This sophisticated version of pineapple upside down cake uses fresh grilled pineapple, along with a lime scented cake and a sprinkling of spicy pepper to take it all to the next level! (Jump directly to the recipe.)
San Francisco has been gray and dreary for the past couple of weeks at the end of May, though the sun is finally coming out now that it’s hit June. In Los Angeles, they have a phrase for this weather: May Gray (which is followed by June Gloom). But there have been little peaks of sun here and there. Promises of summer around the corner, to accompany all the brilliant fruit and vegetables bounty that are showing up at the grocery store. It’s easy to eat “seasonal and local” here in San Francisco year-round, but in the summertime it’s easy to eat that way everywhere.
Of course, while the city by the bay is covered in gray clouds, I suddenly found myself suddenly pining for the sun and beach of Hawaii. AJ and I had made a sort of/kind of spontaneous trip there (well, to be honest, we bought the airplane tickets spontaneously on a whim as we found round trip for $350 in October when there was a flash sale). It had been years since we had stepped foot on the island. Though we had high expectations, it lived up to our memory of the tropical paradise, with the natural beauty of the beach, the gorgeous hiking and the amazing food.
If you follow this blog, you probably remember our stay at the Fairmont in Hawaii as well as the recipe that I posted for a Korean-inspired fried calamari. But AJ and I did more than just lounge about the beach and eat tons of amazing food. We drove up to Halakeala to see the sunrise (something everyone should do, as it is utterly magical and there’s no way that a camera can actually capture it properly), hiked the southern part of Halakeala National Park through a bamboo forest up to a waterfall, and drove around West Maui, a part of the island that we really don’t know very well (and really need to explore more).
But really, one of the true highlights of the trip was going on ocean kayak trip to whale watch. It turns out that January was prime whale season, and though we saw a number of whales from the beach, I had reached out to Maui Kayak Adventures and we ended up booking a group kayak trip to see the whales a little closer. Of course, the morning of that trip, I ended up getting sick and AJ went off on his own. I was so bummed out because AJ came back positively glowing. He kayaked with one other person and though they didn’t have the spectacular whale experience that some folks did (where the whale actually came up right next to the kayak!) the ability to be on the open ocean and see the whales close by was an experience he’ll remember forever. For me, I’ll just have his glowing report and the hope that I get back to Hawaii sooner rather than later, so I can experience it for my own.
In the meanwhile, I found pineapples on sale at the store, so I snatched up a few. They are never as good as when you eat them on a beach watching the sun set. But as the fog cleared us (even if it might be momentary), we fired up the grill and I decided the smokiness would just add so much to the pineapple. A sprinkling of Korean peppers, inspired by the Hawaiian Korean influenced food of Maui, and a little hint of lime in the cake brought me back to the island.
Special thanks to Maui Kayak Adventure for their hospitality. AJ and I were provided the kayak experience compliments of Maui Kayak Adventures with absolutely no obligations. There was no monetary compensation and all opinions are my own.
Grilled Spicy Upside-Down Pineapple Lime Cake
- 1 pineapple
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter 115 g or 1 stick
- 1/2 cup golden brown sugar 110 g
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoon Korean red pepper flakes gochugaru, see note below for information and substitutions
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature 170 g or 1 1/2 sticks
- 2 cups granulated white sugar 400 g
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Zest from 4 medium limes
- 4 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 1/2 cups Greek style yogurt 325 g
- 1/2 cup lime juice about 4 medium limes
- 3 cups all-purpose flour 420 g
Fire up a grill. Trim off the top and bottom of the pineapple, then peel the pineapple with a sharp knife. Cut the pineapple into 1/2-inch slices. Using a small round cutter, remove the center core from each ring. Once the grill is hot, place the pineapple rings on the grill directly and cook anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes or until grill marks form. Rotate 90º to and cook an additional 1 to 3 minutes to make more grill marks. Flip and repeat on the other side of the rings. Remove from grill and let cool. Pineapple rings can be grilled ahead of time and stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days in the refrigerator.
Preheat an oven to 350°F. In a 12-inch cast iron skillet cook the butter, sugar and salt, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the entire mixture is bubbling thickly. Remove from heat.
Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the Korean red pepper flakes over the caramel. Arrange the pineapple rings on top of the caramel, cutting apart rings to fit them in between the whole rings. You may not use the entire pineapple, reserve the leftovers for another use or just eat them. Sprinkle the remaining pepper flakes over the pineapple.
Make the cake by placing the butter, sugar, baking soda, salt and lime zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream together until a paste forms and clings to the side of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between additions until incorporated before adding the next egg. Repeat the process with the egg yolks.
Stir the yogurt and the lime juice together then add it to the batter. Mix to incorporate, then add the flour and stir until the flour is absorbed.
Pour the batter over the pineapple and then carefully spread it to the edges of the pan evenly. Place in the oven and bake 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Once the cake is done, let the cake cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, then place a large serving plate upside down on the pan. In one fluid motion, flip the pan over and then remove it from plate, leaving the cake upside down on the plate, with the pineapples on top. If any pineapple stuck to the pan, just carefully pick it up with a fork and place it back on the cake. Let the cake cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature.
Korean red pepper flakes are a fruity spicy pepper flake that can be found in large bags at Asian or Korean grocery stores or online. They come in various spicy strength, from mild to spicy. This recipe uses the mild version (deolmaewoon gochugaru) but if you only have the spicy version (maewoon gochugaru), cut the pepper flakes down to 1 teaspoon. Aleppo pepper is also a great substitute for Korean red pepper flakes, use the same amount if you have that on hand instead. Or you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon of regular red pepper flakes, along with 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of sweet paprika.
Adapted from a recipe in the cookbook Hartwood by Eric Werner and Mya Henry