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Pineapple Coconut Upside-Down CakeJulie Van Rosendaal/The Globe and Mail

Cakes baked with fruit on the bottom that wind up on top (once the cake is inverted onto a plate) date back to a time when they were cooked over open fires in cast iron pans (still the ideal vessel for such desserts, even if you’re baking yours in the oven). The maraschino-studded, sliced-pineapple version we know and love became the headliner at fancy home parties across North America after Dole held a contest held in 1925 to promote their products. Mrs. Robert Davis of Norfolk, Va., entered a winning cake, selected from among 60,000 entries (including 2,500 for pineapple upside-down cake) and, the story goes, brought home a US$50 prize.

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This year, trend-watching powers have declared tropical flavours will be a popular theme in recipes and on restaurant menus in 2024. Pinterest notes searches for pineapple mocktails are up 70 per cent, while searches for pineapple upside-down cakes are up 50 per cent. At a time when all that is old is becoming new again, a retro pineapple upside-down cake, given a tropical boost with coconut if you like, will feed your craving for both nostalgia and a sunny escape.

Recipe: Pineapple Coconut Upside-Down Cake

Though you could use sliced fresh pineapple, the retro classic calls for canned slices and maraschino cherries. If you’d like to venture out, other seasonal fruit works well, too – try apples and pears in winter, stone fruits like peaches, plums and nectarines in summer, and feel free to skip the maraschinos.


1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 small can pineapple slices

maraschino cherries


1/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup canola or other vegetable oil

3/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs (or 1/2 cup Just Egg)

1 tsp vanilla or coconut extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp fine salt

1/2 cup pineapple juice (drained from the can)

1/2 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened – optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

To make the topping: Spray a 9- or 10-inch cake pan – ideally one with deep-ish sides – with non-stick spray, or rub it with butter, and if you like, put a circle of parchment into the bottom. Put the butter into it and slide it into the oven as it warms. Once the butter melts, stir in the brown sugar with a fork, spread the mixture over the bottom of the pan, and arrange the pineapple slices overtop. Put a few maraschino cherries into the middles of the slices.

To make the cake, beat the butter, oil and sugar in a large bowl until pale and light. Beat in the eggs and vanilla or coconut extract. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add about half to the butter mixture, beating on low speed or stirring just until combined. Beat or stir in the pineapple juice, and then the remaining dry ingredients. Stir in the coconut.

Pour over the pineapple base and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the cake is deep golden and springy to the touch. Invert onto a serving plate while it’s still warm. (If any pieces of fruit stick, simply put them back on top of the cake – and scrape any bits of caramel out of the pan with a spatula and put it back on top of the cake, too.) Serve warm, or at room temperature. Serves about 8.

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