The Sunday before my father died, I baked an orange sour cream cake. I got the recipe from Donna Hay. The beautiful photographs of impossibly beautiful food prepared with the most beautiful ingredients inspired me to make it. My cake didn’t turn out quite as beautifully as the photograph in the magazine, but it tasted fabulous nonetheless.
Shortly after my father died, I baked a chocolate sour cream cake. The recipe came from Donna Hay. The almond flour, while sounding perfectly wonderful as a British secret, didn’t actually work. The cake came out heavy and dry. So I started again, this time with a different recipe and a homemade chocolate sour cream topping. Decadent.
After my grandmother died, I baked yet another chocolate cake. The chocolate cake nearly reached perfection, but I continued to tinker each day with the hot, melted chocolate topping. My pregnant wife licking the spoon would give a nod and say that I needed to keep on trying so that she could keep having cake.
Later, after my twin boys were born, I made a plum cake. Enough with the chocolate. It was time celebrate birth. Making cakes has helped me through the grieving process. Not just eating it. Buying a cake at the store and eating doesn’t count. For me, eating a cake to face tough situations needs to include the creative process of making it. The search for the right recipe, reflecting on its qualities and shopping for the ingredients (or looking in the fridge for them), all help me engage with life.
Even better, I enjoy sharing a slice of cake that I made with someone and seeing their face light up.
I haven’t been a fan of those cakes with buttercream frosting since I was a kid. You know, those sugary cakes loaded with Red #40 and Blue #2 that you get at Safeway? When I show up at event like a birthday party, I can usually resist the temptation to put a piece of glowing white cake with neon red letters on it into my mouth. When I don’t resist the temptation, I’m almost always sorry.
In fact, I’m usually so put off by the ubiquitous buttercream cakes that for years I have preferred pies. Last year was the first year that I made a cake at home. I devised an original recipe and made a plum cake with buttermilk. It’s great as dessert fresh out of the oven but it’s also good the next day, reheated, for breakfast with a cup of coffee.
While I lived in the Philippines a dear British family, the Aldersons, invited me to duck pin bowling every Tuesday. Afterwards, the roast pork. And cake. The cakes had a firm but light mouthfeel. They gave easily to the teeth but didn’t have that spongy cake quality that American cakes all too often have. The cakes never had buttercream frosting. Their filipina cook made currant cake, pineapple upside down cake and other cakes with fruit. Have your cake and eat a pie too. Yes!
Last week I bought a pineapple. The green fronds poking out of the top. Warm yellow skin. Who wouldn’t want to bring it home? I had planned to make a pineapple topped pizza. Didn’t happen. Pineapple salsa. That didn’t happen either. Rough week. Bad news. Nagging cold. But temperate weather. Time to bake a cake. So after looking up several different recipes for pineapple upside down cake, I decided to make my own version. I cut the amount of butter by a third, cut the amount of sugar by a quarter of most recipes, added a little whole wheat flour and just a touch of almond flour. Tastes fabulous. Would you like a slice?
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
1/2 medium pineapple, peeled and cored
1/2 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
4 Tablespoons almond flour
1 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon dark rum
3/4 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt butter in a pan. While the butter is melting add brown sugar in order to make a roux like mixture. Add the rum once the sugar has melted in with the butter. Take off the burner. Pour sugar and butter mixture into cake pan. Put pineapple on top.
Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy. Mix the dry ingredients together: flours, cardamom, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs and mix well. Add remaining wet ingredients.
Spread batter over the pineapple mixture. Bake cake for about 45 minutes.
Put a plate over the pan and invert cake onto plate. Sneak eat the pineapple stuck to bottom of cake pan.
Serve slightly warm.