Pineapples are said to be a symbol of hospitality, so it’s hard for me to imagine a more perfect dessert for dinner guests than this very cake. It’s no ordinary pineapple upside-down cake. It is a 12-inch circle of fluffy cornmeal crumb studded with toasted coconut and infused with a shot of aged rum. Eight thick slices of fresh pineapple crown this cake, along with a buttery brown sugar syrup that runs down the sides as you unmold it.
The inspiration for this cake comes from an old issue of Garden and Gun magazine. The original recipe instructions call for a 12-inch cast iron skillet, but I don’t have one that large. My 10-inch skillet meets all of my needs (which is mostly making cornbread for a dozen folks). All of the assembled cake components will easily fill a 12-inch cake pan, so I wouldn’t recommend trying to use a smaller pan.
It’s hard to beat a classic, but this is such a nice departure from ordinary pineapple-upside down cake. Coconut, rum, and pineapple give this cake undeniable tropical sweetness, but the golden cornmeal gives it a down-home flavor that tastes like it has true southern heritage.
Pineapple Upside-Down Coconut-Rum Cornmeal Cake
Serves 10 or more
Adapted from a recipe by chef Griffin Bufkin at Southern Soul Barbecue in St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, featured in the October/November 2016 edition of Garden & Gun magazine. A rustic, Southern take on a classic dessert, that tastes like a heirloom recipe your granny might have made! This makes a large cake that would be great for potlucks and big family gatherings.
1 cup (68 grams) sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup (125g) stone ground cornmeal
2 1/2 cups (319g) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
2 1/4 cups (550g) dark brown sugar
1 cup (240ml) whole milk
3/4 cup (180ml) evaporated milk
1/2 cup (120ml) vegetable oil
1/4 cup (60ml) aged or dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter
8 fresh pineapple slices, 1/2-inch thickness
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 12-inch round cake pan with flour-based baking spray (we recommend Baker’s Joy.
Spread flaked coconut on a baking sheet in an even layer and bake 7-10 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from the oven and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, 1 1/2 cups (294g) of the brown sugar, and the toasted coconut. Stir until smooth, breaking up any brown sugar lumps with your fingers. In a separate bowl, whisk together the two milks, canola oil, rum, vanilla extract and eggs. Pour the wet ingredient mix into the dry ingredient mix, and stir together until a smooth cake batter is formed. Set aside while you prepare the topping for the cake.
Make the topping: In a skillet or saucepan, melt butter and the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar together on medium high heat, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes to caramelize. Pour the mixture into the prepared 12 inch baking pan and spread to edges of pan. Place pineapple slices evenly spaced on top of this layer. Pour the batter into the pan over the pineapples and smooth with a spatula or the back of a wooden spoon. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and let stand to cool 15 minutes before inverting the cake onto a serving plate. Spoon any remaining topping that might be in the baking pan onto the top of the cake. You can add fresh sweet cherries as a pretty garnish that makes a nice substitute for the classic maraschino cherries. Serve and enjoy!