A traditional pineapple upside down cake has a layer of caramelized pineapple sitting atop a sponge cake or a vanilla cake. These relatively “plain” cakes are a great base to show off other flavors, including pineapple, but you don’t have to limit your upside down desserts to only one type of cake, as extra layers of flavor are rarely a bad thing. This Pineapple Upside Down Banana Cake is even more tropical twist than your average pineapple upside down cake, with a sweet layer of banana cake underneath a topping of caramelized pineapple pieces.
I always describe the cake batter as being the “base” of an upside down cake because it is the base when the cake is served. When you are assembling the cake, however, a layer of butter, sugar and pineapple is placed into the pan as the literal bottom of the dessert. That mixture only becomes the topping when the cake is turned out for serving. The topping mixture of butter, sugar and brown sugar helps to caramelize the pineapple pieces as the cake bakes. Canned pineapple is a perfectly good choice for this recipe, so you don’t have to run out to get a fresh pineapple if you don’t already have one sitting in your kitchen!
The cake is a moist, fluffy banana cake that is scented with cinnamon and vanilla. While you might not think of cinnamon as a tropical flavor, it actually pairs very nicely with both the bananas and the pineapple pieces. The layer of cake is relatively thin, which gives you a nice ratio of pineapple to banana cake in every bite that you take.
To ensure a clean release from the pan, the pan should be lined with parchment paper before anything is added to it, as that will prevent the topping from sticking even after all the sugar melts during baking. The cake should be turned out onto a serving platter while it is still warm, too. Once the cake is turned out, it can be served warm or allowed to cool completely to room temperature. It will be slightly easier to slice if you allow it to cool completely, but the tender pineapple pieces and fragrant banana cake are particularly good when warm and I can never resist cutting a slice immediately. Be sure to use a sharp knife to ensure that you cut cleanly through the pineapple for each slice.
Pineapple Upside Down Banana Cake
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
8 large pineapple rings
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup mashed banana (2 medium)
1 large egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Prepare the topping: In a small bowl, stir together melted butter, sugar, brown sugar and salt. Pour into prepared pan and spread into an even layer.
Arrange pineapple rings on top of the sugar, placing 6 rings around the edge of the pan and 1 ring in the center. Cut up the remaining ring into smaller pieces and use it to fill in any gaps in the pineapples. Set aside.
Prepare the cake: In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, mashed banana, egg, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Add in dry ingredients and stir until no streaks of flour remain visible. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for about 35 minutes, until cake springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with only a few small crumbs attached.
Allow cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert onto a large serving dish or cake plate.
Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.