This Christmas I decided to forgo homemade gifts and leave that to artisans more experienced than I. Although I love turning out a homemade present, this December was just too fraught with work (and by work I mean my day job, not food or writing related at all) to do that. It was frustrating at first, having to relinquish what you so want to do, for something you have to do, but I soon enjoyed the extra time this gave me.
Time to get all the work I had done without losing too much sleep. More time to get together with friends and family. More time with little C doing anything and nothing and just being. Time for movie dates with C. More time to connect with people. Time to dream about what I will be making next for next Christmas :)
Sometimes, when you consciously let go, instead of thinking that something is being taken away from you, it can make all the difference.
I did manage one homemade gift this year. Made today, right before Christmas Eve, so it’s freshly baked. Pineapple upside down cake for my dad. It’s quite a throwback I know, always skirting the line between retro and all out kitsch, but it’s my dad’s favorite so I’ll keep making it for him for as long as he wants.
Brown Butter Pineapple Upside-down Cake
- 1/3 cup butter, softened not melted
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 6 pineapple rings
- 115 grams butter
- 150 grams sugar
- 2 eggs
- 70 grams flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Spread the softened butter on the base of an 8-inch cake pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the butter. Arrange the 6 rings of pineapple on top of the sugar. I usually do 5 around and one in the middle, cutting the middle one a bit if it doesn’t fit. Set aside and get on with your batter.
- Melt the butter in a skillet until browned (not burned!), with a warm nutty aroma. You can find a fantastic tutorial on browning butter over at Simply Recipes. Strain and set aside to cool. I do this by placing the bowl of browned butter over another bowl with ice. I let it cool until the butter gets a little bit thick again, like a golden syrup. In this state it smells so good you may forget about the rest of your baking – fair warning.
- Whisk the sugar with the egg. In another bowl, whisk your flour and baking powder together, then add to the egg mixture. Add the (cooled) brown butter and whisk until just combined. Pour the batter over the prepared pineapples in the pan. Place the cake pan on a cookie sheet to catch any over enthusiastic butter sputters.
- Bake in a 180C (350F) oven for 40-50 minutes or until a pick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
- Remove the pan from the oven and loosen the sides of the cake with a small sharp knife. Place a plate over the cake pan and, using oven mitts or a kitchen town (hot sugar beware!), quickly and confidently flipped the pan over so you cake is now on the plate. Keep the pan on the cake for a few minutes so all the buttery, sugary juices drip down onto your cake. Remove pan and enjoy!
This isn’t the pineapple upside down cake of my childhood. Instead of using the mild, slightly stodgy cake I usually use, I decided to try this brown butter cake recipe (adjusted slightly). The resulting cake is wildly rich…almost like candy. I wanted to depart from my old “caramelly top layer + plain jane white cake” combination that I had been making and this version does just that. This is not for the sugar and butter shy, let me just forewarn! It does not make for the prettiest cake either. But if achingly sweet caramelized crusts and buttery moist cakes are up your alley, then you may just be up for this.
The cake is cooling on the dining room table as I type. C and little C are napping. The city, for now, is quiet and peaceful. Our Christmas tree is small but sassy and presents are strewn all over. The mess can wait until after New Year. I’ll be presenting my dad with his cake at Christmas dinner tonight. Life may not be perfect, it never is, but I am so very happy where I am. I wish the same for all of you! A very Merry Christmas to you and yours…may you be doing what you love with those you love this Christmas weekend!!