt the butter in a large round pan (use a cast iron skillet or a 9 x 13 pan if you don’t have a large pan like the photo.) Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the butter. Drain the pineapple and arrange the slices evenly in the pan, covering the bottom. Place cherry halves in the center of the pineapple slices, cut side up. Place pecan pieces in remaining spaces between the pineapple halves. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat for two minutes. Pour batter into the pan and bake for one hour, or until the toothpick comes out clean. Invert.