Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter, Upside-down


This weekend I passed a cooking milestone by preparing my first Easter dinner. I've since realized that this might be more of a milestone not because I cooked a holiday meal for a group, but because I managed to do it by going back to basics. It's been a long time since I've entertained, maybe even since high school when my friends and I were fans of the "Murder Mystery" series of dinner parties in which each guest would receive a character to portray ahead of time and arrive in costume ready to unravel "whodunit" over the dinner's courses (definitely recommend if you've never done this). These were often ridiculously lavish for teenage dinner parties, and maybe that's why I've since shied away from cooking for a crowd, always assuming that it would have to be an elaborate, expensive "to do". But, really, when it comes to sharing food and fun among friends I've realized that comfort dishes will often get you further than Martha Stewart's latest seasonal creation (sorry Martha).

That's why, for last night's Easter dinner for 12, I had no second thoughts about welcoming my brother to town by serving his favorite dessert: Pineapple Upside-down Cake. It's not impressive, it's not difficult, and it's not even remotely associated with spring or Easter! So what? Last night helped to remind me that, although food brings people together, the purpose of the gathering is to enjoy each others' company. I was able to enjoy myself so much more knowing that my classic, 10-minute cake was baking happily in the oven instead of stressing about whether my homemade puff pastry would rise, or if my temperamental souffl├ęs would fall.

After a comforting meal of ham, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs and an unnecessary number of casseroles, the upside-down cake was a perfect ending to a great evening that made me thankful for great family, friends and food. Happy Easter!

Can anyone tell me why this is called an upside-down cake? Aren't all cake essentially upside-down cakes until you take them out of the pan?
Easy Pineapple Upside-down Cake
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1cup packed brown sugar
1can (20 oz) pineapple slices in juice, drained, juice reserved
1jar (6 oz) maraschino cherries without stems, drained
1box SuperMoist yellow cake mix

Vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box








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1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). In 13x9-inch pan or 2 9-inch round pans, melt butter in oven. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter. Arrange pineapple slices on brown sugar. Place cherry in center of each pineapple slice, and arrange remaining cherries around slices; press gently into brown sugar.


2. Add enough water to reserved pineapple juice to measure 1 1/4 cups. Make cake batter as directed on box, substituting pineapple juice mixture for the water. Pour batter over pineapple and cherries.


3. Bake according to times indicated on the box, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately run knife around side of pan to loosen cake. Place heatproof serving plate upside down onto pan; turn plate and pan over. Leave pan over cake 5 minutes so brown sugar topping can drizzle over cake; remove pan. Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm or cool. Store covered in refrigerator.

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