I am not a stuff person by any means. I have no problem letting things go, I don’t worry when dishes break or clothes get stained, but I do have a prized cookbook that I would be very sad to see anything happen to - The Last Course by Claudia Fleming. Every time I think I have a new and original idea, it turns out Claudia Fleming already had it – pre 2001. It’s truly a shame that the book is out of print, copies sell for hundreds of dollars on Amazon and ebay. Every pastry chef I know treasures their copy. The Last Course is also the book that made me fall in love with pineapple of all things. Caramelized with pink peppercorns, bay and vanilla and served with vanilla ice cream – pineapple is a magical thing.
I have been dreaming of a pineapple upside down cake with those amazing flavors and getting Erin McDowell’s Fearless Baker was just the inspiration I needed to actually do it. I riffed on her upside down cake recipe a bit here, ok I riffed a lot. Her version includes graham flour (yum!) and is topped with tomato jam (hello!), but I did take her general proportions and the addition of crème fraiche in the batter (yum again!). I don’t think she will mind.
Pineapple Upside down Cake
Very loosely adapted from Fearless Baker By Erin McDowell
Makes one 9-inch cake
4 tablespoons (55g) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (110g) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons rum
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
1/2 vanilla bean, split
1 bay leaf
2 cups sliced pineapple (fresh or canned – you do you)
1 cup (220g) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (110g) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (260g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/3 cups (320g) crème fraîche
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Heat oven to 350° F.
Melt the butter and brown sugar together in a 10-inch (or deep 9-inch) cast iron skillet set over medium heat. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and combined. Add the rum, peppercorns, vanilla bean, bay leaf, and a pinch of salt.
Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the pineapple and cook for a few minutes turning the pineapple over in the sauce occasionally until the pineapple begins to soften and release its juices. Off of the heat, use a slotted spoon to remove the pineapple from the pan into a separate bowl or plate, then carefully remove the pink peppercorns from the sauce – I know this is fussy, but you gotta do it unless you want to pick peppercorns out of your teeth. Add the pineapple back to the pan in an even layer - if you have extra pineapple (lucky) just eat it :) Set the pan on a baking sheet, and brush the sides of the pan with a bit of butter.
To make the cake, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and crème fraiche and mix to combine.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to combine. Fold the flour into the wet ingredients then pour the batter over the fruit and spread into an even layer.
Bake the cake on the baking sheet until a toothpick inserted inserted into the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes, then run a spatula around the outside of the cake and invert the cake onto a cooling rack. Cool completely and remove the bay leaf and vanilla bean pod before slicing and serving.