Category Archives: Cakes

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

My mom started teaching me to cook at an early age, and one of the first desserts I learned to prepare was pineapple-upside down cake.  It is one of my favorite comfort foods to this day.  I’ve always followed Mom’s recipe faithfully until today, when I decided to make things a little more decadent, and hopefully, a little more delicious.

Mom and I share a love for rum-flavored desserts.  Rum raisin ice cream, black-bottom pie, rum cake — you get the idea.    She relies on rum extract, while I prefer the 80 proof version for cooking.  I thought a little rum and some coconut might convert our tried-and-true upside-down cake recipe to a tropical treat, and exchanging the original recipe’s vegetable shortening for real butter was a no-brainer in my upgrade strategy.  It has only been in recent years that I’ve come to realize all flours are not created equal, and now King Arthur flour has become part of the recipe.  One thing was consistent with family tradition- this cake bakes best in a cast-iron skillet.  No mere cake pan can deliver the pineapple-butter-brown sugar topping with the same wonderful caramelized texture.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

  • 1-8 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained with juice reserved
  • 1-8 ounce can pineapple chunks, drained with juice reserved
  • 1 tablespoon rum (I used light rum)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Lightly grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.  Drain pineapple, reserving the juice.  Add rum to the pineapple juice, and if necessary, enough water to make 2/3 cup liquid.  Add 3 tablespoons of crushed pineapple to the juice.

On the stove top, melt 1/4 cup butter in the prepared skillet over medium low heat, then stir in the  brown sugar and the remaining crushed pineapple.  Spread evenly in skillet, then place pineapple chunks in the skillet, spacing them evenly.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of coconut.  In a mixing bowl, cream 1/3 cup butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg, and mix until thoroughly blended.  Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add the dry mixture alternately with pineapple juice mixture, mixing well after each addition.  Add 1/2 cup coconut and mix thoroughly.  Spoon batter over the pineapple mixture in skillet.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the cake tests done.  While the cake is still hot, carefully turn it out of the skillet onto a serving platter.

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I’ve never made this cake when a little of the topping didn’t stick to the skillet, so be prepared to make a few repairs once you have plated the cake.  It is best served warm, and is equally delicious on the second day after a brief microwave reheat.

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There’s a check mark in the “WIN” column for this experiment.  The butter and rum added more flavor depth and moistness to the cake, while the coconut in the topping and batter made it satisfyingly tropical.  King Arthur Flour always plays a key role in my baking success.  This American employee-owned company mills high-quality flours from 100% American-grown non-GMO wheat.  If you have been following our blog for very long, you know I use it with confidence in all my baking.

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The Frosting Queens Crowned Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Our quest for fantastic foods more often than not leads us to the market’s dessert aisle because for many of us, dessert is really the main course.  I have to admit to making my share of cakes from mixes with canned frosting in the past, but it has been years since I used one of the national brand packaged cake mixes or ready-to-spread frostings.  Sure, we are trying to stay away from so many preservatives, but we have also come to crave homemade taste that usually doesn’t come from grocery store mixes.  Nevertheless, my dessert radar went up when I saw The Frosting Queens’ all natural, ready-to-use frostings on Central Market’s “More, Please” blog. “All natural” was the hook for me, but I wondered how a shelf-stable container of frosting could maintain high quality taste and texture.  After trying the Crowned Caramel Buttercream Frosting, I’m pleased to report The Frosting Queens have successfully cracked that code.  The experiment started with an almond cupcake recipe stashed in my “must try” file of electronic recipe clippings.  Of course, it was necessary to taste-test the frosting before slathering it on the cupcakes, and this is where things almost went awry.  The frosting was so creamy and caramel-y I could have eaten the entire bag.  A tiny taste led to a teaspoonful, maybe two.  Fortunately, I summoned up enough self-control to frost the cupcakes and get them to their destination.

Almond Cupcakes with Crowned Caramel Buttercream Frosting

(Slightly adapted from http://www.allrecipes.com)

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Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line 12 cupcake cups with paper liners.  Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.  In a mixing bowl, thoroughly cream together the sugar and butter.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly combined, then stir in the extracts.  Gradually beat in the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, in several additions.  Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 2/3 full.

IMG_0441Bake the cupcakes in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.   Cool cupcakes completely on a wire rack, then frost with The Frosting Queens Crowned Caramel Buttercream Frosting.

The self-professed frosting queens are sisters, Angela and Annette, who grew up baking for family gatherings.  Their love for children inspired themed family birthday parties, and to keep the kids happy and healthy, the sisters developed their ready-to-use frostings in four flavors:  Velvety Vanilla, Charmed Chocolate, Striking Strawberry, and Crowned Caramel.  They are made with real butter, contain all natural ingredients, and are gluten-free.  The frostings are available online, and it would be great to have several on the pantry shelf when the baking urge strikes.  We love Crowned Caramel, and Charmed Chocolate might just be the next flavor we try.  The Frosting Queens Buttercream Frostings will give your cake or cupcakes the royal treatment!

Where to buy The Frosting Queens Crowned Caramel Buttercream Frosting

(Note:  “Find a store” links to a list of retailers on the Company’s website, but stores may not carry all of the Company’s products.  Please check with your local store to be sure they have this specific product in stock.  If not, ask them to carry it!)

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King Arthur Flour’s Original Cake-Pan Cake

King Arthur Flour’s website has become one of my regular internet stops.  The company has a pretty amazing selection of baking products, utensils, and supplies at good prices.  The company’s website is also a good recipe source, and after 222 years in business, they have plenty of them!  I printed a chocolate snack cake recipe several days ago, and mixed it up after dinner.  My unofficial definition of “snack cake” is a quick-to-prepare cake moist and flavorful enough to be served without frosting, and this recipe showed promise of hitting that mark.  The recipe dates back to an undefined “wartime”, which I’m guessing would be World War II.  My grandmother told stories of using ration stamps to buy sugar and finding creative ways to cook with whatever ingredients she had available.  The recipe has been one of King Arthur’s most popular over the years. It is very appealing today because it can be made with pantry supplies normally on hand, is relatively low calorie, has no cholesterol, and is low in saturated fat if made with canola oil (which I did).  The recipe offers four different liquid options and based on your choice, the cake can be a vegan treat as well.  It is called a cake-pan cake because you can mix and bake the cake in the same pan, although I elected to use a mixing bowl.

Cake-Pan Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional – I didn’t have this on hand, so I used instant coffee)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon Sonoma Syrup Co. Vanilla Bean Extract “Crush”
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of liquid using your choice of one of the following 1) cold water; 2) cold coffee; 3) milk; or 4) 3/4 cup water plus 1/4 cup rum (I was in the mood for mocha rum cake, so I used 3/4 cup coffee and 1/4 cup light rum)

Preheat oven to 350°.  Measure all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, or a greased 8″ or 9″ cake pan.  If you use an 8″ pan, it should be at least 2″ deep.  (The recipe calls for a round pan, but I used a square 8″ pan.)  Whisk the ingredients together thoroughly, and make three indentions.  Pour the vanilla in one indention, vinegar in the second, and vegetable oil in the third.  Pour the cup of cold liquid you chose directly over the other ingredients.  Stir until well blended.  If you mixed the ingredients in a bowl, pour into the greased pan.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Fair warning:  the cake served warm may not come out of the pan so beautifully, but the taste will more than compensate for the appearance.  The cake has a light texture; the chocolate, coffee, and rum are darkly delicious.  Add a small scoop of ice cream, and you have a dessert that won’t break the calorie bank!

Cake-Pan Cake

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Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake

IMG_0344This unassuming aluminum tray contains one of the most decadent desserts I have ever eaten.  Two of them arrived on our doorstep along with two jars of toffee sauce just before Christmas, courtesy of Karen.  She and I are both sticky toffee pudding fans.  If you aren’t familiar with this treat, it is an extremely moist and light cake made with dates, then smothered in toffee sauce.  It is as incredibly rich as it sounds.  Sticky toffee pudding is a traditional English dessert that has found an enthusiastic fan base in America.

The English Pudding Co. was founded in 1998 by Simon Johns, whose family is well known for its sticky toffee pudding sold in England’s Lake District.  Simon spent 16 years working and training in restaurants and hotels in England, Canada, America and Asia. He has received rave reviews on his mother’s sticky toffee pudding recipe.  The dessert requires a little assembly when it arrives.  The toffee sauce is warmed in the microwave for just a few seconds until it is soft enough to spread over the cake in the aluminum pan.  This helps keep the cake moist until it is served.  I tasted the toffee sauce after it was warm, and it was a miracle any made it to the cake! YUM!  The cake can then be refrigerated for four weeks or frozen for six months.  (I can’t imagine any way this would last in our refrigerator for four weeks.)   Serving is a snap.  Just slice the cake and heat in the microwave until the cake is warm and the toffee sauce is puddled on the plate, about 20 seconds.

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This dessert is “scrape the plate” good.  Sticky toffee pudding is traditionally served with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, but it pretty awesome solo. The only thing that would have made it more enjoyable would have been if Karen had been here to taste it with us!  There’s another pudding cake in the freezer, so maybe we can share that one–if she hurries!  XO, Karen.  This was an awesome treat!

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