COOKING ADVENTURES #5: Pineapple Upside Down Cake
I’m going to start with a disclaimer. I thought the cheesecake was bad. This recipe blows that one out of the water by so much that it’s almost not funny. This was undoubtedly the most frustrating recipe I’ve done this year. But I have to laugh because somehow, deep beneath the optimism, I knew I was going to mess it up. Although, I must say, whoever posted that recipe on food.com was a mighty idiot as well. They should have specified that out all the cake mixes you can use for the recipe, the only one you can’t is a Jiffy Mix. Thanks, person. Now I’ve got a heap of something that doesn’t resemble cake at all sitting on not just one but two different pans in the kitchen. The apartment is about 90 degrees and smells like brown sugar. I’m so tired of looking at this thing that I don’t even want to eat it. That’s when you know it wasn’t worth all the work.
The recipe, dubbed “Easy Pineapple Upside Down Cake” is anything but. It tells you to mix up your cake mix first and then set it aside which I did with absolutely no trouble at all. A box of yellow cake Jiffy Mix, one egg, and a 1/2 cup of water. Done. Set aside.
Next I was supposed to take 1/4 to 1/2 cup of butter, dice it up into little pieces and cover the bottom of a baking pan with them. Again, similar to my cheesecake episode, I was plagued with conversion math. But I did it correctly this time. Either a half or a whole stick of butter. I looked back and forth from the butter to my baking pan with serious doubt. There was no way that a whole stick of butter would work in that pan. I used half, cut it with difficulty and spread the little pieces as much as I could.
Directions told me to sprinkle brown sugar generously over the butter. So I heaped the stuff on, grinding it in my hands and between my fingers as I did so. I made sure that butter was well covered before sticking it in the oven to melt. At first, I put the oven on ‘Warm’ thinking after about 5 minutes, it would be melted. Nope. Just one side had melted. I turned up the temperature to 200 and moved the pan to a bottom rack. This time, it did the trick. When I took the pan out, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. The butter had melted alright… and practically drowned the brown sugar. Thinking I needed to add more brown sugar, I did. And that did nothing. It just sank below the oily surface and stared up at me from beneath with accusation. Now, so far, I’d followed everything the recipe had told me to do. I assumed that this was what was supposed to happen so I shrugged it off and continued.
I yanked open a can of pineapple and with a lobster fork, plucked each ring out and dropped it into the butter/brown sugar lake. Again, with worry, I added more brown sugar. Same result. Then came the batter. Oh my. The butter seeped through the creamy color to the surface. I knew this thing wasn’t going to bake. I decided that I should make a second batter and add some to this cake to make sure that the ratio of batter to butter was more 75 to 25 instead of 50/50. I’m sure that making that second batch is the reason it turned out so awful.
I went through the motions again and poured a little of the batter into the pan. As Gomer would say, “Surprise, surprise!” The butter seeped through that, too. Against my better judgement, I put the thing in the oven at 350 and turned the kitchen timer to 25 minutes.
I had extra batter left over. I decided to be cunning. The idea was anything but. I wanted to make Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes. I forgot that cupcakes generally require little paper cups. I had them, too… and I didn’t use them. Dur.
I followed the same instructions for the cupcakes as I’d done with the cake. A little butter (and this time, VERY little butter), brown sugar, bake the little suckers, pull them out of the oven, pineapple, batter, oven. I did 3 without pineapple and put a slice of peach in instead.
Time passed. Apparently not enough.
At 25 minutes, the buzzer went off and I pulled the cake out of the oven. I noticed the top jiggle slightly as I put the pan down on the stove. Cautiously, I dipped a toothpick in the center. It came out clean. I tried a few more places on the cake. THEY ALL CAME OUT CLEAN. Now it was time for what should have been the most difficult part of the process; flipping the cake. I donned oven mitts and held the cake over a lid for a cookie tin, stupidly thinking I could drop it on that and then put the tin over it for easy transportation to my parent’s house. Stupid, stupid, stupid…
I flipped it. I didn’t expect it to come out so easily. In fact, I thought it was going to stick to the bottom like my poor unfortunate strawberry cake that I made last year. (A picture of that is on the Cooking Adventures Home Page.) The Pineapple Upside Down Cake flopped and splattered against the tin lid. And the splatter was because somehow, despite checking the thing with toothpicks, the bottom of the cake hadn’t cooked. Batter was splotched over the brown sugar and pineapple. Amidst a torrent of swears, I pulled out a flat sheet pan and tried to slide the cake onto it. But no. It didn’t want to slide. It was content to just stick to that lid until kingdom come. I used a spatula. Big mistake. It broke into a giant crumbling mess but luckily, it all went on the pan. And then not really seeing any other options, I put that back in the oven.
At this point, crushed and disillusioned, I was hoping that at least my cupcakes turned out alright. I pulled the muffin pan out and went through the process of trying to pry each cupcake from its slot. These baked through alright. But the cake section separated from the brown sugar almost instantaneously leaving me with a gooey mess stuck to the bottom of each cup. I scraped at each one angrily with a fork until the entire mess sat on a plate.
I wanted to weep. Talk about the ugliest thing I’ve ever baked. WOW.
The last thing to do was pull the pan with the crumbled pineapple upside down cake out. The batter that hadn’t cooked last time had now become pancakes in the midst of the cake pieces.
I stared at everything for a while. It’s like that stare that you have when your awake at three in the morning, working on an assignment or project that’s due in a few hours. It’s this dead-eye glare you give your computer screen as if asking for it to bear with you; to give you all of it’s cooperation. And it just stares back because it’s an inanimate object. So, too, did my baking concoctions look at me. They had no sympathy.
On the bright side of all of this, despite how ugly it all looks, it tastes fantastic.
Next week on Cooking Adventures, I’m going to frolic away from baking for a bit and focus my attention on Cajun Chicken Pasta!
Until then, I’ll be trying to pawn off pieces of this latest disaster to people unconcerned with its appearance…