Recipe: Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Contributor Lisa Fielding is a private chef and boutique caterer based in Manhattan who weekends in Litchfield County whenever possible. Many of her Manhattan clients are also Litchfield County weekenders, so work brings her to Northwest Connecticut as well. A Los Angeles transplant, Fielding was a former Hollywood film executive who segued into screenwriting several years ago, which enabled her to pursue her passion for food and entertaining. Lisa’s culinary skill set draws from a broad spectrum of dishes and ingredients.
When was the last time you made a pineapple upside down cake? Some of you may answer, “never” while many will agree it’s too far back to remember. I confess that the last time I made a pineapple down cake was in my childhood and I am quite sure it relied on cake mix, canned pineapple and maraschino cherries for “color,” as my mom would often suggest.
The idea came to me recently as I carved a fresh pineapple and exalted in the ridiculously delicious fruit. I make apple tart tatin on a regular basis so I thought, why does its American cousin get such a bad rap as an outdated dessert banished from the dessert menu? They are essentially the same concept: caramelized fruit encrusted with pastry, baked in a cast iron skillet (essential) and dramatically flipped, revealing a beautiful geometric cluster of fruit on top and pastry beneath. Plated with a dollop of whipped cream, few desserts are so deeply satisfying. So I set out to make an updated version of pineapple upside down cake with fresh fruit and a flavorful cake.
The result was perfect and I was so pleased with the recipe that it’s been added to my favorite dessert recipes. The key to the recipe was the addition of freshly ground cardamom. It gave the cake an exotic flavor I had never experienced before. In fact, even without the pineapple component, this cake is so heavenly, it stands alone as wonderful companion to an afternoon tea or Sunday brunch. So find your mortar and pestle and go the extra step of grinding your own cardamom seeds (just don’t forget to separate the shells from the spice). And don’t forget to whip some fresh cream to go on top. No insult to Betty Crocker, but her cake never tasted or looked this good.
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
1/2 medium pineapple, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cored
3/4 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon dark rum
1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
A well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Make topping: Cut pineapple crosswise into 3/8-inch-thick pieces. Melt butter in skillet. Add brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Arrange pineapple on top of sugar mixture in concentric circles, overlapping pieces slightly.
Make batter: Sift together flour, cardamom, baking powder, and salt. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in granulated sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and rum. Add half of flour mixture and beat on low speed just until blended. Beat in pineapple juice, then add remaining flour mixture, beating until batter is smooth and ribbony.
Spoon batter over pineapple topping and spread evenly. Bake cake in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cake stand in skillet 5 minutes. Invert a plate over skillet and drop cake onto plate (keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together).
Serve cake just warm or at room temperature with freshly whipped cream.