Pineapple Upside Down Cake

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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

Topping

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)

pinch salt

Cake

1 cup (220g) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar

1/2 cup (110g) light brown sugar

2 eggs

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. 

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Light and Fluffy Coconut Cake

light and fluffy coconut cake | apt. 2b baking co.

I don’t always share the recipes from my Food52 column, Project Dessert, here but my post from a few weeks ago is too good not to share again! This light and fluffy coconut cake is one of the best I’ve ever had, and it totally reignited my love for chiffon cakes which are such a great base for all sorts of flavors. I admit that I am late to loving coconut. I used to find the flavor overpowering in an “Am I eating sunscreen?” kind of way, but over time, I have learned to love it in its many forms.

light and fluffy coconut cake | apt 2b baking co.
light and fluffy coconut cake | apt 2b baking co.

I especially like thick, flaked coconut, which adds a little drama and a lot of delicious crispiness to the outside of this cake, which is made from light, sponge cake layers soaked in coconut rum syrup, and topped with Swiss buttercream. The whole thing is soft and squishy in the most comforting way.

In the taxonomy of sponge cakes, this one falls somewhere between a chiffon cake and a Génoise because it uses whole eggs and oil, but no chemical leavener. Instead, its lift comes only from the air incorporated when whole eggs are whipped with sugar.

I have a personal aversion to folding egg whites into cake batter, so unlike most sponge cakes, this method calls for whipping whole, room temperature eggs along with sugar (rather than separating the eggs, then folding the whipped egg whites in at the end)—and to great effect.

light and fluffy coconut cake | apt 2b baking co.

If you have a stand mixer, add the sugar, eggs, and extract to the bowl, crank it up, and walk away for a few minutes. After about 7 minutes of whipping, the mixture will grow so much it will threaten to fly right out of the bowl—that’s when you know it is ready.

If you have a 4 1/2-quart mixer, you may need to transfer the egg mixture into your biggest mixing bowl before folding in the flour. It’s always best to use a big, wide bowl when folding ingredients together to lower your chances of deflating the batter too much.

Putting this cake together is super forgiving because it will eventually be covered in toasty flaked coconut, so you don’t have to worry too much about your frosting technique. Just make sure there is a nice, even-ish coating of frosting all around the sides and cover all of your “mistakes” with crisp coconut.

light and fluffy coconut cake | apt. 2b baking co.

Light and Fluffy Coconut Cake

Makes one 8 or 9-inch, 4-layer cake

An ethereally light cake soaked with coconut and rum syrup, filled with Swiss buttercream, and coated with a generous amount of crisp and nutty toasted coconut flakes. Use 8-inch pans for an impressively tall cake: A 9-inch cake will be just as nice, but a bit shorter in stature. Adapted from Tyler Florence's Towering Coconut Layer Cake.

Cake

10 large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup grapeseed oil

1 3/4 cups cake flour, sirfted

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Syrup

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons rum

1/3 cup shredded or flaked coconut

Buttercream

5 egg whites

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 pound unsalted butter, soft but cool

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)

2 1/2 cups flaked coconut, toasted

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter four 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans. Line the pans with parchment rounds, then butter and flour the pans and paper.

In a stand mixer, combine the 10 whole eggs, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract. Beat on high until the mixture nearly triples in volume, 7 to 10 minutes. Note: This filled the bowl of my kitchen aid mixer, nearly to the top.

With the mixer on, slowly stream in the oil until well mixed. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and salt together.

Gently fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture until well mixed. (You may need to transfer the egg mixture to a large mixing bowl to do this, and it’s always best to use a big, wide bowl when folding ingredients together to lower your chances of deflating the batter too much.)

Divide the batter between the pans and tap them lightly on the counter to remove any large bubbles. Bake the cakes until they are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the cakes cool in their pans, on a rack, until cool to the touch, then turn them out onto the rack, and remove the parchment. Let cool completely.

For the syrup: Combine the water and 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves then stir in the rum and shredded coconut. Let the mixture cool completely before using.

For the buttercream: Combine the egg whites and 1 1/4 cups sugar in a glass or stainless steel bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk the mixture constantly until the sugar dissolves and is hot to the touch. Remove from the heat and whip on high speed until light and fluffy and the meringue has cooled to room temperature.

Turn the mixer down to medium and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until all of the butter is incorporated. If the buttercream curdles at any point, turn the mixer up to high and whip until it emulsifies. Add the extracts and a pinch of salt.

To assemble: Place one cake layer on a serving plate or pedestal. Brush with the syrup and scatter 1/3 of the syrup-moistened coconut over the top. Spread with about 1 cup of frosting, repeat with two more cake layers, then top with the final layer. Spread the remaining frosting over the cake, smooth the top and press the toasted coconut flakes into the sides.