Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Upside Down

My current baking obsession is the Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

I had never in my whole life contemplated baking such a thing, but when my coworker suddenly came to me with a request that I bake one for her husband for his birthday, the sight of her cash won me over. My baking philosophy is that if someone has baked it before, then I can do it too.

But of course, it has turned into a baking adventure. Researching recipes online, I regretted once again the decision not to bring my cast-iron skillet to New York. While it languishes in a Southern attic, I am being deprived of real cornbread, fried chicken, and other deliciousness. Luckily, my friend Peter happened to have the exact type of skillet I needed. Who knew? I went over to Peter's house after church on Sunday to get it, and almost got sucked into an afternoon of Arrested Development and eating boiled eggs with him and his delightful roommate Josh, but I resisted because I had a cake to make. So there I was on a sunny spring Sunday, walking through Harlem in my high-heels, bright orange patchwork skirt from the 70s, and makeup, with a big ol' cast iron skillet under my arm.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake isn't that hard to make. I will share the recipe soon, because I'm still trying to decide which version I like best. On Sunday, to practice, I tried a simple recipe with ordinary ingredients. However, there was one problem. I didn't have any pineapple! Luckily, just as I miraculously found a cast-iron skillet at a man's house (no offense, Peter, but I was surprised that none of my girl friends had one), my visiting teacher just happened to have a can of circle-sliced pineapple, perfect for my cake, and there was no need for me to break the Sabbath (phew! especially since E was really giving me a guilt-trip, just as I have given her in the past...).

As it turned out, my friend and neighbor Tam was having folks over for dessert and socializing, so after I made my cake, I took it, along with Peter, Josh, and E, over to the party where it was enjoyed to its fullest effect. The rate at which it disappeared gave me hope that I had followed a good recipe. However, tonight I decided to try a different, fancier version. Of course I had none of the ingredients, and neither did Whole Foods, so I had to make a trip to Pathmark in a rainy, windy lightning storm, and when I got home I realized I had forgotten two things. Luckily, E eats a lot of sour cream! So I was able to borrow some of hers, and as for the maraschino cherries--I'm just going to let that slide. However, next time I think I'm going to spend the big bucks and buy the almond flour instead of making it by chopping the almonds and crushing them with the rolling pin. It's not a quick process! And then, after everything was mixed, assembled, baking for half an hour, I suddenly realized with dread--I forgot the baking powder!

The lesson to learn is never bake something important after working a long hard day at work. I think my brain was fried, my body tired from rushing around in the rain, my mind elsewhere. Still, the cake didn't look too bad. I took it out of the oven, and sure--it could have risen a little more in the center, but it looks just like the first pineapple cake looked, even a little better. So I'm going with it. I'm taking it to work tomorrow and giving to Huni and she's probably never even had it before and her husband is old and won't notice, especially if she puts a nice big scoop of vanilla ice cream on it, that the cake is a little dense. We'll see...

And then I'm going to come home and make one for me, with baking powder in it. Third time's a charm, right?

1 comment:

Lis said...

Wow. I can't think of a cake I like less than this one, and all these people were gobbling it up and requesting it?

I love your story, though, and you are a baking queen, so there's that.