Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mom's Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Closeup of Pineapple, cherry, and pecan topping
Fabulously Retro Cake

Recipe from Mom’s Best Desserts

Among my earliest childhood memories are the wonderful desserts that my long-gone mother made.  It’s hard to find some of these recipes nowadays. How lucky I was to find Mom’s Best Desserts, a treasure trove of retro recipes, at the library. After bookmarking 30 pages, I realized that I knew the second author, Fran Raboff. A fantastic baker and chef, Fran used to bring me homemade treats years ago when she studied sculpture in the community college art department where I worked. “This is for you, not the students,” she would say. Knowing her dessert expertise, I immediately bought the book. This cake tastes just like my mom’s.

Batter being spooned over pineapple and cherries
Spooning Batter over Topping
Although Fran and co-author Andrea Chesman use a round skillet or pie pan, my mom used a square pan, which facilitates slicing. This is a flattish cake that’s all about the buttery-sugary pineapple topping. The recipe indicates that one serving equals one whole pineapple ring. Though that seems like a lot of cake, it’s tricky to slice the pineapple rings in half, and I noticed that most people who did so at a recent potluck went back for the second half. So I recommend following the authors’ advice. If you need to bake two cakes to accommodate everyone, bake two in succession rather than doubling the recipe.

A word about organic, natural canned pineapple: Although it seems like a great idea, the slices are inconsistent in thickness and circumference, and the holes are often off-center. That does not work for this cake. Instead, use the mass-produced, consistent product that has been around for generations. The authors recommend using only pecans or walnuts, not the usual maraschino cherries. However, since this cake is far from a health food, I recommend honoring tradition by placing the neon-red maraschinos in the center of each pineapple ring. Even in health-conscious Santa Cruz, potluck participants who cut the pineapple rings to make half-slices consistently took the cherries too.

Although this cake is plenty delicious without, my mom always served pineapple upside-down cake with whipped cream. I agree that its creaminess compliments the sweet topping. Given the topping’s high butter content, a canned light whipped cream is a good (and easy) alternative to hand-whipped heavy cream. Enjoy, and Happy Mothers’ Day!

Topping ingredients fit into Pan
How To Lay Down the Topping
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
serves 9

1 – 20 oz. can pineapple rings (reserve juice)
maraschino cherries (optional)
4 tbsp. butter
2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
12 – 21 pecan halves
1½ cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. salt
6 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup pineapple juice, reserved from pineapple
whipped cream, optional topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make topping:
Drain pineapple rings, reserving 2/3 cup of juice for cake.

Melt butter in 9-inch square pan placed in preheating oven (about 3 minutes, watch pan carefully). Remove from oven and distribute butter evenly in pan. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar and pat down lightly.  

Arrange 9 pineapple slices over brown sugar. Slice 5 maraschino cherries in half, blot dry with paper towel, and place upside-down in center of each pineapple ring. Fill in spaces between pineapple slices with upside-down pecans. You may use pecan halves in the middle of pineapple rings instead of cherries if you prefer. Set aside.

Make cake:
Sift together flour, baking powder, ginger, and salt in small mixing bowl. Set aside.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.

On low speed, mix in set-aside dry ingredients alternatively with pineapple juice, using 1/3 of each at a time, and scraping down bowl between additions. Just mix together until batter is smooth and blended, don’t over-mix.  Spoon batter over pineapple topping in pan and even out with spatula.

Bake and serve:
Bake for 40 – 45 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and set on cooling rack. Cool for 5 minutes. Loosen cake around edges with spatula, then invert onto serving platter. Serve warm or cooled, topped with whipped cream.

Whole Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Before the Potluck: One of Two Cakes
Two Semi-Mangled Pieces of Cake on Platter
After The Potluck: First Cake Gone, Second Almost Gone!

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