Upside-Down Cake: Blueberry Ginger or Classic Pineapple

Sticking with the tradition starting in 2013, I made pineapple upside down cake to celebrate Chinese New Year. For the Year of Horse, I upgraded the recipe from last year (no more mixes!) and made two versions: one in the celebratory colors (red and yellow) and another using some of my preserved summer bliss, aka blueberries in syrup, spiced up with candied ginger and lemon zest. I cooked a double batched using 8 inch round pans, which were maybe a tad too small, use 9 inch round or square. There are so many possibilities with the recipe, so be adventurous. If the amount of butter scares you, look around for a recipe that uses less. It might not be as gooey but still tasty. Upside down pineapple cakes are such great throwbacks – originating, reportedly, to promote a newfangled fruit, canned pineapple. Remember if you don’t have buttermilk, just improvise by adding about a tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar per cup of milk. Let it sit 5-10 minutes.

Blueberry Ginger Upside-Down Cake


  • 2 cups blueberries, fresh, frozen or canned in light syrup (drained)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest (other citrus would be great too)
  • ½ cup chopped candied ginger (use more if you love it lots!)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • Lemon extract (I used my homemade tincture – ~ 1 T, commercial product use about ½ – 1 tsp)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) butter, softened and roughly sliced
  • 6 tablespoons buttermilk


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Get out your 9 inch round cake pan or 9 inch square pan or if doubling a 13 x 9 inch cake pan. Drain the fruit. Save the juice for mixing with some club soda and enjoying! OR reduce and make a syrup for something else. Then place fruit in on paper towels to absorb the excess juice.
  • Put 3 tablespoons butter in the pan. Place the pan in the heated oven until the butter melts. Alternatively you could melt in the microwave and add to pan. Tilt to coat all sides with butter – this is in lieu of greasing the pan with shortening. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the bottom of the pan.
  • On top of the brown sugar butter sprinkle the lemon zest and add the drained blueberries. Then sprinkle on the chopped candied ginger. Remember even though it is on the bottom of the pan, it will be the top of the cake.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, 2 tablespoons of buttermilk and vanilla.
  • In a larger mixer bowl, mix together with a fork the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the 6 tablespoons of softened butter and 6 tablespoons of buttermilk. Beat on low speed just until the flour is moistened, then increase the speed to medium, or high if using a handheld mixer, and beat for exactly 1½ minutes. Why exactly? I don’t know; just do what the recipe say. Beware – the batter will be stiff and your mixer will earn its keep.
  • Add one-third of the egg mixture at a time, beating for exactly 20 seconds and scraping the bowl after each addition. With the last third, add the lemon extract. Taste to see if a hint of lemon comes through. Yes! I just told you to taste raw batter – don’t act like you don’t know the risks and haven’t’ done it a million times before. If you don’t know the risks, don’t do it.
  • Scoop/spoon/pour the batter over the fruit and spread evenly, but gently. You don’t want to disrupt the fruit.
  • Bake 35 to 40 minutes – apply the toothpick test (a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean). Remove the cake from the oven and, while still wearing oven mitts tilt the pan in all directions to detach it from the sides of the pan. Let cool for 2 to 3 minutes, ideally on a cooling rack, before flipping out on a plate.
  • To invert onto a serving plate, first find one big enough and flat enough. I did some practice runs fitting pan to plate before even starting. Holding the plate to the top of the pan, using oven mitts or dishtowel so you don’t burn yourself, quickly invert. The cake should come out nicely, just lift pan off slowly. If it doesn’t want to come off easy, flip it back with the pan on the bottom and try running an knife around the edge. This sounds a lot harder than it is….
  • Take any yummy bits of brown sugar, fruit and put them back on the cake. Future versions I plan to use my blow torch and really caramelize it for the final touch.
  • Serve with ice cream or heavy whipped cream if you so desire. Great warm or cool. Breakfast, lunch or dinner.

For the pineapple version

  • Omit the blueberries, lemon zest, lemon extract and candied ginger.
  • Use 4 – 7 slices canned drained pineapple (8 or 20-ounce can) and halved maraschino cherries (1 to 1 ½ dozen) or pecans halves (for a less celebratory but probably healthier effect). I only had a small can of pineapple with four slices and it worked fine. You don’t have to use the rings, they are more for artistic effect. Fresh pineapple would be divine as well.

(Basic recipe source: Joy of Cooking)

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