2008-02-28

Pineapple Upside Down Cake


I don't have many pleasant memories of my father. We never really got along mostly because his way of parenting was to instill fear. I was always afraid of him and it's hard to really like someone that you're truly afraid of. One thing I do have memories of is making Pineapple Upside Down Cake for my father when I was very young... like in grade school. Back then I think this was his absolute favorite cake - and I can't count the number of times my mom and I made this for him. In February 2005 he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Prostate Cancer and started chemotherapy and radiation treatments. His taste buds changed dramatically. Foods he used to love suddenly no longer appealed to him... foods he never cared for became sources of great pleasure to him.



After he was diagnosed, I became his primary care-giver. He stayed at my house... I took him to his myriad doctor appointments and clinic visits... the whole shebang. Our relationship completely transformed probably because HE was transformed. I never really questioned it because I was just so fricken grateful to have a good relationship with him at that point. I took care of my father until the day he died, putting many things in my life on-hold so that I could be there for him. I was by his side and holding his hand when he took his last breath. It was a great honor for me and even now when I write about it I cry. I still miss my dad every... single... day. When he was so very sick and going thru chemo he rarely wanted to eat. My mother couldn't get him to eat. My sister couldn't get him to eat. He simply just didn't want to eat. But it always seemed like I could find something, make something, create something... something that appealed to him and surprisingly enough he'd eat!!! That made me pretty ding-dang happy I'll have you know =)

I'd forgotten all about Pineapple Upside Down Cake since I hadn't made one in over 25 years. And when he was sick, my dad never mentioned it either. All of a sudden he was into chocolate cake... defnitely not my cup of tea, that's for sure. I won't say I dislike chocolate, but it just doesn't hold much appeal to me. I'll eat it but it won't be my first choice if other options are available. Chocolate cake... chocolate pudding... chocolate milk... chocolate eclairs... chocolate mousse... these were things I never saw my dad get all googly-eyed over until he was nearing the end of his life. But let me tell you, googly-eyed he'd definitely get over something chocolate. Go figure :)

Earlier this month I suddenly got a mega-huge-enormous-mongo craving for Pineapple Upside Down Cake. No idea why since I hadn't even thought about it in years upon years upon years (yes, RPC is not quite a youngun anymore! LOL). But once that craving hit, well, it would not be silenced. Actually, now that I think about it, it was rather reminiscent of the line uttered by Alex Forrest (played by Glenn Close) in Fatal Attraction when she said to Michael Douglas' character "I'm not going to be ignored Dan". Uhhh.... yup.... that's pretty much what it was like. The craving for Pineapple Upside Down Cake was not going to be ignored.

Having given up on box cake mix quite a long time ago, I decided to make the cake from scratch. While I'm partial to white cake and after much trial-n-error came across what I consider to be the best white cake recipe on the planet, I don't have a recipe for yellow cake mix... and Pineapple Upside Down Cake simply must be made with yellow cake. Okay so I search the net (AllRecipes.com is my favorite site) and come up with what I think sounds like a winning yellow cake recipe. I whip it up, and OMG was it awful. In all fairness the taste was not all that bad but it did not rise whatsoever. It stayed as a layer of lump on top of that gorgeous pineapple/butter/brownsugar "bottom". Here's a pic of my "Pineapple Upside Down Flop". Did I mention this craving hit me around 7pm at night? Cravings seem to scream loudest late at night for some reason but usually I'm too dang tired and too dang lazy to do anything about them =) But this night, as I said, the craving sounded like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction... it was not going to be ignored. After the made-from-scratch flop that I created, I caved in to the craving, got dressed, went to the grocery store and bought a box of yellow cake mix. Heck, I had used all the pineapple in my flop so I had to get that as well. I came home and melted the butter in the cake pan, added the brown sugar, delicately placed the pineapple rings, laid the maraschino cherries in the ring-centers, whipped up that box mix, poured it on top and baked that bad-boy in my 350F preheated oven for 45 minutes and waited exceedingly impatiently for the 5 minute cooling period. I found a nice platter and grabbed the cake to invert it and daaaaaaaaang the cake pan was still hot. Of course I didn't discover this until I was smack-dab in the middle of inverting the cake and as a result the cake was not centered on the platter. Eh, small aesthetic price to pay while avoiding some nasty burns on my wee-widdle-fingaws. But no worries, it's the eatin that counts and boy was this cake good. I gotta hand it to Betty (Crocker, that is) that box yellow cake was awfully tasty when paired with my homemade butter/brownsugar/pineapple/maraschino-cherry combo (hey, gotta get my props in somehow! LOL). This cake was so good that I had not one slice but probably 2-3 slices (yes siree Ricky Bobby, I was a biggie piggie that night!). Oh, DJ had a piece too so I didn't eat it ALL thankyouverymuch! hahahahahah

The next day I packaged up the leftovers and took it to work. They loved it... especially my coworker R. She raved and raved and raved about it. In fact, she asked me to make a whole one just for her on her birthday :)

I started thinking about the Pineapple Upside Down Cake craving that I had. Trying to figure out why I felt compelled to make that cake... that night. Usually once I'm all set for the evening and in my jammies I am not getting dressed and going out for anything... nuh uhn... no way... no how. But that night was different. After a little thinking I figured out that it had been six months since my father died. Yes... six months... and Pineapple Upside Down Cake had been his favorite for so many years. Funny how the subconscious mind can work a number on ya! LOL.

So tomorrow is my coworker R's birthday - she's a leap-day baby =) I won't be in the office tomorrow so I brought in the Pineapple Upside Down cake today... and while I was writing this entry, I was eating a piece of the cake she graciously cut and shared with everyone. And daaaaaaaaaaaang... this cake IS goooooood =)

Happy Birthday, R!!!