The saying “Tastes like Sunshine” has to be one of the most clichéd terms in the food writing and TV world and its pretty damn stupid. What does sunshine taste like anyways? Maybe I’ll ask the next food critic who puts it in their review of a restaurant and its cooking. So, I’ll avoid saying it but I’ll admit that this was the first thing that came to mind when I unmolded this fragrant cake out of its baking pan. Sunshine. It sure looks like sunshine.
It’s also a bit of a cliché to state that this is the ultimate example of its kind. However, in my opinion, it sure is. I have never tasted a better pineapple upside down cake. It’s not too sweet, has none of those shitty fake-tasting “Maraschino” cherries and just brims with the flavors of ripe fresh pineapple, a hint of rum and soft vanilla cake. It really amazed me how good it turned out, especially since making it was sort of an afterthought. I had a pineapple and needed some dessert for a dinner of pork chops and bbq chicken and I remembered seeing it in Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home book (that book has never disappointed yet). It came together in no time. Keller proves that to make the best pineapple cake all you need is fresh fruit and a handful of pantry staples. Canned sugary fruit be damned.
I first cut up the pineapple into wedges about a 1/4 inch thick and maybe 2 inches wide. Then I made a “shmear” from brown sugar, butter and rum. That gets spread in the bottom of a cake pan in an even layer with a sprinkling of salt. The pineapple pieces get shingled on top of the “shmear”. The cake portion is a straight forward vanilla cake made by creaming butter and sugar then adding eggs and flour. That gets spread on top of the fruit (I sprayed the pan with a little “Pam for Baking” before adding the batter since I was not using a silicone pan) and the pan gets baked (and smells great) until the cake is firm and light brown. After it rests for 20 minutes or so, you turn it over on a cake stand or plate and there it is: the most amazing Pineapple Upside Down Cake ever. It went so well with both kids and adults, that I barely was able to sneak a slice and save it for myself to taste it.