A Tale of Two Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes
I love sweets, but I love being lazy just a little bit more. It takes a lot for me to don an apron and clean the spiders out of my mixing bowls.
It takes the memory of pineapple upside-down cake.
Now, this is one of the many foods that seem to be ubiquitous across the country - but hardly exist in California. Food culture has changed in the last decade, of course, but things like chili, deviled eggs, casseroles, grilled steaks, sweet tea - we've heard of these things, but they're not really a thing.
Don't judge! Did you grow up eating sushi and pho and tacos al pastor? Because *that* we got covered.
I don't even know where I could get a pineapple upside-down cake in Orange County. A $13 deconstructed irony-filled portion of something called "Not 'Yer Grandmam's PUC" which arrives on an apron with essence of pineapple foam, artisanal cherries, hand-ground cake flour - with a syringe of cherry coulis and a tiny salt cellar of brown sugar - that I could probably get. But traditional pineapple upside down cake is so old-school that unless you have a grandmother in Ames, Iowa, I think you're on your own. At least, I'm on my own, because I'm determined to do this.
Homemade Pineapple Cake is a Revelation
- 1/2 c butter + 2 tbsp melted butter
- 1c brown sugar
- 1 can (20oz) sliced pineapple
- jar maraschino cherries
- 2 tbsp + 1 tbsp whiskey
- 1 tsp + 1 tsp almond extract
- 1c sifted cake flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 4 eggs
- 1c powdered sugar
- reheat oven to 325. Melt 1/2 c butter on stovetop in heavy 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Sprinkle brown sugar over butter evenly and sprinkle 1-2 tsp of pineapple juice from can to wet sugar. Remove skillet from heat.
- Add 2 tbsp whiskey and 1 tsp almond extract to skillet sugar bed. Place pineapple slices in rings on skillet and center with maraschino cherries. Set aside.
- In bowl, mix dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt.
- Separate egg white and yolks into two separate bowls.
- Using a mixer, whip egg whites to soft peaks and add powdered sugar gradually until stiff peaks form. Using a mixer, beat the egg yolks until thick and dark yellow.
- Gently fold flour and egg yolks into egg white mixture - the egg white forms the protein structure that gives the cake it's springiness so not too rough!
- Mix melted butter with 1 tsp almond extract and 1 tbsp whiskey. Fold into batter.
- Add extra butter to skillet sides for crispier edges, if desired. Then evenly pour batter over brown sugar skillet.
- Cook 35-40 minutes in oven, until edges are light golden and center is springy.
Semi-Homemade Pineapple Cake is an Abomination
Okay, so the super-involved homemade version is amazing. The smell, the texture, the crust - perfect. So now it's time to find the cheaty easy version. Sometimes, the semi-homemade is already perfectly mixed and difficult to improve on - so I was so, so excited when I saw hundreds of glowing reviews for Duncan Hines Pineapple Supreme Mix.
After spending an hour making this cake, I once again found myself shaking my head at the Internet. Who are you people? Who are you people who love this mix?
I planned to include the highly-reviewed recipe for using this Duncan Hines Pineapple Supreme Mix in a pineapple upside-down cake, but it's basically a simplified version of above, minus the egg structuring. It's the same pineapple-cherry ring, then the mix poured over it.
It's foul. The first bite was redolent of top notes of "Wet Shar-pei" - it's a very distinctive smell, when the rain makes its way into those folds, mixing up whatever those folds have been hiding.
The second note was "Hair of Strawberry Shortcake Doll" - was there a Pineapple Girl in the Strawberry Shortcake family? It's that plastic-y, too sweet, phony smell.
Finally, there is an intense aftertaste of "artificial banana extract." After the first bite, I could not get the taste off my tongue. I drank water. I physically wiped my tongue off with a towel. What is in this stuff?
To be fair, it was very moist and very sweet, but that doesn't make something delicious. Are "sweet" and "moist" in such short supply in America that they are the primary criteria for "yummy?"
This can't be good for children, not just in terms of chemically-engineered foods but to grow up with a palette calibrated to this garbage? I eat cake to feel less depressed but this cake threw me into a Bummer Spiral.
I don't think John Adams would have gone through the trouble if he knew we'd be eating this. It's pretty, though.