Mini Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes

Mini Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes

I like slightly unconventional food. Anything deconstructed or quirky or even upside-down intrigues me. Perhaps thats why I love these Mini Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes so much. Or, perhaps, its because they taste great and are so convenient in a little single serving size. Either way, these make a great dessert and are even a great dish to take to a party.

In its most simplistic form, an upside-down cake is a cake that is baked in a single pan, then turned over and eaten with the bottom of the cake facing upwards. Usually chopped fruits such as apples, pineapples, or cherries and a topping of butter and sugar are placed on the bottom of the pan before the batter is poured in. When the cake is turned over (upside-down), the fruit sits on the top of the cake. Classic versions of the upside-down cake include the American pineapple upside-down cake, the French Tarte Tatin, and the Brazilian Bolo de banana. The first mention of any such cake, in writing, was in 1930 but the cake is far older.The pineapple upside-down cake was invented because several other convenience items were invented that gave housewives and bakers time to make the cake pretty as well as delicious. The idea of cooking a cake upside-down is actually an old technique that began centuries ago when cakes were cooked in cast iron skillets. It was easier to add fruit and sugar in the bottom of the pan with a simple cake batter on top and then put it over the fire to cook. Flipping the cake onto a plate was the natural way to show the pretty fruit (and to allow the juices to soak into the cake). The idea of the pineapple happened soon after 1911 when James Dole, an American engineer, invented a machine to cut pineapples into rings. Soon, the convenient pineapple rings were used in this age-old technique. The first recorded pineapple upside-down cake was thought to have occurred in 1930, although Sylvia Lovegren of Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads (1995) traced the cake to a 1925 fundraising cookbook from Seattle.

Pineapple plants are indigenous to South America. The natives of southern Brazil and Paraguay spread the pineapple throughout South America where it eventually reached the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico, where it was cultivated by the Mayas and the Aztecs. Columbus encountered the pineapple in 1493 and the Spanish introduced it to the Philippines, Hawaii, Zimbabwe and Guam (in the 1500s). It wasnt until the late 1800s when Europeans and Americans became hooked on imported tropical fruits, such as pineapple. In Europe and North America, the pineapple became associated with the return of ships from extended voyages, and an emblem of welcome and hospitality. During the Chinese New Year, the pineapple represents wealth, luck and excellent fortune. (All reasons why we should make and eat more pineapple upside-down cake!)

To make the mini version of this delicious cake recipe, all you need is a jumbo muffin pan (yes, I said these were mini, but I didnt say they were two-bite cakes!). You want to make sure before you add any of the goodies that you spray your muffin tin to avoid having your cake stick and break-up during removal. Of course, you start by adding your toppings (things such as pineapple rings and maraschino cherries). Then you pour your cake batter on top, place in the oven to bake and 20-25 minutes later, voila!, beautiful mini pineapple upside-down cakes to devour (or share, if youre feeling generous).

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