Spring Ups and Downs

By Angela Denstad Stigeler

Springtime tends to encourage us to lighten up, freshen up, and celebrate renewal. But it, like most things, has its ups and downs. A cool breeze that, in winter, would barely register seems suddenly intolerable. April showers often dampen one’s spirits. And those garden fresh flavors, especially fruits, are still far off. So where’s the up side when it comes to spring desserts? Try taking a turn toward the tropical. From lemon curds and coconut desserts to banana breads and pineapple-carrot cakes, there are plenty of sunny flavors to explore.

The classic Pineapple Upside Down Cake featured below dates back to the 1920s, a decadent decade that knew a thing or two about ups and downs. It’s a retro delight fit for an Easter feast or a casual snack. A bonus tip, also below, teaches a simple technique for transforming pineapple slices into frilly daffodils as edible emblems of the season. They make an easy and seasonal garnish on anything from a coconut cake to a ham or cheese plate. One fresh pineapple will yield enough to try both recipes, so slice some up and you’ll have dessert down!

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

7 tablespoons butter, divided

1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1/4 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and ginger

7 ½-inch slices fresh pineapple, or a 20-ounce can pineapple rings in juice, drained

7 candied or maraschino cherries, chopped pecans or walnuts, all optional

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups flour

1/2 cup milk

Place 4 tablespoons butter into a 9-inch round cake pan and set it in the oven as you preheat to 375 degrees. As soon as the butter is melted, mix in the brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Space the pineapple rings atop the brown sugar mixture. Place a cherry in the center of each ring and scatter the nuts in any empty spaces (optional).

Cream together the butter and sugar until fairly smooth. Beat in the egg, then the salt, baking powder and vanilla. Add the flour alternately with the milk, mixing at medium speed, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir briefly with a spatula just until smooth.

Spoon the thick batter into the prepared pan, spreading it to the edges. It may not cover the pineapple entirely. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven, wait 3 minutes, then turn the pan over onto a serving plate. Wait 30 seconds, then lift the pan off. If anything sticks in the pan, just lift it out and place it back on the cake. Serve warm.

*Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

Pineapple Daffodils

Fresh pineapple, skin removed but core intact, sliced into 1/8 inch-thick rounds.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and lay the pineapple slices on a clean kitchen towel or paper toweling. Pat it dry with additional towels. Move the slices onto cooling racks, making sure they don’t touch, and arrange them in the oven. Dry them for 2-3 hours, until the pineapple slices are fully dried, but still pliable. While still warm, drape over the back of muffin tins or other small cups or bottle tops to form flower cup shapes. Allow to cool completely. They’re best when used the day they’re made, but can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Use to garnish cakes, desserts, ham platters or cheese boards.