Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Upside Down

My mother is pretty much the best mom ever. Now that I have a big kid AND a little baby in the house, I really don't know how she worked a (more than) full-time job, made all of our food at home from scratch, and took care of us with my dad working an hour away (ie, he got home late and left early).

Not only that, but when we went to people's houses, had meetings, etc (both of which seemed to have happened a lot - or at least that's how I remember things), she BAKED stuff to take.

There are two things in particular my mother used to bake. Both from her copy of The Joy of Cooking. Butterscotch Brownies, and Lightning or Whipped Tea Cake. Both recipes are only found in the form I know and love in the 1975 edition, and both are awesome. I highly encourage you to try them. They are dead simple and so tasty!

And forget about Christmas. We would make 3 - 5 different kind of cookies, decorate them all (just to put it in to perspective the last year we lived in the US and did this on a large scale, we were 10, 5 & 3 years old. And food coloring was involved. You do the math), package them (with ribbon!) and distribute them to friends, neighbors & colleagues.

While I always made me own cakes on my birthday (as soon as I was old enough to... which was pretty young. I don't remember when it was...), every year on my Dad's birthday she makes a Pineapple Upside Cake. And ohmygod it's the best thing ever.

I went through a phase of craving my mother's pineapple upside down cake. I have the 1946 edition of the book (blue cover) here with me (the 1997 edition I left in storage. It sucks) in NC, and so excitedly made the Pineapple Upside Cake.

It's probably a good thing I accidentally left the camper door open for less than a minute while I got something from the fridge outside said door.  The chickens swooped in and ate it (they respectfully left the pineapple rings on the plate). But it was obvious from the batter and the way it baked up that this was NOT my beloved cake.

I humbly asked my mom how hers was so good... and here it is folks. The secret to her amazing AMAZING cake.When she was here with me after the bebe was born and I FINALLY could manage to get out of bed - the craving for this cake kicked in. Full force. I made the cake.

The topping is a la the true recipe, and the cake part is the aforementioned Whipped Tea Cake. Whoa. Mind blown. Alas, it does not exist in any other edition that I have found, and so she scanned her recipe page and sent it to me:

Original page
I made the bottom cake portion true to the recipe - I happened to have cake flour on hand, and we needed to buy sugar anyway.  In Japan cake flour was not easy to come by, and we never had white sugar in the house. Only light brown (my mother does not pack her brown sugar when measuring. Ever.) My mother never had cake flour - and this recipe never suffered from substitutions.

It was exactly what I wanted needed, and was amazing.

Yesterday I craved it again. I didn'/t have any pineapple in the house, but I have a whole bunch of frozen fruit. I happened to have an open bag of cranberries, so used those. Awesome.

Soft cake. Crispy edges. Gooey nuts. Ohmygod.


RECIPE (PINEAPPLE VERSION)
Adapted from the Joy of Cooking

Topping:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup walnuts
8 slices of pineapple*

Cake:
1 3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup + 2 1/2 teaspoons milk**
1/2 cup room temp butter
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Make Topping:
  1.  Melt butter in a 9-inch (you know, the regular size) cast iron pan.
  2. Add sugar. Stir until all the sugar is wet. 
  3. Turn off heat.
  4. Mix in nuts
  5. Lay out the slices of pineapple in a ring with one slice in the middle on top of the topping.
Make Cake:
  1. Sift cake flour, salt & sugar into a bowl.
  2. Add eggs, milk & soft butter.
  3. Beat the hell out of it with a hand mixer. You're aiming for light and fluffy here.
  4. Fold in baking powder.
  5. Pour on top of pineapple & topping
  6. Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes, or until done. You don't want to overcook it - the sugar topping will burn
  7. Let cool - but only kinda.
  8. Flip the cake out onto a plate when the cake is cool, but the topping is still a bit warm. If you let it cool all the way down, you'll leave the topping behind in the pan.
  9. Hide somewhere alone and eat the whole damn thing.

Cranberry version:
I did the same as above but substituted one cup of cranberries (what was left of the bag) for the pineapple. If I were to do it again (and I will) I would do a whole bag (2 cups) of berries and add a dash of cinnamon. I did not adjust the sugar level - with the berries being frozen they stayed in their berry form and I liked the tart pops in the sweet topping. If you don't, you could always cook the berries a bit in ONLY the butter (until they burst) and then add the sugar. You don't want to cook the sugar as it'll get too hot when it bakes and you get grainy topping. It's ok if you're into that sort of thing. I like it gooey.

*most of a can. Leaves enough pineapple juice for a cocktail with a slice or two for 'garnish' :)
** Yes. It seems silly. But you have to have the 2 1/2 tsp milk. Trust me on this.

5 comments:

Jennie said...

That would be my Wonderful Sister Laurie that you are talking about!!!!

Ramona JapaneseRedneck said...

Yum, this sounds so good!

caitlinvb said...

Yup.Both my mother and this cake are awesome!

Laurie said...

OK. I have to set a few things straight. First, I only baked cookies as Christmas gifts because I was too cheap and too unimaginative to do anything else (I was unabashedly cashing in on the cachet of "home baked goods!"). Second, Caitlin makes it sound as if I did things like choose recipes, or use brown sugar and not tamp it down, out of some actual ability to know that that would make a better cake. In fact, I used the recipe I did because it was the ultimate throw-everything-in-and-mix cake that actually tasted good. Ditto for the Butterscotch Brownies (here's the dead giveaway: the Rombauers head the brownie recipe with the observation "an all-time favorite, EASILY MADE" [emphasis mine]). And I never tamped down the brown sugar because we lived in Japan and had developed anti-sweet tooths, i.e., North American recipes had become too sweet for us. Caitlin also exaggerates that I "made all of our food at home from scratch". Well, not technically. I did make all of the food we ate at home from scratch. But because we lived at a boarding school, we ate a lot of food in the school dining hall... Caitlin is the one who takes recipes and does creative things with them (CRANBERRY upside-down cake??!!) and makes them taste amazing. My major role was to give her a bit of a start and then highly encourage her so that I could benefit by eating her marvelous cooking!

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