My grandmother was a real character, with a vaguely checkered past, and some very bad habits. As a little girl, I thought she was the best person in the entire universe. She wore these enormous, voluminous silk dresses from Hawaii, which she bought on her yearly winter sojourns. Her hair was a close cropped pixie, steel grey. I don’t remember ever seeing her without a cigarette in one hand, and a brandy in the other.
And the eyeshadow. Bright blue, from eye line to brow.
It has been many years since she passed away, and I still miss her every single day. Of all the memories, I do not really remember her cooking. My grandpa was a chef, so she was mostly in charge of filling glasses. But she made one cake that I make often; conjuring her hands in my minds eye, as she carefully arranged the fruit, just so.
Aside from the chocolate money cake my Dad made me every year on my birthday, Nana’s Pineapple Upside Down Cake (or Upside Down Pineapple Cake , as Hubbie and Daughter call it) is my favourite, and my best.
This recipe is adapted from an old Canadian favourite, ‘Five Roses A Guide to Good Cooking’
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
2 cups (500g) plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (125g) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups (313g) sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup (250ml) milk
1/3 cup (84g) butter
1 cup (250g) brown sugar
1 tin (400g) pineapple rings
Preheat oven to 180 C (160 fan). Grease a 20 x 30 x 5 cm pan.
For the cake:
In a bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Cream the butter, and add in the sugar a bit at a time, beating between each addition. Beat in eggs, one at a time. I use my wonderful Kitchenaid mixer to do the hard graft. Stir in the vanilla. Add in the dry bits, alternating with the milk, mixing until you have a lovely batter. Pop it off to the side for a mo.
For the caramel bit:
Melt the butter, and stir in the sugar. Spread over the bottom of the pan. Drain the pineapple rings, and lay out on top of the sugar, in a very artistic fashion. My grandmother put a maraschino cherry in the middle of each ring. It looks nice, but they kind of freak me out, so I have left them out. Go wild with the E numbers and add them if you so desire.
Pour the cake batter over the pineapple, and spread gently as you do not want to disturb the beauty of your fruit art. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the cake is golden, and the edges show traces of bubbling caramel loveliness. Cool in the tin for 15 mins, then loosen the sides, and cross everything, before flipping it out onto a serving dish. I usually get Hubbie to help, as I am a bit flappy, and droppy. It sticks back together well if any of the corners get stuck in the pan. Also, sometimes you need to eat the stuck bits. (Just to make sure it’s not poison, obviously!)
Serve it up with a bit of whipped cream.