pineapple upside-down cake

“A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.”
-Tenneva Jordan

Mother’s Day is always somewhat of a blur; I mean, spending the 2 weeks leading up to the weekend with nothing but caffeine running through one’s veins and a mountain of books strewn across every flat surface in an attempt to teach oneself a semester’s worth of financial math is enough to leave one feeling exhausted and irritable, let alone in the right state of my mind to remember such an event even happens.

But this year is this last year my grandmother will be spending with us here in the States, so mom wanted to make it special.

And, since she’s my mum and all, I figured the least I could do was help a bit.

It was nothing terribly fancy; just a big brunch at our place with the four of us, and my aunt and uncle and cousins came by as well. Mom did the cooking – some [incredible] Pakistani food she knew my grandmother would enjoy – and I the baking and dessert – a few batches of buttermilk scones, shir berenj, and a simple, classic pineapple upside-down cake.

Nine people, ten dishes, and a small get-together to celebrate the women in our lives.

[Plus, a lovely way to get back some of the energy finals drained out of me.]

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home.

Ingredients:

For the pan schmear, you’ll need:

  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dark rum [substitute with rum extract if desired]
  • vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

For the cake, you’ll need:

  • 1 pineapple, chopped into equal-sized pieces [alternately, 1 can of pineapple rings will do]
  • 1 1/3 cups cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp milk

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F and grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan [not a springform pan].

To prepare the schmear:

Beat the butter, honey, brown sugar, rum, and vanilla on medium speed until smooth and well-blended. Spread 1/3-1/2 cup of the schmear over the bottom of the prepared cake pan, and sprinkle lightly with salt. (The remaining schmear can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks or frozen up to 1 month).

Slice the pineapple (or drain from the can). Beginning at the perimeter of the pan, make an overlapping ring of pineapple slices with the curved side facing out. Make a second ring inside the first, overlapping the slices in the opposite direction. Work your way toward the center of the pan until bottom of the pan is covered. Set pan aside.

To prepare the cake:

Sift flour and baking powder and set aside. Beat butter and sugar and mix on low speed to combine, then medium speed for about 3 mins until light and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. Beat in the milk. Add the flour mixture in three batches, betting until just combined.

Gently pour the batter into the pan and spread over the pineapple. Bake for 15 mins, rotate the pan for an even browning, and bake for another 20-25 mins. Cool the cake in the pan atop a cooling rack for 20-30 mins. Invert the cake on a serving platter and serve warm.

 

The recipe actually comes from Thomas Keller’s wonderful Ad Hoc at Home, one of four cookbooks published in the spirit of The French Laundry. I’ve not yet had the opportunity to dine at TFL myself, but I’ve been a longtime fan of Mr. Keller and this particular cookbook [it is, needless to say, among the 80 sitting on the shelf]. I typically do not offer recipes that I’ve used directly from printed books, but this one has been floating about the web for a while now, so I felt it was alright to share with you.

Which is good news, to be sure, as the cake is wonderful. Light, soft, tangy, and deliciously buttery. The shmear is absolute perfection, and I much prefer it to the typical caramelization required in a pineapple upside-down cake.

I lack a 9-inch silicone pan and so went with a regular pan, and must include a word of caution: the shmear works better with the silicone. If you are going to be using a normal pan, be generous with buttering it up prior.

In any case, this one turned out just fine. But why pineapple upside-down cake? Well, easy.

Mum’s favorite.

I’m now back at the apartment, having left the ‘rents behind yesterday afternoon in order to get a bit of work-time in this week, and am very much enjoying the quiet. It’ll be a slow week, particularly since I’m here by myself for the time being, but one that I plan on spending with a few good books and a few good meals.

Although, I’m not sure any will match up to mum’s quality of cooking, but I’ve got tons of time still for her to teach me. And maybe next year, I’ll be the one cooking for Mother’s Day.

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