Friday, June 20, 2008
Since all was akimbo for my birthday this year, I made a pineapple upside-down cake (above) as this year's birthday cake. SJG thought it quite odd to stray from my favorites: white cake with coconut frosting or an almond cream cake, with its luscious whipping cream base. But I wasn't in the mood for the traditional thing, and since I hadn't made this cake for years and years, it seemed fun to do.
As these things go, we didn't even eat the cake on my birthday. Our neighbor and friend, Peter, announced Plan C shortly after I posted the Plan B blog entry below. Feeling sorry that my birthday plans had gone amuck, Peter treated SJG and me to birthday burger and beer at a trendy neighborhood eatery. There, for dessert, they served us an on-the-house slice of red velvet chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting--complete with a sparkler candle. After that, too full for even one more bite, we waited until the next evening to eat the upside-down cake, which my cake-baking friend in Chicago reports is included in his latest favorite cookbook, Birthday Cakes, by Kathryn Kleinman and Carolyn Miller. This gorgeous cookbook (published in 2004) is devoted entirely to birthday cakes and pulls recipes from great chefs such as Julia Child, James Beard, Alice Waters, Patricia Wells, and others. Who knew I was among such good company?
Here's my recipe for upside-down cake. It comes from my mother's recipe box and is written out on a yellow index file card in her handwriting and mine, complete with cake batter stains. Feel free to substitute other fruit toppings if you don't like pineapple. Halved plums, apricots, or figs work well, for example.
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup white sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature, + 2 tablespoons butter
2 separated eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup brown sugar
1 can sliced pineapple (about 8 rings)
1. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. In a separate big bowl, cream together the white sugar and the stick of butter.
3. Separate the eggs, putting the yolks directly into the creamed butter
mixture. Put the whites in a separate bowl to whip later.
4. Measure the milk and add the vanilla to it.
5. Add the milk and flour alternately to the creamed butter mixture.
6. Beat the egg whites to the soft peak stage. Fold gently into the cake batter.
7. Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a lightweight, oven-worthy frying pan. (I use
a Farberware skillet.) Add the brown sugar and spread it out as evenly as
possible over the bottom of the pan.
8. Drain the pineapple rings and place them in a circular pattern, as pictured above,
on top of the brown sugar.
9. Spoon the cake batter on top of the pineapple.
Bake the cake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees until the cake is nicely browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
When done, immediately turn the cake onto a large, round plate or platter. (To do so, place the plate over the top of the skillet and, using hot pads, quickly flip the skillet and the plate together so that the plate ends up on the bottom and the cake can drop out of the skillet.) Don't remove the skillet for a few minutes, so as to allow the cake to slide out smoothly on its own.
This cake is best served the same day when still slightly warm.