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Pining Away

Luscious but not lavish, pineapple upside-down cake is an easy everyday way to usher in the lighter days of spring.

As indulgences go, pineapple upside-down cake is pretty simple. It’s not Godiva chocolates or caviar; it’s more potluck fare than spa food. But there’s a lot to be said for its homeyness and accessibility, for how easy it can be to bring a little burst of the tropics into an otherwise-dreary day. Upside-down cakes, as a technique, have been around since the Middle Ages, but they did not expand to include pineapple until James Dole of the Hawaiian Pineapple Co. (now Dole Food Co.) perfected a way to can the delicious tropical fruit in the early 1900s. By the 1920s, this cake was a ladies’ magazine staple – a simple one-layer cake without fillings or frostings or fancy ganaches. I spent years as a cake decorator at Baskin-Robbins, and I can make a frosting border in my sleep, but this cake doesn’t need butter cream distractions: just a simple glaze of brown sugar and butter, some pineapple rings and cherries, and maybe some rum sauce if you’re feeling fancy, and the dense, rich, moist cake is pretty as a picture and delicious to boot.  As the weather starts to heat up and the calendar gets packed with one fun activity after another, this cheerful cake is the perfect thing to bring to a crawfish boil, a Jazz Fest brunch or a Mother’s Day picnic. And as tourist season gets into high gear and many of us find our guest rooms continually filled, it’s worth noting that the pineapple is a symbol of welcome and hospitality. So cut a buttery slice of Hawaiian goodness, and enjoy it right here in your own backyard with friends and houseguests and family. Talk about paradise!
 

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