There’s a certain comedic poetry to my pineapple upside down cake winding up upside down last weekend.
See, my dad Frank died 12 years ago on April 21, so I decided to make his favourite dessert in his honour. I spent all afternoon gathering the ingredients, reading different recipes, and executing it with the utmost care to avoid any complications. It wouldn’t do to burn a cake when my nerves were already so raw.
It went off without a hitch: it was perfectly baked, slid out of the pan like a dream, and tasted heavenly. It was so good I knew I’d have to blog about it; I grabbed the camera and brought it outside (natural light, right?).
“Hey, this will look great against the brick wall!” I said to myself, holding the cake up with one hand, the camera in the other. I got one shot before gravity got the better of us (me and the cake) and sent the plate crashing to the ground. This was not a salvageable drop: it was a full-smash, blood-and-guts all over kind of drop.
Sometimes it takes time to see the humour in frustrating events, but this was so absurd it was hard not to laugh from the get go.
It helped that some extra batter and bits of pineapple had gone into making some muffin-sized cakes. Without those backups, I shudder to imagine the tears that would have followed.
There are some more details about the cake below, following this accidentally retro-lit photo.
I knew I had to share the recipe because, disaster aside, this was actually the best yellow cake I’ve ever made. Not the best vegan yellow cake, the best yellow cake, period. I often find cake underwhelmingly bland, dry, or boring. This one was moist, tender, and flavourful; it had it all.
Rather than finding a vegan pineapple upside down cake recipe, I decided to go with the yellow cake from America’s Test Kitchen’s Vegan for Everybody cookbook and just pour it over the topping. It has proven to be the single most useful cookbook I’ve ever owned, and almost every recipe has been a resounding success (the cauliflower wings are the only one I’m not sold on because they’re uber-greasy, blackened on the barbecue reigns supreme).
I made a full recipe even though it said it would make two 9-inch layer cakes because I didn’t want to end up with a cake that was too thin. I figured the extra could go in muffin tins with chopped up pineapple and more cherries, and this is indeed what wound up happening..
I grabbed some canned pineapple and toxic-red maraschino cherries (my dad’s favourite, he didn’t like it when my mom used pecans instead) and put them on top of a layer of brown sugar and coconut oil in a round, aluminum pan, then topped it all with half the batter and baked it exactly as directed in the book.
It came out like a dream and I can honestly say the only two things I would change next time are to halve the batter so there isn’t any extra better (the recipe below reflects this), and to potentially grill the pineapple first to add another layer of flavour.
Without further ado, here’s the recipe!
Vegan Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Makes 1, 9-inch cake
Based on the yellow cake recipe from Vegan for Everybody
2 1/4 cups cake flour (250 grams or 9 1/8 ounces)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons aquafaba
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup oat milk
1/3 cup refined coconut oil, melted*
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract**
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons refined coconut oil
1 can sliced canned pineapple in juice
as many maraschino cherries as you can handle
Preheat the oven to 400 fahrenheit*** and slide the rack into the second from bottom slot.
We’ll start with the bottom: melt the brown sugar and coconut oil and pour into a 9-inch circular cake pan, topping it with the pineapple and cherries in a pattern you like.
Then, sift the flour, white sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. I recommend weighing the flour for accuracy.
Put the aquafaba and cream of tartar in a spotless, oil-free bowl and whip on high speed until very firm peaks form. This might take up to 10 minutes.
Right before everything else is ready to go, mix the oat milk, melted coconut oil, and vanilla in a measuring cup.
Slowly add the milk to the flour mixture and stir gently until combined. Then, fold in one third of the aquafaba to lighten the mixture. Then, very gently, fold in the rest of the whipped aquafaba until it’s just mixed but homogeneous.
Pour the mixture on top of the pineapple and cherries and bake for 35-45 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake springs back when you poke it.
Don’t drop it.
*You can use regular coconut oil but it will make the cake taste coconut-y.
**It’s important to use high quality vanilla here because the flavour really comes through!
***I find many ovens run hot, so I actually set mine to 380 for this recipe, but if you trust your stove, put it at 400.