Monday, January 21, 2008

"Birthday Cakes - Recipes and Memories from Celebrated Bakers" - Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Date I made this recipe: January 19, 2008

Birthday Cakes – Recipes and Memories from Celebrated Bakers by Kathryn Kleinman
Published by: Chronicle Books
ISBN: 0-8118-4019-0
Recipe: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake – p. 102-103

January is birthday month around here. On Tuesday of this week, one of my best friends celebrated her 50th birthday. She’s the first one in our group to turn 50 and although I thought for sure she’d catch on to the party some of us planned for her that day, she was truly speechless when she walked in a local restaurant to see some of her oldest and dearest friends. One of the gang ordered a most delicious cake - yellow cake with raspberry filling and chocolate icing - to be served for dessert. Yum!

Then on Wednesday, my mother-in-law turned the big 8-0. She celebrated by flying to California to visit my sister-in-law (just as the weather got a little nippy...and our furnace went out...). When she came back, we invited her and a family friend over for dinner and I made this cake.

My parents, bless their hearts celebrate their birthdays the week of the 21st. Dad, who will be 84 on the 24th, is followed closely by mom, who will be 82 on the 25th. They live in Michigan and so we won’t be celebrating together but I think they would have enjoyed this cake as it is nice and light and contains yummy pineapple. And let’s face it fruit makes every cake healthy, right? (By the way, this recipe was submitted for this cookbook by restaurateur and cookbook author, Cindy Pawlcyn who made this cake for Chuck Williams’ (he of Williams Sonoma fame) 80th birthday. If it was good enough for Chuck, it was good enough for my mother-in-law, Ruth!)

You should know that this recipe calls for the cake to be baked in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet and we do not have one so we had to substitute. Had I been at my parent’s, I could have used any number of their well-seasoned skillets but such was not the case. So instead of the skillet, we used a glass baking pan that was slightly smaller than a 9x13 cake pan and it worked out fine. Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have known what to substitute, but my husband, the math whiz, did and so all was well with the world.

This recipe makes a lot of cake and my mother-in-law is continuing to enjoy her cake as we sent her off with a big plateful. If you can’t pig out on cake on your 80th birthday, when can you?

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake – serves 12 generously

For the topping:
1 small ripe pineapple (3 ½ to 4 pounds)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup pitted fresh or brandied cherries, halved or pecan halves (I used canned and threw in a couple of drops of brandy!)

For the batter:
3 ¾ cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 ½ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups milk
1/3 cup dark rum

Whipped cream or ice cream (optional)

Place an oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350.

To make the topping: Slice off the top and bottom of the pineapple so you have a stable base. Place the pineapple on end and use a large knife to cut down the side, removing the skin. Use a paring knife to cut out the “eyes.” (Or, do as I did and buy the thing all ready to roll.) Cut the pineapple lengthwise into 4 wedges and cut out the core. Slice the wedges into 3/8-inch-thick slices and set aside.

In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat, then sprinkle in the brown sugar. Cook just until the mixture begins to bubble, then remove from heat. The mixture will continue to cook, so take care not to overcook it. Arrange the pineapple slices in tightly spaced concentric circles in the pan. Tuck the cherries or pecans into the spaces between the pineapple slices. Set aside.

To make the batter: Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together onto a sheet of waxed paper. Note: you will need to sift enough flour for the 3 ¾ cups called for in the recipe and then sift it again with the baking powder and salt. I sifted my ingredients into a bowl as that seemed to be a lot easier than to deal with waxed paper.

In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, or in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the vanilla. Combine the milk and rum in a large measuring cup. Add the dry ingredients and milk mixture alternately in small increments, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir or mix on low speed until blended. If using a mixer, remove the paddle and scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and stir to blend the batter evenly.

Pour the batter over the fruit in the pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula. The pan will be quite full and some of the liquid may peek out at the edges. Place the pan on the upper rack, and place a baking sheet lined with parchment paper on a lower rack to catch any drips. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the cake is springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 3 minutes, then invert onto a large cake plate. Use a spatula to remove any caramel or fruit in the pan.

Serve warm, with whipped cream or ice cream.

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