Pineapple Upside Down Cake & A Hawaiian Luau

by Irvin on September 22, 2011 · 16 comments

Pin It

An ex-boyfriend of mine, who I rarely think of nowadays, had a fondness for pineapple upside down cake. I made it a few times for him back in the day, and it usually involved canned pineapples rings and those obscenely nuclear red jarred Maraschino cherries. Once we broke up, I pretty much forgot about the cake, a bygone dessert that people don’t make so much anymore. Like ambrosia fruit salad, crown jewel cake and frog-eyed pudding (or pretty much any dessert using instant pudding, cool whip or jello), pineapple upside down cake is one of those desserts that seem lost to the midwest potlucks of yesteryear. That is, until I happened upon it at the dessert buffet at a luau while in Hawaii.

Not your typical pineapple upside down cake. This one uses fresh pineapples. jpg

Not your typical pineapple upside down cake. This one uses fresh pineapples.

I’ve been to a few luaus before in my various trips to Hawaii. It’s one of those tourist trap things that are actually decent to do, but you don’t need to go more than once. Sort of like people visiting San Francisco should go to Alcatraz, but really once is enough. The luau usually contains an all you can eat buffet of traditional Hawaiian food (now’s your chance to try poi, because you probably aren’t going to order a whole dish of it at a restaurant) as well as a show that explains the history of Hawaii. Open bar rounds out the evening of food and entertainment, which, of course, makes the evening all the more fun (if you drink. I don’t so much).

People feasting while the entertainment starts. jpg

People feasting while the entertainment starts.

While in Maui, my mom and dad decided to come out and visit as well as my sister and her husband. None of them have been to Hawaii before and so AJ and I thought it best they experience a luau to round out the Hawaiian trip. We had originally scheduled it for early in the trip (to get them in the “Hawaiian spirit”) but sadly, with my rogue wave incident, it was postponed for a couple of days. Tickets were purchased via Costco at discount (if you visit Hawaii, Costco memberships are a must, it’s one of the cheapest places to shop for anything).

Mom and Dad and Natatia and me at the Luau. jpg

Mom and Dad and Natatia and me at the Luau.

While I sipped on virgin coladas (to compensate AJ had his with two types of rum, making sure we got our money’s worth), I made sure to wander over to the underground roasting pit, where they had buried the kalua pig. The unveiling of the pig is always a spectacle, and well, the men who were unveiling it, were also quite the spectacle.

The underground fire pit, called an imu, which is roasting the kalua pig. jpg

The underground fire pit, called an imu, which is roasting the kalua pig.

Pulling out the kalua pig. jpg

Pulling out the kalua pig.

Contemplating the pig while the crowd watches and takes pictures of the hot meat. jpg

Posing with the pig while the crowd watches and takes pictures of the hot meat.

The show itself, featuring some of the men who pulled out the kalua pig, along with women hula dancers, a storyteller and a world champion fire dancer was entertaining. There was even an acrobatic part of the show, where a woman climbed fabric (I believe it’s called aerial silk or tissu) in front of us, all to Hawaiian music. Though not the most traditional of luaus (fire dancing is more of a Samoan dance than a traditional Hawaiian dance) it’s always impressive to see people throw fire around and dance through open flames.

The history of Hawaii being told in song and dance. jpg

The history of Hawaii being told in song and dance.

Firedancing at the luau. jpg

Firedancing at the luau.

Aerial Silk or Tissue is performed as well, just for the heck of it. jpg

Aerial Silk or Tissue is performed as well, just for the heck of it.

The food was plentiful, though, as with most buffets, not the best ever. But often quantity rules over quality in occasions like this. But that didn’t stop me from piling on the food, taking to heart the Hawaiian saying “Eat until your tired…” which I attempted. AJ was a little more sane with his plate, though he did head back from a second plate as did my sister and her husband. I did head to the dessert area to check out what they had to offer (how could I turn down dessert?) and there was the individual pineapple upside down cakes for the taking.

I ate until I was tired. jpg

I ate until I was tired.

Then I ate dessert. Note the individual pineapple upside down cake! jpg

Then I ate dessert. Note the individual pineapple upside down cake!

I had forgotten about pineapple upside-down cake until that moment. And though I never did get a chance to make it in Hawaii, I immediately made it once I got home. This time I opted to go with real pineapple, no artificially colored cherries (actually I opted to skip cherries all together) and make a caramel glaze for the moist rich cake to soak into. The pineapples were cooked on the stove in the caramel syrup, caramelizing themselves into sweet chunks of tropical flesh and the entire cake was served up for my dessert party.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake made from fresh pineapples. jpg

I mentioned the fresh pineapples. Did I mention it has hints of coconut and ginger in it as well?

I’m no longer in touch with my ex-boyfriend, and in truth, I have no desire to be. He’s was part of a different life, one that involved canned and jarred fruit. But I wish him the best and I thank him for introducing me to pineapple upside down cake. Without him, I probably would never have known about pineapple upside down cake, well, at least I never would have known about the old school canned pineapple type. And I never would have known how vastly improved this version is.

Pin It

Connect with Irvin via Social Media

You can connect with Irvin on a more direct level via his twitter page, his facebook fan page or his page. Just be forewarned that he tweets a heck of a lot.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Chrissy September 22, 2011 at 9:59 am

Oh, Irvin…That looks delicious! I’m going to have to have my own Dessert party so I can try all these recipes without all the extra calories! I have to be honest, though… I’m not one to turn down an offering of ambrosia no matter how kitschy it may be.


Sam @ The Second Lunch September 22, 2011 at 11:01 am

1. I still love those luau men.
2. I’m intrigued about those individual upside down cakes. This seems like good jar cake too, although, you’d lose the beautiful upside down quality… Still.
3. These flavors in an infused liquor. Hmmm…


Stormy @Maoomba September 22, 2011 at 11:59 am

This looks like so much fun and such a treat! And, I love, love, love pineapple upside down cake. The individual ones look fabulous. And the idea of coconut flour and ginger has me planning my weekend baking. Thanks for ideas!


Brian @ A Thought For Food September 22, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Excuse me while I stare at those hunky men. Yowza!


Priyanka September 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm

A wonderful cake, I had tried the same with Mango and loved it. Sure this would be wonderful


Sippitysup September 23, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Rarely do I say this (especially on a food blog) but it took me two passes through this post to notice the food photos. Whatever could be wrong with me? GREG


Maia September 24, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Those men are “quite the spectacle” indeed! Looks like you had a wonderful trip. Did you ever see the Throw Down with Bobby Flay about pineapple upside down cake? Not to spoil it for you, but I was so elated that these two little old ladies crushed him in the contest. 🙂 Anyway, thanks for sharing this tasty sounding recipe!


Y September 25, 2011 at 7:34 am

What a coincidence. I’ve just been thinking about making that very cake from Joanne Chang’s book. Love the little individual cake from Hawaii too.


Tabby Giant October 13, 2011 at 4:21 am

Wow! Sure you had great time in Hawaii. I have been longing to go there and take part on some celebration to see their culture. I have seen a lot of good things about Hawaii at Discovery channel. Would love to try out the pineapple cake if the fruit is available now. Thanks for a great read and recipe.


Piano Childs October 15, 2011 at 3:17 am

Wow! It looks like you’re having a great party with a sumptuous dinner and a unique dessert, Pineapple Upside Down Cake. I’m sure it is delicious so I will try it also myself. Thanks for sharing the recipe!


Doll Cottage October 17, 2011 at 9:12 am

Great pictures and the cake is absolutely amazing! It smells so nice in my kitchen from it! Thank you for sharing the recipe with us! I can’t wait to taste it!


merri October 24, 2011 at 11:49 am

i’ll admit, i didnt try your pineapple upside down cake at your party because i REALLY love my own recipe (which my mom used to make). It does use canned pineapple, but i suppose could use fresh, and has never had cherries. We go through periods (well when our house was a sugar house) of eating it quite often. That luau looks fun!!


Mallory January 24, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Just made this cake for a friends birthday, and I had to try a small bite before serving it to him…and it is amazing! I could not find coconut flour to save my life, but did have the coconut oil and it is fantastic…hopefully next time I can find the flour though! Any suggestions on where you may find it at?


Irvin January 31, 2012 at 12:07 am

Hi Mallory! So glad you liked it. You can find coconut flour at high end natural food grocery stores like Whole Foods or online. I believe Amazon has it for sale. Or you can order it directly from Bob’s Red Mill.

Another option is to take regular unsweetened coconut and grind it up a food processor or blender. I’ve never done this personally but I’ve read about it. Just process the coconut with the sugar until the coconut is a powder and use it like the coconut flour. If you do this, let me know how it turns out!


Mallory July 27, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Hey Irvin! I finally made this amazing cake again, but this time I was able to find coconut flour!!! Wow it was incredible the first time around, but it is even better now, can’t believe what a difference that makes, it is delicious! Keep the awesome recipes coming! 🙂


sheri April 22, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Upside-down cake Hawaiian luau


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: