July 31, 2011

Pineapple Upside-down Cake

For years I have had a very dear, elderly friend who has become like family, like my grandmother. When I go to her house she squishes me in her arms as though I am a long-lost relative she hasn't seen for years. She kisses both of my cheeks a couple of times each while talking a hundred miles an hour in her thick Italian accent, then immediately sets about assembling elaborate trays of cakes, meats, and cheeses. Then, in her loud, jovial, insistent voice says, "Eat! Eat!!" (the inspiration for the name of my blog). It is impossible to visit her without being force-fed the most wonderful food.

Over the last few months, it has become apparent that her vigour is escaping her, and doing so quickly. She no longer has the energy to rush down the walk to greet me at my car. There is no more energy to spend bustling around making tons of food. It is as though her flame is quickly going out...and it is incredibly sad to see.

This summer I've made a point of going to see her more often, and I couldn't accept the loss of our tradition of having good food, so now when I go I take food along with me. When I arrive, I am greeted not by a woman with flailing arms rushing down the walk, but with happiness at the kitchen table. And she sits while I bustle around her kitchen, making tea and assembling the meat and cheese tray. While I prepare the food, she tells me about growing up in Trieste, going to an Italian school, Mussolini, and how to make sausages like her grandmother did. Then we eat just like we always have.

This morning, to take along on my visit today, I made a pineapple upside-down cake. It goes particularly well with stories of the old country.

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 5 canned pineapple slices, drained
  • 3 egg whites (2 if using extra large eggs)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup extra-fine sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice

In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar and melted butter. Pour into the bottom of an ungreased 9" round cake pan. Arrange pineapple slices on top of brown sugar mixture. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat egg yolks until thick and pale yellow. Gradually add sugar. Mix well. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to the egg yolk mixture along with the pineapple juice. Mix well. Set aside.

In a medium size mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until firm peaks form. Fold gently into the egg yolk/flour mixture.

Pour the batter evenly over the pineapples and bake at 350F for 30 minutes. After removing from the oven, let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert on a plate. Serve warm with whipped cream.