Summer is almost here, and we were treated to some unusually nice weather in Seattle last week. So nice that I was inspired to pick up some annual flower starts, clean out the flower beds, and finally get my tomato seeds going indoors. I love starting plants from seeds and watching them sprout and grow. My neighbors probably think I'm growing marijuana -- what with the bluish-white light radiating from my windows at odd hours and all -- but that's ok. In a few months my yard will sport a bounty of Black Krim tomatoes. Maybe I'll even share.
I'm not sure I can think of a more summery cake than pineapple upside-down cake. Everything about it screams sandals and sunshine to me. This recipe -- like pretty much all pineapple upside-down cake recipes -- yields a rather sweet cake. That's just what happens when you combine already-sweet pineapple with brown sugar. I prefer moderately sweet desserts, so I'm more than satisfied with a single slice of this cake. Except it's a really good cake -- the kind where you sneak a bite as you pass through the kitchen throughout the day. So, a single slice...plus those extra "I was just walking by..." bites.
I think the flavor of this cake is perfect. I've made it at least five times and it is always spot on. The topping is ridiculously good and the cake is thick, so next time I'd like to experiment with doubling the topping recipe and running a ribbon of that through the middle of the cake (meaning I would put half the topping into the pan, then half the batter, then the second half of the topping, and then the second half of the batter). But as is, the cake is pretty darn good, especially when served slightly warm with coffee or a cold glass of milk.
Note that you do not need the special Nordic Ware cake pan with the pineapple ring relief pattern on it to make this cake. I bought mine on clearance at Williams-Sonoma several years ago (ten, actually) and it is great, but not necessary. That pan is 9.5" in diameter with slightly tapered sides. You can substitute any similarly sized cake pan. Better yet, use a cast iron skillet if you have one and make the cake the traditional way.
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
A Williams-Sonoma recipe
7 fresh or canned drained pineapple slices (1/4-inch slices)
6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cake flour
1 1/8 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 Tablespoons dark rum (such as Myer's)
6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
7 canned cherries in syrup, drained
Have all the ingredients at room temperature. Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease a pineapple upside-down cake pan (or other 9-10" cake pan or cast iron skillet).
To make the topping:
Place the pineapple slices in the prepared pan, aligning them with the relief pattern. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar and heat until the butter melts. Stir to blend the ingredients, then spread the mixture over the pineapple slices. Set aside.
To make the cake:
In a medium-small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together the milk, vanilla, and rum. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture and beginning and ending with the flour. Beat each addition just until incorporated, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly. Bake until the center of the cake springs back when touched and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool upright in the pan for 15 minutes.
Tap the pan gently on a work surface to loosen the cake, invert the pan onto a cake plate and lift off the pan. Place 1 cherry in the center of each pineapple slice. Let the cake cool for 45 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.