Ready in 1 hour 45 minutes
My maternal grandmother made an incredible southern pineapple upside-down cake. The cake was less sweet than the traditional old fashioned version and the recipe included stone-ground cornmeal which gave the cake an unusual and unique texture (closer to a sweet corbread or sweet polenta than to a traditional cake). Her cake was one of my father's favorite desserts (he was never a big fan of sweets) and my mother would make it for him often. Once both my mother and grandmother had pass away, the recipe was lost. We could not find a written copy of it anywhere. This recipe is adapted from a recipe belonging to my favorite Food Network culinary personality, Alton Brown. Alton's cake is the closest I've found to my grandmother's recipe. I believe the only differences being that my grandmother added a little of the canned pineapple juice to the cake batter and she sometimes (but not always) added some dark rum or brandy to both the pineapple glaze as well as the cake batter. She would also occasionally lightly drizzle the finished cake with some additional dark rum or brandy. This homey cake is very simple to make, is very tasty with lots of wonderful flavor, and has a very interesting crunchy texture which I enjoy immensely.
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a microwave-safe bowl (or in a suacepan or medium-low heat), bring the milk to a boil. Remove the milk from the microwave (or turn off heat under saucepan). Slowly stir in the cornmeal with a whisk to avoid lumps. Set aside and let soak at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the 350 degree F oven, shaking the pan occasionally, until lightly golden, about 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
For the topping: Using an ovenproof 10-inch heavy skillet (preferably well-seasoned cast-iron) over medium heat, melt butter until foam subsides. Add the brown sugar to the melted butter and stir until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and carefully place 1 slice of pineapple in the center of the pan. Arrange the other 5-6 slices (depending on their size) around the center slice in a circle. Place the cherries in the centers of the pineapple slices and sprinkle the toasted nuts evenly over the fruit. Drizzle pineapple juice over top.
For the cake: Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium mixing bowl, whisking to combine. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the sugar to the eggs, whisking to combine. Add the canola oil and whisk to combine. Add the cornmeal and milk mixture to the egg mixture, whisking to combine. Add this to the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Pour the batter over the fruit in the skillet. Using a spatula, spread the batter evenly over the fruit, building up the outside edges and leaving a shallower center so the cake will be level when baked. Place skillet on the lower-middle rack of the 350 degree oven and bake until cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes in the skillet. Place an inverted serving platter over the skillet. Carefully invert skillet and platter together. Repositioning the fruit if necessary. Cut into pieces and serve as is, with sweetened whipped cream, or top each piece of warm cake with vanilla ice cream. Good hot, warm or at room temperature.
Makes one 10-inch cake, or 6 to 8 servings.
If the cake texture is too gritty or dense for your taste, a mediun or (if you must) even a fine grind cornmeal can be substituted for the coarse ground cornmeal. The finer the grind of the cornmeal you use, the more tender the resulting cake will be...but you'll also lose the the crunchy texture that makes this cake so unique.
Porpo83 4y agoDelicious! I did sneak a bit of vanilla into the batter and used medium grind cornmeal. Very sweet treat. Next time I'll cut the sugar in the batter a bit. Thank-you sgrishka.
slsmarks 5y agoMy husband thinks this is the best Pineapple Upside-down cake I've ever made. I also have used mandarins, pears, peaches. We like the crunch of the cornmeal.
sgrishka 8y agoIf the cake texture is too gritty or dense for your taste, a mediun or (if you must) even a fine grind cornmeal can be substituted for the coarse ground cornmeal. The finer the grind of the cornmeal you use, the more tender the resulting cake will be...but you'll also lose the the crunchy texture that makes this cake so unique. [I posted this recipe.]