Glazed Pineapple-Zucchini Upside Down Cupcakes

Most of the time when I find and try a recipe, the first thing I do after making it as written, is to try to find ways to improve or change it. Sometimes this works in my favor, other times I realize it was better left alone.

One of my absolute favorite recipes that my mother gave me was for her pineapple upside down cake. I loved it. Everyone loved it. I can’t think of one person who ever had it that didn’t ask for the recipe. It was perfect — or so I thought.

Once I started making the cake, I quickly realized, either out of laziness or perhaps divine inspiration, that using pineapple slices, as my mother had, for the top of the cake looked nice enough, but when I switched things up and used crushed pineapple instead — WOW, what a difference. Not only was there pineapple in every bite, but the pineapple was easier to eat and somehow more tender.

When I made my version of my mother’s pineapple upside down cake one time for my parents, my mother was very critical. She eyed my cake sitting on the kitchen counter before dinner and asked, “Is that MY pineapple upside down cake recipe?” I smiled and told her it was, but with a slight tweak.

After dinner I brought the cake to the table and began to serve it. My father, of course, got the first piece (pineapple upside down cake is his absolute favorite). Without waiting for anyone else he cut into his slice. Before even swallowing he blurted out, “This is REALLY good!”

I cringed just a little. That’s all I needed, another excuse for my mother to get mad at my father. Thankfully he hadn’t said anything like ‘this is the best cake I’ve ever had.’ His “REALLY good” comment, though was enough to make my mother’s eyebrows raise and her face tighten.

Quickly I cut another slice and gave it to my mother. Critically she cut into the piece with her fork, slowly brought it to her nose, sniffed it, and then slipped it into her mouth. She chewed for what seemed like hours, but finally her eyes widened and her features softened as she exclaimed, “This really is GOOD. The crushed pineapple really makes this even better.”

Whew! What a relief. She liked it and her feelings weren’t hurt because I’d tweaked her recipe.

For the past ten years or so my mother and I have been making this recipe for pineapple upside down cake using crushed pineapple and loving it each and every time. This year however, once again, I had to throw a wrench in the recipe and tweak it again.

After trying a recipe for shredded zucchini faux pineapple, I knew right away that this would work perfectly in my mother’s recipe for pineapple upside cake. Instead of making a cake however, I decided to switch things up even more and make individual cupcakes — thus my very own (sort of) recipe for:

Glazed Pineapple-Zucchini Upside Down Cupcakes

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1 1/2 Pints Shredded Zucchini Faux Pineapple (recipe found on Simply Grateful Canning)

1 Pkg. (4-serving size) Jell-O Vanilla Pudding & Pie Filling

1/2 Cup Firmly Packed Brown Sugar

1 Pkg. (2-layer size) Yellow Cake Mix (do not use pudding included type cake mix)

1 Pkg. (4-serving size) Jell-O Vanilla INSTANT Pudding & Pie Filling

4 Eggs

1 Cup Water

1/4 Cup Vegetable or Peanut Oil

Combine zucchini, regular pudding mix, and brown sugar in bowl. Fill bottoms of cupcake sections with mixture.

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Combine cake mix, INSTANT pudding, eggs, water and oil in large mixing bowl. Blend and then beat at medium speed of electric mixer for 4 minutes. Pour batter over zucchini mixture in pan being careful cake mixture covers zucchini well.

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Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean and cupcakes begin to pull away from sides of pan.

Cool in pan 5 minutes. Invert onto cookie sheet and let stand 1 minute; then remove carefully from pan. They are going to stick. You will probably have to loosen them by running a knife around the edges first, but even then, they will stick.

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Also, the zucchini will stick to the pan — without fail.

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Remove the zucchini carefully from the pan and basically frost the tops of the cupcakes with it, glazing well.

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Note: To make this the traditional Glazed Pineapple Upside Down Cake, use a 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple in place of the zucchini and bake in a 13 x 9 pan for 55 to 60 minutes.

I made these the day after I made my first batch of shredded zucchini faux pineapple and could hardly wait to share them. My parents just happened to stop by that day — what luck. I told them I had something I wanted them to try, but I wasn’t going to tell them what it was. I gave them each a cupcake on a plate with a fork. Immediately my mother asked, “What’s that green stuff?”

She has never been very adventuresome when it comes to trying new food, so I suppose I shouldn’t have expected anything else. My father on the other hand dove right in. Again, before even swallowing he blurted out, “Wow, this tastes just like pineapple upside down cake.”

My mother immediately popped a bite into her mouth and nodded in agreement. Then I told them what the “green stuff” was. Neither of them could believe it, but my father right away asked if he could have a jar of my faux pineapple so they could take it home.

Everyone I’ve shared these cupcakes with I’ve refused to tell what the “green stuff” was until after they’ve tried it. I’m not sure if knowing it’s zucchini or not would influence their pallets, but I’m not taking a chance. We really like it and so far those who have tried it have too, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Note: There Suzanne, now you know what the “green stuff” on top of those cupcakes I gave you a while back was. Hope you enjoyed them.