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My first attempt at pineapple upside-down cake.

I’ll let you in on a secret: I’ve never made this iconic Americana dessert before.

Sure, I’ve made my share of pineapple compote for glistening slabs of baked ham. I’ve chopped mounds of pineapple for salsa for grilled fish tacos. And of course, I’ve enjoyed plenty of fresh pineapple au naturele.

But pineapple upside-down cake kind of frightened me, I must admit. Maybe it’s because so many recipes call for baking it in a cast-iron skillet that you then have to flip over to invert onto a serving plate. Yeah, flipping over a scorching hot skillet containing molten caramelized syrup (and we all know how cast-iron retains its heat) just seemed like a recipe for not just cake, but third-degree burns to boot.

Then along came the promotional brochure in the mail for the upcoming “Ad Hoc At Home” cookbook (Artisan) by Thomas Keller with his rendition of this homespun cake.

The book won’t be out until November. But after trying the fantastic recipe for Ad Hoc’s “Chocolate Chip Cookies” last week, I decided to put my fears aside to attempt Ad Hoc’s “Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.”

A silicone cake pan makes it a breeze.

No cast-iron skillet needed here.

Instead, Keller uses a 9-inch silicone cake pan.

He doesn’t melt and caramelize the sugar and butter in the pan beforehand, either, like many other upside-down cake recipes. Instead, he creates a “schmear” of softened butter, light brown sugar, honey, dark rum, and vanilla that gets spread all over the bottom of the pan.

Then, a light sprinkle of salt goes over the top. Next, quartered rings of fresh pineapple are overlapped in the pan before the cake batter is added.

After baking, the cake rests in the pan for a short while. Then, you invert it onto your serving platter — with no fuss, no bother, and no dialing 911.

Because the silicone is so flexible, the cake releases easily with no sticking whatsoever.

Take a bite. Juicy, tender, sticky pineapple gives way to melty brown-sugar syrup then to an incredibly buttery, tender crumb. The touch of salt is a welcome addition, ensuring this cake isn’t candy-sweet like those in grandma’s time.

Pretty in pineapple.

It’s a fairly easy cake to make, but one that looks quite dramatic when unveiled. Best yet, because fresh pineapples are available year-round, you can serve this cake any time of year.

You can bet that I’ll be making this again.

Pineapple upside-down cake rookie?

Not any more.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

( serves 8 )

Thomas Keller writes: Here is another slightly zany entry from the American tradition, pineapple upside-down cake. I have some affection for canned pineapple for nostalgic reasons, but we use fresh pineapple here for a more elegant dessert. Again, think of this as a general template that you can use for different fruit — apple, blueberries, and the like all work wonderfully. We make what we call a “pan schmear” of butter and brown sugar, top it with the fruit, and pour the cake batter over the top. The recipe makes more schmear than you need, but it is difficult to make less. It will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator, ready when you want to make another cake, or it can be frozen.

For pan schmear:

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon dark rum

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract

Kosher salt

1 Gold (extra -sweet) pineapple

For cake:

1 1/3 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of  a stand mixer with the paddle, combine the butter, honey, rum, sugar, and vanilla, and beat until smooth and well blended. Spread 1/3 cup of the schmear over the bottom of a 9-inch silicone cake pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt. (The remaining schmear can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 1 month; bring to room temperature before using.)

Cut top and bottom from pineapple, and cut away peel. Cut pineapple lengthwise into quarters, and cut off core from each section. Cut each piece crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Beginning at the perimeter of the pan, make an overlapping ring of pineapple slices with the curved side facing out. Make a second ring inside the first one, overlapping the slices in the opposite direction, working toward the center of the pan. Reserve any pineapple for another use.

Sift flour and baking powder together; set aside.

Put butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle and mix on low speed to combine, then beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until light and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Mix in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating until the first one is incorporated before adding second and scraping down the sides as necessary. Beat in milk. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, beating just until combined.

Pour batter into pan and spread over pineapple. Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan for even browning and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, until a cake tester or wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan on a cooling rack for 20 to 30 minutes.

Run a knife around the edges of the cake, invert onto a serving platter, and serve warm. (Leftover cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.)

From “Ad Hoc At Home”

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