Think about it. Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is a pretty strange concept.
For starters, why the pineapple? It’s a fruit that rarely features in other cakes (possibly because it’s way too sweet without the sugary batter).
However, just about every Upside-Down Cake has pineapple rings on the top (or do I mean the bottom?).
Is this prominence just for aesthetic reasons? Or is there something else?
Also – while we’re asking questions – why is it called Upside-Down Cake? Before you start measuring my head for a dunce cap, I know it gets turned out on to a plate when you serve it – but so do most cakes that come out of a tin.
Plenty of puddings are in the same boat (Summer Pudding, for example). But we don’t draw attention to their Upside-Down natures now, do we?
Maybe it’s because Pineapple Cake sounds too boring…
You’ll have to excuse these meandering thoughts. We tried one from Waitrose at the weekend, you see, and once I started pondering, I couldn’t really stop.
As cakes go, it was certainly strange.
Out of the packet, Rightside-Up, it didn’t look like much.
After heating it up and turning it out on the plate, however, we were confronted with a lurid landscape of glacé cherries and pineapple rings.
I repeat: it was strange. Like an alien amoeba, or some kind of deep sea specimen.
A translucent jelly-like substance covered the top, so I scooped up a blob with my finger and gave it a taste. It was sweet but not that sweet; not sticky or syrupy in texture – more like an edible hair gel.
It hadn’t soaked in to the sponge like I’d thought it might, either (as usual, I’d hoped for lots of goo). Instead, it sat upon the top: a layer of film to preserve the fruit, presumably – and lubricate its exit from the cardboard tray.
Doesn’t sound too appealing, does it?
Then perhaps you’ll be surprised as I was to discover it tasted rather good. The sponge was super light, but not dry in the slightest (despite the fact that the topping – or bottoming – hadn’t soaked in).
I can’t say I was convinced by the glacé cherries (too gaudy in taste and appearance) but the pineapple rings were lovely and succulent.
From time to time as I munched my way through, my teeth encountered a crisp edge of sponge, where some of the sugar had started to caramelise. These bits were very nice indeed – but too few and far between for my liking.
As far as I can remember it’s the only Upside-Down Cake I have tried. However, since looking at how to make it and talking to some of my pals, I’ve learned it probably wasn’t that authentic.
Mainly, I’ve heard that the topping is supposed to be far richer: more like a sticky toffee glaze, with plenty of crunchy caramel bits – the ones I was missing here.
It sounds delicious. And maybe it helps with my questions a little…
You see, before I heard about this glaze, I thought all Upside-Down Cakes must be covered in weird clear jelly. Why didn’t people just spread this out on the top, I wondered? It wasn’t that good of a lubricant, after all – the fruit stuck still to the cardboard.
Then again, if you’re pouring butter and sugar in your tin (as most recipes seem to demand), it must caramelise with the fruit against the metal, creating a lush, crispy layer when baked.
The big question still remains, however: why pineapple?
Is it down to an extremely prolific ad campaign from tinned fruit salesmen? A celebrated recipe that everybody nicked? A cake from a time with a fresh fruit shortage?
Or are pineapples inherently the best choice for the job?
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