Poached pears in wine; delicious but fancy somehow. Apple cobbler; seems too Christmasy halfway through winter. Hot fudge sundae? Reminds me of summer. So what, I ask you, is a more delicious winter dessert than pineapple upside down cake? It’s juicy and gooey and warm and sugary, and the most cozy thing to serve your guests. Pineapple is in fact a symbol of hospitality, a tropical gift of welcoming in the Caribbean since long ago, and brought to Europe from what is today Guadelupe by Christopher Columbus in the late 1400s. The Spanish “piña” or pine, gave the fruit its name, as it has the crosshatched pattern of a pine cone.
In time pineapple became a favorite fruit at royal tables, favored by Britain’s King Charles II, who was painted with a pineapple, and Louis XIV, the French Sun King, whose court chefs gave pineapple pride of place on lavish dessert banquets. Colonial plantation owners adorned door frames, gates, bed posts and stair banisters with elaborately carved pineapples, symbolizing both wealth and generosity, a stinging bastardization of its tribal significance by wealthy people who were often slave owners. Sea captains of the 19th Century, in a more spirited gesture, are said to have spiked a pineapple at the front door of their homes upon return from voyage, to say the man of the house was home and hosting visitors.
The pineapple’s distinctive diamond pattern has also inspired many decorative objects and architectural motifs, including quilts, crochet work, elegant portals like those in Colonial Williamsburg, and even the Earl of Dunmore’s mad stone hothouse, built in Scotland in 1761 for growing pineapples.
The Pineapple in Colonial Williamsburg
Putting the Pineapple in its Proper Place
Loveland Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Lime Whipped Cream
You can certainly use a 14 oz. can of sliced pineapple rings (drained, using some of the syrup to flavor the whipped cream), but I like the bright color and flavor of fresh pineapple more. And I also like a more custardy cake than the classic, All American treat, so I use buttermilk in the more eggy, richer batter. Maraschino cherries taste medicinal to me, so I use candied cherries instead, or skip them. The limey whipped cream is excessive and tropical.
⅔ cup best butter
⅔ cup packed dark brown sugar
4 cups, about 16 ice cube-sized chunks, fresh pineapple
candied or Maraschino cherries without stems, if desired
1 ⅓ cups flour
1 cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup vegetable shortening
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
large pinch of salt
¾ cup milk, or buttermilk
1 or 2 eggs
1 teaspoon best vanilla extract
whipped cream for serving
juice of 2 limes
about ½ cup grated zest
reserved sprinkle of sugar
Heat oven to 350. Put beaters and bowl for whipped cream in the freezer to chill them. In the oven, melt butter in a 9” round pie plate or cast iron skillet. Crumble the brown sugar into the hot butter, and stir with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves. Toss the drained pineapple chunks in the sugary butter until well coated, and arrange in one layer in the pan. If you like Maraschino cherries, tuck them in around the pineapple. Beat the batter ingredients with an electric mixer on high speed until everything is well combined. If you prefer a more custardy dessert, ad the second egg. Pour the batter over the fruit in the pan. Bake on the center rack for about 50 minutes; test with a toothpick to ensure firmness. Cover the pan immediately with a round platter 2” larger than the pan. Now turn the pan upside down on the platter to release the cake. Remove the pan after awhile, to let the syrup cover the cake. Beat chilled whip cream in chilled bowl with chilled beaters. Beat until quite thick, with a bit of sugar, the lime juice and the zest. Serves 8.
This recipe is based on the classic from Betty Crocker.