Follow me as I dive into the world that is cooking! There will be mishaps, burns and feasts as you watch my progression from college-student fare (pizza rolls and ramen noodles) to (hopefully) goddess of the hearth! I am always open to new recipes and ideas, so feel free to contact me.

October 15, 2012

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Some awesome friends of ours invited us out to their  house for brisket this afternoon. How could we say no?! The guy had woken up at 5:30 this morning to prep and begin smoking this hunk of beef.  So good.  Naturally I asked if there was anything I could bring, and when I realized my friend had no dessert in line, I opted for that.

I don't know if you've ever had the experience of wandering around your kitchen, picking up random foods and asking the morsel, "how can I use you?" so as to avoid a trip to the store, but in just such a search I came across a ripened pineapple I had been meaning to devour this weekend. With my Cook's Illustrated book in hand (I LOVE Cook's Illustrated!) I threw together a tasty, slightly sweet end to an afternoon meal of meat and potatoes.

The Cook's Illustrated staff has perfected many recipes, including the fudgiest brownies I have ever experienced (don't worry, they will be here soon!).  They operate out of an amazing test kitchen that usually results in some pretty specific instructions to replicate the recipe, so when you read the instructions on this, know that it is detailed because it's awesome EXACTLY how they make it.  

The only change I would have made (yeah you like that contradiction?!) is added more pineapple-caramel juice.  I don't think the pineapple I had was big enough, or maybe I didn't let it sit long enough before allowing it to be devoured.  

Anyway, it was a hit and I barely had time to take a photo before there was only a tiny sliver left!  I had an avid pineapple upside-down cake fan at the house, and it was stamped with a mouthful of approval.  I really enjoyed the fact that this cake was not overly sweet and had a nice balance of soft, moist cake to fresh-baked caramelized pineapple goodness.  Note that this recipe uses no canned pineapple or cherries!  Be forewarned in case that's what you found in your pantry...

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

From Cook's Illustrated, Sept. and Oct. 2004
Printable Version

Makes:  one 9-inch cake, about 8 servings     Takes: about 1 1/2 hours (1 hour bake/cool time)

You Need:

Pineapple Topping:

  • 1 medium ripe pineapple (about 4 lbs), sliced into little 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 C prepared fruit)
  • 1 C (7 oz) packed light brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 C (7 1/2 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 3/4 C (5 1/4 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 egg white, room temperature
  • 1/3 C whole milk, room temperature

1.  Make sure you take out the eggs and milk to sit at room temp.  Lightly spray a 9-inch round, at least 2-inch deep cake pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
2.  TOPPING:  Combine pineapple and brown sugar in a 10-inch skillet; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally during the first 5 minutes, then let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until pineapple is translucent and has a light brown hue.  Empty fruit and juices into a mesh strainer or colander over a medium bowl.  Return the juices to the skillet and leave the pineapple in the strainer over the bowl.  
3.  Simmer juices over medium heat until thickened and starting to darken with large bubbles, 6 to 8 minutes.  Add any more of the juices the fruit has left after about 4 minutes.  Remove skillet from heat and whisk/stir in butter and vanilla; pour caramel mixture into the cake pan.  Set aside and prepare cake.  Don't add any more juice from fruit after you mix in the butter and vanilla!
caramelized juices with butter and vanilla

4.  CAKE:  Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.  Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
5.  In a stand mixer with the flat beater, cream butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.  Reduce speed to medium and add vanilla; beat to combine.  Add whole eggs one at a time then egg white, beating well and scraping the bowl as needed.  Reduce speed to low; add about one-third of the flour mix and beat until incorporated.  Add half of milk and beat until incorporated; add half of remaining flour mix and remaining milk, then finish with remaining flour.  Give a final stir with a rubber spatula, scraping bottom and sides of bowl to ensure the batter is combined.  Batter will be thick.
6.  BAKE:  Working quickly, distribute cooked pineapple in cake pan in even layer, gently pressing fruit into caramel.  Using rubber spatula, drop mounds of batter over fruit, then spread it over fruit and to sides of pan.  Tap pan lightly against the work surface to release any air bubbles.  Bake until cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack, then place inverted serving platter over cake pan.  Flip cake pan and platter together, lift off cake pan.  Cool at room temperature, about 2 hours*; cut into pieces and serve.

*You seriously don't have to wait that long to eat this.  I served it about an hour after it was finished and it was delicious.  Maybe that's why the juices hadn't soaked all the way through though... if you cool it that long let me know how it turns out!

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