In my books, pineapple is tops. But before you pop the lid on that can of sad, faded rings masquerading as pineapple, consider shelling out a bit more for the intensely sweet tang and brilliant golden flesh of the real thing.
How do you know if you've picked a winner? Some people go on looks alone, seeking out the darkest orange exterior they can find. That is, like, so shallow. I prefer letting my nose lead me to a ripe specimen. That pineapple can be as orange as a sunset, but if it's not smelling nectar sweet, then it isn't coming home with me.
Living in France, I rarely have the luxury of picking my own fruits and veggies and am often forced to rely on the goodwill of the market vendors. But I picked a good one (vendor, I mean) on Tuesday morning, when I emerged from the nearby Belleville market 1 euro poorer but 2 pineapples richer. (The sign read "Ananas - 1 euro", but a moment's hesitation earned me the second at no extra charge!)
I've long held the belief that pineapple is best enjoyed fresh and unadorned, but the prospect of two pineapples already in their prime was too daunting even for me. Excuse the pun, but the time was ripe for a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.
Pineapple Downside-Up Cake, as I prefer to call it, involves baking pineapple slices into a sweet caramel syrup under a moist vanilla cake. But that pineapple plays second fiddle to no one, least of all a vanilla cake. Ever the showman, he reclaims the limelight in full caramelized glory when the slightly cooled cake is inverted onto a serving platter.
This cake is making me seriously reconsider my bias against baking with fresh pineapple. If you only ever bake one recipe from this blog, make it this one.
Pineapple Downside-Up Cake
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup pineapple juice (I used 1/4 cup fresh pineapple juice and 1/4 cup orange juice)
2 cups white sugar (I used 1 cup white sugar, 1 cup cassonade)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter
Peel, core and slice your pineapple into 1/2-inch-ish rings, semi-circles or chunks, as you wish. Put the sliced pineapple in a colander, set over a bowl, to gather the pineapple juice. If the pineapple is particularly juicy, you may want to place a small, clean weight of some sort on top of fruit to encourage more of the juice to drain away.
Next, prepare the caramel. Combine the white sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Boil until the syrup becomes amber in colour (about 10 minutes). Add the butter and swirl the pan or stir to incorporate. Remove from heat and pour the hot caramel into a non-stick (or greased) 10-inch round or square pan. Arrange pineapple slices to the best of your artistic ability in the caramel. Set aside while you prepare the cake batter.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar, followed by the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla and mix.
Add half of the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Add the pineapple/orange juice and, again, mix just until combined. Add the last half of the flour mixture and -- you guessed it -- mix just until combined.
Spoon the batter carefully over the caramel and pineapples and spread evenly. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
Here comes the moment of truth. Firmly place a plate, topside down, on top of the cake. Say a quick prayer and flip, so that the plate is on the bottom and the pan is upside down on top. Carefully remove the pan and return any pineapple that may be stuck to the bottom to its rightful place on top of the cake. (Note: If when you remove your baked cake from the oven, it appears to be floating atop a glistening pool of disturbingly liquid caramel, do not be alarmed but prepare accordingly. I covered the cake pan with an oversize piece of aluminum foil and folded the flaps down against the 4 sides of the pan. Then I inverted the pan and placed it on a large cutting board. This way, all of the caramel ran off the cake and pooled in the foil trenches around the sides. From there, it's up to you. I grabbed a spoon.)
Serve warm or at room temperature, but store in the fridge.
Notes: Be sure to boil the syrup for a full 10 minutes (or until amber in colour) and to sufficiently drain your pineapple in order to avoid the aluminum foil debacle I described above. You'll know you were successful if the caramel begins to firm up around the pineapple slices while you're preparing the cake batter. If you find the caramel is still runny, I recommend forging ahead anyways, as I did, and dealing with the drippy (but tasty!) consequences later. Although I would have preferred to bake a thicker cake to better offset the sweetness of the caramelized pineapple, I couldn't justify making an even bigger cake for just the two of us.
Sources: The recipe was adapted from recipes posted on Smitten Kitchen and Simply Recipes.
Labels: Cakes and cupcakes