Piña Colada Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Piña Colada Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

This is not your ordinary pineapple upside-down cake.  Think pineapple upside-cake meets piña colada. Alton Brown’s recipe, which was my inspiration, is made with coarse cornmeal and in a cast iron skillet.  My veganized version amps it up with the addition of a baker’s coconut trifecta (three plus one) – coconut milk, sugar, yogurt, and oil.    YUM! (If I can humbly say so myself.)

My Vegan Recipe

10-inch cast iron skillet


¾ cup coconut milk

1 cup coarse ground cornmeal


4 ounces coconut oil (you can substitute Earth Balance; but trust me on this one, go with the coconut oil)

8 ounces coconut sugar (again, you can use vegan dark brown sugar, but if you’re going for the piña colada slant, stick with the coconut sugar)


6 slices canned pineapple in its juice

Juice from the canned pineapple

2 tablespoons coconut sugar


2 tablespoons dried cranberries plumped in water

1 cup coarsely-ground unsalted pecans


½ cup plain unsweetened coconut yogurt

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Egg Replacer

5-3/4 ounces coconut sugar

½ cup coconut oil, melted and cooled


4-3/4 ounces white whole wheat flour (it also works equally well with Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Flour)

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with one oven rack in the center of the oven and one directly below it.  Place a cookie lined with foil on the rack below the center rack.  This will catch any caramel that may boil over during the baking process.  Do not put the cast iron pan and cookie sheet on the same rack as it can adversely affect the air flow and thus the baking of the cake.
  2. Put cornmeal in a small bowl.  In a small saucepan, bring the coconut milk to a boil, then pour over cornmeal.  Stir, cover, and let stand 30 minutes at room temperature while you prepare the next steps.
  3. Mix the juice from the canned pineapple with the 2 tablespoons coconut sugar.  Over medium heat, melt the sugar in the juice, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer, and reduce for 10 minutes.  Set aside to cool. (Note:  You certainly can use fresh pineapple.  Cut slices evenly approximately 3/8” thick, and core the center.  Juice the remaining pineapple to create the juice to make the syrup.)
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium-sized bowl.  Set aside.
  5. In the cast iron skillet and over just-under medium heat, melt the coconut oil, then add the coconut sugar.  Stir continuously until the sugar melts, being mindful that the sugar does not go up the sides of the skillet.  It will not completely blend with the coconut oil, but will be smooth and glossy.
  6. Take skillet off the heat.  Be careful with this step.  Hot caramel (your melted sugar mixture) will give you one heck of a burn if it gets on your skin.  Gently place one slice of pineapple in the center then place the remaining five slices around the center slice.  Place 6-7 cranberries in the center of each pineapple slice.  Using a spoon, gently press the cranberries down in the caramel.
  7. Evenly sprinkle the chopped pecans over the top of the caramel and fruit.
  8. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the reduced pineapple juice / syrup over the top of the pecans.
  9. In large mixing bowl and with an electric mixer (stand mixer and a hand mixer both work well), beat the yogurt and 1 tablespoon coconut oil until well incorporated.  Add the Egg Replacer and beat until well incorporated.
  10. Add the 5-3/4 ounces coconut sugar to the yogurt mixture, and beat at high speed for at least two minutes.  The goal is for the sugar to incorporate into the yogurt mix, and for the mix to become light and fluffy.
  11. Add the coconut oil to the yogurt mixture and beat at high speed until well incorporated.
  12. On medium high speed, mix the cornmeal into the yogurt mixture until well dispersed.
  13. Add the flour mix to the yogurt/cornmeal and beat at medium high speed to fully incorporate and complete the cake batter.
  14. Gently pour the cake batter over the fruit and nuts in the cast iron skillet and spread evenly.
  15. Bake in oven for 40-45, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Be careful when removing cake from oven.
  16. Cool for 30 minutes in the skillet.  This is an important step.  Attempting to release the cake too early will cause the cake to fall out in pieces.  On the other hand, leaving it in too long will cause the caramel to cool at the bottom of the skillet, causing it to stick and not release.  Be sure to be ready to invert the cake out of the skillet at the completion of the 30-minute cooling time.
  17. Run a sharp knife around the sides of the cake in the skillet, being careful not to disturb the cake, but to loosen any caramel from the sides.  Place a platter on top of the skillet.  Using oven mitts because the skillet will still be quite warm, invert the cake onto the platter and remove the cast iron skillet.
  18. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Non-Vegan Recipe

Pineapple Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake
Recipe from foodnetworktv.com – Alton Brown, 2004

3/4 cup whole milk
1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
4 ounces unsalted butter
8 ounces dark brown sugar, approximately 1 cup
6 slices canned pineapple in heavy syrup
6 maraschino cherries
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
3 tablespoons juice from canned pineapple
3 whole eggs
4 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 1 cup
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 3/4 ounces sugar, approximately 3/4 cup
1/2 cup canola oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a microwave-proof dish, bring the milk to a boil. Remove the milk from the microwave and add the cornmeal. Stir and let soak at room temperature for 30 minutes. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and carefully place 1 slice of pineapple in the center of the pan. Place the other 5 slices around the center slice in a circle. Place the cherries in the centers of the pineapple slices and sprinkle the nuts evenly over the fruit. Drizzle pineapple juice over top.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the sugar to the eggs and whisk to combine. Add the canola oil and whisk. Add the cornmeal and milk mixture to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Add this to the flour and stir just until combined. Pour the batter over the fruit in the skillet and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes in the skillet. Set a platter on top of the skillet and carefully invert the cake. Serve.

*An important aspect of sharing original recipes is to give proper credit to the author(s) of the recipe(s).  I hope that you enjoy using these recipes and making them your own; but please do so with that integrity in mind. With much gratitude. - Linda

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