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Deeply caramelized fruit meets a tender, moist crumb
Milk Street Bowtie Pineapple Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake

Pineapple Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake

1¼ hours Plus cooling

Pineapple Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake

Free

Briana Holt, the owner of Tandem Bakery in Portland, Maine, makes a rich, sturdy buttermilk cake with cornmeal for texture and flavor, as well as ricotta cheese to keep the crumb tender and moist. We adapted her winning formula and paired the cake with fresh fruit to update the classic all-American pineapple upside-down cake. To avoid a soggy layer where cake and fruit meet—a common problem with upside-down cakes—we first cook the pineapple to remove excess moisture, and we make sure the fruit is hot when the batter is poured on top so it begins to bake upon contact. To get the timing right, begin mixing the batter after placing the pan with the pineapple in the oven. This gives you 5 to 10 minutes to finish the batter; if it’s ready sooner, it can wait a few minutes. A nonstick cake pan works best because the dark finish speeds the bake time; if your pan is not nonstick, increase the oven temperature to 350°F and give the cake an extra 5 minutes or so to finish baking.

162 grams (1¼ cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground allspice
45 grams (5 tablespoons) fine yellow cornmeal
¾ cup buttermilk
140 grams (½ cup) whole-milk ricotta cheese
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, room temperature, divided
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
8 ¼-inch-thick fresh pineapple rings (about 1 pound), cut into quarters
214 grams (1 cup) white sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
Ingredients
  • 162

    grams (1¼ cups) all-purpose flour

  • 1

    teaspoon kosher salt, divided

  • ¾

    teaspoon baking powder

  • ½

    teaspoon baking soda

  • ½

    teaspoon ground allspice

  • 45

    grams (5 tablespoons) fine yellow cornmeal

  • ¾

    cup buttermilk

  • 140

    grams (½ cup) whole-milk ricotta cheese

  • 8

    tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, room temperature, divided

  • 3

    tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

  • 8

    ¼-inch-thick fresh pineapple rings (about 1 pound), cut into quarters

  • 214

    grams (1 cup) white sugar

  • 2

    large eggs, room temperature

Directions
  1. 01
    Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the middle position. Mist a 9-by-2-inch round nonstick cake pan with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ¾ teaspoon of the salt, the baking powder, baking soda and allspice. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, buttermilk and ricotta.
  2. 02
    In a nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium-high, combine 2 tablespoons of the butter, the brown sugar and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until bubbling. Add the pineapple and cook, stirring often, until softened and caramelized and the liquid has nearly evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes.
    See Demo
    pineapple-upside-down-cornmeal-cake-step-2
  3. 03
    Transfer the pineapple and butter mixture to the prepared cake pan, distributing the fruit in a single layer. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes while you prepare the batter.
    See Demo
    pineapple-upside-down-cornmeal-cake-step-3
  4. 04
    In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the remaining 6 tablespoons butter and the white sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce to medium and add the eggs one at at time, scraping the bowl with a spatula between additions, then beat until well combined, about 1 minute. With the mixer on low, add the cornmeal-buttermilk mixture, then beat until just combined, about 30 seconds; the mixture will look curdled. Scrape down the bowl.
    See Demo
    pineapple-upside-down-cornmeal-cake-step-4
  5. 05
    With the mixer running on low, add the dry ingredients and mix just until the batter is evenly moistened, about 20 seconds; the batter will be thick. Using the spatula, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and give the batter a few folds to ensure no pockets of flour remain.
  6. 06
    Remove the cake pan from the oven (close the oven door) and carefully scrape the batter onto the hot pineapple, then spread in an even layer and smooth the surface with the spatula. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted at the center of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 to minutes.
    See Demo
    pineapple-upside-down-cornmeal-cake-step-6
  7. 07
    Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around the pan to loosen the cake, then invert it onto a serving platter. Cool to room temperature.
    See Demo
    pineapple-upside-down-cornmeal-cake-step-7
Tip: Don’t use canned pineapple, as the fruit is thickly sliced and may not fully cook through. Its flavor also is dull and “cooked” compared to fresh. For convenience, however, you can use store-bought peeled and cored fresh pineapple sold in the produce section of the supermarket. Don’t use part-skim ricotta cheese; the cakes needs the richness of whole-milk ricotta.
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Comments
  • Annette M.

    Is it OK to use corn flour for this, rather than corn meal?

    0 votes
    2 comments
    • Janelle C.

      Hi Annette,

      Using cornflour rather than cornmeal will alter the texture of the cake as it differs completely.

      Best,
      The Milk Street Team

      1 votes
      0 comments
    • Alexandra H.

      Confession - my Whole Foods was out of finely ground cornmeal, so I tried the recipe with Bob's Red Mill corn flour, and it was delicious with a tender, moist crumb. I imagine the proper ingredient (finely ground cornmeal) might add a tiny bit of crunch to the texture and maybe a brighter, more sunshine-yellow color, so that could only improve upon an already delicious cake! Very pretty topping, too! Definitely will make again.

      0 votes
      0 comments
  • Julia Z.

    Could I substitute gluten free flour?

    0 votes
    1 comments
    • Janelle C.

      Hi Julia,

      Our Recipe Developer, Julia Rackow says you absolutely can!

      Best,
      The Milk Street Team

      0 votes
      0 comments
  • Esther D.

    Used 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour and only 194 grams white sugar. Also lined the bottom with parchment and turned the cake out after 5 min. Came out perfectly, if anyone finds this helpful. (My husband and I thought the cake had the perfect amount of sweetness and liked the whole wheat.)

    1 votes
    0 comments
  • Jeff R.

    I made this last night. A couple of comments from my guests. They thought it was a bit salty. In their defense I did use salted butter. They also described the dish as almost savory. I also used medium grain cornmeal and it was noticeable. Next time I might use the spice grinder and try and get a finer grind. The cake was surprisingly moist it was pretty easy to put together. I should have used a bit more pineapple as it did not quite cover the entire bottom of the pan (I looked like enough when I started...). The guests also said they might like a bit more of the sauce from the pineapple cooking on the bottom (eventually top). So I might not cook as much away next time. I like it and will make it again.

    0 votes
    1 comments
    • Janelle C.

      Hi Jeff,

      To follow up, use fine yellow cornmeal. As you stated you can use a spice grinder, but buying the specific ingredient might be easier and keep the texture more consistent. Having more pineapple will also contribute to the "sauce" when the cake is flipped over.

      Best,
      The Milk Street Team

      0 votes
      0 comments
  • Krista H.

    Is it possible to do this in a cast iron pan? Thinking the pineapple can be cooked in that and then batter added and transferred to the oven to bake similar to cornbread?

    0 votes
    1 comments
    • Janelle C.

      Hi Krista,

      This is a great question. Would you post it in our Q&A Forum for Milk Street Insiders and Digital subscribers? Insider members usually receive responses from a Milk Street Experts within 2 business days and I'm sure others would love to hear the answer to this one.

      https://www.177milkstreet.com/discussion/

      Best,
      The Milk Street Team

      0 votes
      0 comments
  • Daniel M.

    I wonder if anyone tried to bake this in the traditional cast iron skillet and if so what adjustments to baking time and temp?

    0 votes
    1 comments
    • Janelle C.

      Hi Daniel!

      This is a great question. Would you post it in our Q&A Forum for Milk Street Insiders and Digital subscribers? Insider members usually receive responses from a Milk Street Experts within 2 business days and I'm sure others would love to hear the answer to this one.

      https://www.177milkstreet.com/discussion/

      Best,
      The Milk Street Team

      0 votes
      0 comments
  • Michele R.

    Cooking and baking in the age of covid19 means that while we usually do a lot of the former in normal times we're doing a lot more and while we do a little of the latter in normal times we're doing a lot now. With all ingredients on hand for this cake it was 'up' today. But we wanted to cut it in half as the full recipe was specified it fed twelve. Would it work? We set out on the road to find out and arrived at destination "yes!" Relying on volume of a 9"x2" round pan of about 8cups we used a 6"x6"x2" baker that is volume of 4cups, cut the recipe ingredients in half and made per recipe for technique except for using an electric hand mixer and bowl instead of stand mixer given the half amount of ingredients didn't seem enough volume for the stand mixer with paddle as called for. The outcome was perfect. The 6" square cake turned out perfectly from the baking pan and created six just right servings. Lovely moist cake thanks to the buttermilk and ricotta, tender crumb, we really liked the fine cornmeal addition, and just right lightly caramelized pineapple. We'll have a couple of leftovers to try tomorrow to see how it holds. One Note: To best fit the caramelized 'puzzle pieces' of the pineapple in the bottom of your baking dish and also to make it easiest to cut to serve once turned upside down and for diners to eat, the next time instead of cutting the cored pineapple rings into quarters we'll cut them into eighths.

    0 votes
    0 comments
  • Michele R.

    Adding to my earlier note, leftovers of this (kept covered on the counter not refrigerated) were tasty. Although best on the day of baking, we enjoyed this day two as well.

    0 votes
    0 comments
Down arrow

Pineapple Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake

Get Ready to Cook

12

Servings

1¼ hours

Plus cooling

Tip

Don’t use canned pineapple, as the fruit is thickly sliced and may not fully cook through. Its flavor also is dull and “cooked” compared to fresh. For convenience, however, you can use store-bought peeled and cored fresh pineapple sold in the produce section of the supermarket. Don’t use part-skim ricotta cheese; the cakes needs the richness of whole-milk ricotta.

Ingredients
  • 162

    grams (1¼ cups) all-purpose flour

  • 1

    teaspoon kosher salt, divided

  • ¾

    teaspoon baking powder

  • ½

    teaspoon baking soda

  • ½

    teaspoon ground allspice

  • 45

    grams (5 tablespoons) fine yellow cornmeal

  • ¾

    cup buttermilk

  • 140

    grams (½ cup) whole-milk ricotta cheese

  • 8

    tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, room temperature, divided

  • 3

    tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

  • 8

    ¼-inch-thick fresh pineapple rings (about 1 pound), cut into quarters

  • 214

    grams (1 cup) white sugar

  • 2

    large eggs, room temperature

Step 1 of 7

Combine Ingredients

162
grams (1¼ cups) all-purpose flour
¾
teaspoon kosher salt
¾
teaspoon baking powder
½
teaspoon baking soda
½
teaspoon ground allspice
45
grams (5 tablespoons) fine yellow cornmeal
¾
cup buttermilk
140
grams (½ cup) whole-milk ricotta cheese

Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the middle position. Mist a 9-by-2-inch round nonstick cake pan with cooking spray.


In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ¾ teaspoon of the salt, the baking powder, baking soda and allspice. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, buttermilk and ricotta.

Step 2 of 7

Cook Pineapple

2
tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, room temperature
¼
teaspoon kosher salt
8
¼-inch-thick fresh pineapple rings (about 1 pound), cut into quarters

In a nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium-high, combine 2 tablespoons of the butter, the brown sugar and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt.


Cook, stirring occasionally, until bubbling. Add the pineapple and cook, stirring often, until softened and caramelized and the liquid has nearly evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes.

Step 3 of 7

Bake Pineapple

Transfer the pineapple and butter mixture to the prepared cake pan, distributing the fruit in a single layer. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes while you prepare the batter.

Step 4 of 7

Mix Cake Batter

6
tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, room temperature
214
grams (1 cup) white sugar
2
large eggs, room temperature

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the remaining 6 tablespoons butter and the white sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.


Reduce to medium and add the eggs one at at time, scraping the bowl with a spatula between additions, then beat until well combined, about 1 minute.


With the mixer on low, add the cornmeal-buttermilk mixture, then beat until just combined, about 30 seconds; the mixture will look curdled. Scrape down the bowl.

Step 5 of 7

Add Dry Ingredients

With the mixer running on low, add the dry ingredients and mix just until the batter is evenly moistened, about 20 seconds; the batter will be thick. Using the spatula, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and give the batter a few folds to ensure no pockets of flour remain.

Step 6 of 7

Bake Cake

Remove the cake pan from the oven (close the oven door) and carefully scrape the batter onto the hot pineapple, then spread in an even layer and smooth the surface with the spatula.


Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted at the center of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 to minutes.

Step 7 of 7

Cool and Serve

Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around the pan to loosen the cake, then invert it onto a serving platter. Cool to room temperature.

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Done!

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Pineapple Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake

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