Friday, 1 June 2012

Pineapple, Coconut & Cinnamon Upside Down Cake

When I was growing up the cry of, 'Mum, what's for pudding'? Was, more often than not, met by those three dreaded words: Fruit or yogurt. My mum and sister didn't really have a sweet tooth and my dad was happy with some chocolate with a cuppa later in the evening. Which left me, alone, to rifle through the cupboards for something more exciting (usually a tin of cold Ambrosia, bliss).

This cake was one of the exceptions; as soon as we were old enough to reach the worktops both my sister and I were encouraged to help out in the kitchen, and on a Sunday that meant we could make something that would bake while my dad's yorkies were in the oven. It was a cake that united us as a family around the table. Even my mum would be tempeted to have a slice, slathered in cold cream, before retiring for a snooze in front of the Antiques Roadshow.

It was the first recipe I ever learnt off by heart, a classic sponge with 4, 4, 4, 2 proportions (in old money), or increased to 6oz and 3 eggs if it was a special occasion. A recipe that was so completely perfect in its Sunday tea-time simplicity that I never wanted to change it. It was the mix of tinned fruit, golden syrup and luminous glace cherries that made it so comforting. Such beautiful symmetry. To try and fancy it it up, to mess around with something so wonderful just as it was just seemed, well, wrong. That was until I found a lonely fresh pineapple that had been pining away, unloved, in the corner of the kitchen....

It was my day off and I wanted to bake something that would cheer me up, taste good, and that wouldn't involve a schlep to the shops. Immediately it struck me: Pineapple upside down cake. My Mum had cooked it at Christmas time and it had filled me with such a happy sense of nostalgia (as well as being quite delicious), that it seemed the perfect choice.

First problem was lack of tinned pineapple, but I did have the aforementioned fresh specimen. It wasn't completely traditional, but I decided to go with it anyway. Next problem: no golden syrup, well, I could always substitute some sugar and butter, so that was OK too. I had the eggs, butter, sugar and flour for the cake, but there was also a bit of dessicated coconut at the back of the cupboard that would go very nicely with the tropical fruit. And I had read in Nikki Segnit's wonderful 'Flavour Theasaurus' that cinnamon was perfect with pineapple, too....

So that's how my new version ended up evolving. I can't say for sure it improves upon the original, but the spicy, buttery syrup and the rich, nutty edge to the sponge certainly makes a great cake. Of course, if your not feeling quite as innovative, then feel free to skip the coconut and cinnamon. In the absence of the glace version, I used bottled cherries in Kirsch, but a little dark rum added to the syrup could never be a bad thing either.

Pineapple, Coconut & Cinnamon Upside Down Cake

For the sponge
175g caster sugar
175g butter, softened
3 eggs
175g self raising flour, sieved
50g dessicated coconut

For the syrup
50g butter
50g soft brown sugar (or substitute butter and sugar for approx 100ml golden syrup)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4-5 slices of pineapple (more if tinned)
Glace cherries/cherries in kirsch

Melt together the butter, sugar and cinnamon in a small saucepan and pour into the tin. (If using syrup just spoon straight into the tin with the cinnamon.)
Carefully arrange the pineapple slices in the bottom of the tin (cutting in half if necessary) and place a cherry in the centre of each ring.
Cream together the sugar and butter until light and creamy.
Beat in the eggs, then gently stir in the flour, cinnamon and coconut.
Pour the mixture into the tin and bake in the pre-heated oven for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto a serving plate.
Serve with double cream or ice cream.

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