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Milk Street Bowtie Pineapple Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake

Pineapple Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake

12 Servings

1¼ hours Plus cooling

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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.

12

Servings

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.

1¼ hours

Plus cooling

162 grams (1¼ cups) all-purpose flour
Table 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
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

  • Table 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

  • 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

Pineapple Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake

More
Reviews
Teresa S.
September 21, 2022
Light and Delicious Cake
The method prohibits the cake from getting soggy. The allspice really gives it a subtle spicy flavor. It lasted 4 days for 3 of us and everyone loved each serving each day. Perfect for us
Nicole B.
July 5, 2022
Simply perfect
Fantastic recipe. The cake is light, moist, and not overly sweet. The pineapple and cornmeal go so well together. Left out the allspice because I didn't have any. I'm making the cake again tonight with peaches!
Annette M.

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

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

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.

Julia Z.

Could I substitute gluten free flour?

Janelle C.

Hi Julia,

Our Recipe Developer, Julia Rackow says you absolutely can!

Best,
The Milk Street Team

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.)

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.

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

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?

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

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?

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

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.

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.

Patricia E.

Came out great, but we all felt that the cake tasted like banana bread. We weren’t sure why this happened.

Erica K.

My husband and I really enjoyed this cake. I used a 9" round, 3" height Fat Daddio's aluminum pan (I did not have a dark cake pan on hand) and followed the note to increase the bake time. The cake turned out without a hitch. Personally, I think I cooked down the pineapple sauce a bit too much fearing a soggy cake (I would have preferred a bit more moisture/lushness), but my husband said he wouldn't change a thing. The cake itself was moist, and the allspice added a nice note to the cake and pineapple. I will definitely make this again.

Mary S.

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Bethany M.

I had never been a big fan of pineapple upside-down cake because the cherries and canned pineapple did not interest me. This cake on the other hand is fantastic. So much concentrated flavor of pineapple and caramel! I loved the tang and savory elements of the buttermilk and cornmeal. I just made this for the second time, and in an effort to not leave the house I used frozen pineapple. If I went that route again, I would initially weigh out a few ounces more than called for, because once thawed they gave off some liquid that I drained. Otherwise, it looks and smells great, and I cannot wait to deliver a few slices to friends!

Jennifer B.

am not a dessert lover but this was good, not overly sweet. it was a little dense though.

Cheryl N.

I, along with other reviewers, probably cooked the pineapple down a little too much, but the cake was delicious. My husband and I both thought it was better the second day. Thanks, Briana!

Kevin S.

Really liked this - the cornbread component was lovely (we used Arrowhead Mills). I'm going to try a couple modifications next time, though: I'll use ALL the pineapple gleaned from one whole, fresh pineapple - aiming for more pineapple on the top of the cake than just a single layer. The pineapple was everybody's favorite bite, so presumably more is better! I'll use a springform pan to accommodate the additional height that will happen from the added pineapple (my 9" cake pans won't handle any more volume than the recipe as written). There were several suggestions to use cherries with the pineapple, which might also find it's way into my modifications going forward - perhaps blended into the batter.

Jannine T.

Did not have ricotta so I used goat milk crumbles??🤪 the bottom is a beautiful golden brown and it smells wonderful and i am just waiting for it to cool!!

Jannine T.

Hey even with using the goat milk plain cheverie it came out moist, tender, there was just a slight grainey texture to it, just ever so slight!!

Anthony D.

Made this with polenta instead of corn meal. It was very good but had a grittier feel, which I liked.

Caroline G.

Has anyone tried doubling this and baking it in a 13x9 pan? And if so, did you adjust the oven temperature/bake time? I'm baking for a large group, and that would feed all of us.