Personally, pineapple is my favorite fruit. It has a unique texture, somehow managing to be crunchy, juicy, and silky all at once. No matter the ripeness, it has the perfect balance of tart and sweet flavors. A pineapple’s flavor provokes images of leisurely summer days and picturesque tropical getaways. My personal bias aside, it is clear that pineapples have a wide appeal and are one of the world’s most popular tropical fruits, sharing clout with other superstars like mangoes, avocados, papayas, and bananas.
Pineapple originated in the Paraguay River drainages, and was later spread and domesticated throughout South America and the Carribean by the Mayans and Aztecs. Christopher Columbus introduced pineapple to the eastern hemisphere in 1493, where it came to represent wealth among the European nobility due to its accessibility. For almost three centuries, pineapples were used as decorations or centerpieces and were rarely eaten.
The spanish introduced pineapple to Hawaii in the 18th century. The first commercial plantation opened in the 19th century, beginning the state’s long history and association with the fruit. James Dole, the most famous of the early pineapple investors, and his company were the basis for the eventual Dole Food Company empire. After the decline of Hawaiian pineapple production in the 20th century, most of the pineapple production moved to South America, Southeast Asia, most notably the Philippines. The Phillipines quickly became one of the world’s top exporters of pineapple, exporting 21% of the global market share last year.
Apart from their long and unique history, pineapples have other fun facts that set them apart from other fruits. They are relatively acidic and contain high concentrations of the enzyme bromelain, an enzyme that breaks down proteins. Aside from making pineapple useful for tenderizing meats, this means eating pineapple can strip the mucus membrane in your mouth. The common joke is that pineapple eats you right back, but that has never stopped anyone from enjoying a pineapple filled dish.
I am sharing a recipe for Haitian pineapple upside down cake that has been in my family for generations. In fact, the original recipe is still in French. This cake has made an appearance at all of my Christmas celebrations, and I have been baking and decorating these cakes with my mother since I could reach the countertop. This recipe uses a Haitian cake batter, which is heavily spiced and includes plenty of butter. This recipe has brought joy and the holiday spirit to my family and friends for as long as I can remember, and I hope it can do the same for yours.
Haitian Pineapple Upside Down Cake
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 (20 ounce) can of pineapple rings in juice – drained
- 1 cup of raisins
- Maraschino cherries
- 2 cups butter – softened
- 2 cups white granulated sugar
- 5 large eggs – yolks and whites separated
- 4 cups white bleached flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup pineapple juice
- Zest of 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon dark rum
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
This recipe will make two nine inch cakes. Preheat the oven to 350℉. Coat two baking pans with butter and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Grease the top of the parchment paper, and cover the bottom surface of the pan with brown sugar, removing excess that does not stick. Decorate the bottom of the pan with the raisins and pineapple rings. Be creative! This part of the recipe is very open ended and flexible.
Next, make the cake batter. Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, and using an electric mixer, whip the ingredients until the mixture is fluffy, homogeneous, and approaching a white color. After the butter and sugar are creamed together, add the egg yolks and mix until no streaks of yellow remain.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In another bowl, combine the pineapple juice, lime zest, rum, and vanilla. You will add the flour mixture in four parts and the juice mixture in three. Begin with the flour and alternate additions of the dry and liquid mixtures to your butter and egg mixture. Make sure the ingredients are fully incorporated before the next addition. Add the baking powder to the final dry addition.
Next, whip the egg whites in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. Gently incorporate the whipped egg whites into the batter. After, divide the batter between both pans, smoothing the tops.
Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Let them cool completely before inverting the cakes out of the pans, transferring them onto a serving dish. Decorate with your maruchiro cherries and enjoy!
Image courtesy of Caribbean Green Living