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


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


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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Strawberry Buckwheat Skillet Cake with Cacao Nibs

Strawberry and Buckwheat Skillet Cake

Sometimes cake is a many layered, multi-stepped affair and sometimes it's just a quick batter topped with fresh fruit and tossed in a skillet. I don't play favorites so I won't say that I prefer one over the other, but there is something to be said for simple "everyday cakes" like this one.

Strawberry Buckwheat Skillet Cake

I took one of my favorite culinary dream teams, buckwheat and fruit, and paired them in a fluffy buttermilk enriched batter with some cacao nibs for crunch. Then I baked it in my cast iron skillet because we (my skillet and I) are having a moment,  you see, it's seasoned to perfection and practically begging me to use it every chance I get. Feel free to bake this cake in a regular cake pan if that's what you have.

Strawberry Buckwheat Skillet Cake

The strawberries will probably sink to the bottom of the cake and that's okay! They'll bake up into little jammy pockets at the bottom of the cake. Serve for breakfast with a little maple syrup on the side if you are feeling fancy.

Strawberry Buckwheat Skillet Cake

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

yield, one 8'' or 9'' cake

2.25 ounces all purpose flour

2.25 ounces buckwheat flour

1/2t baking powder

1/2t baking soda

2 ounces softened butter

4.75 ounces sugar

1t vanilla extract

1 egg

5 ounces buttermilk

5 ounces sliced strawberries

.75 ounces cacao nibs

Preheat oven to 350º and grease and lightly flour an 8 or 9 inch cast iron skillet or cake pan

1. Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and half of the cacao nibs.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl, add in the egg and vanilla extract and mix until thoroughly combined.

3. Add in the flour, alternating with the buttermilk in three additions. Mix until combined, making sure to get down to the bottom of the bowl. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan, top with the sliced strawberries and sprinkle with the remaining cacao nibs.

4. Slide into the oven and bake until the edges are browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-22 minutes. Serve warm. This cake is best the day it's made, when the cake sits overnight the berries make it a bit soggy.

Strawberry Buckwheat Skillet Cake