“You know you turn me. Inside out. And round and round.” -as sung by Diana Ross
The truth is, I went in looking for strawberries. I drove to my favorite produce place that always has one of those old grocery store tiered floats parked by the check-out with the freshest pick of the day from local farmers. It was a only a few days prior when I had scored a gallon of them, recalling William Butler’s tribute to those sweet, juicy fruits as I sunk my teeth into one of those ripe beauties: “Doubtless God could have made a better berry…” And, at that moment, completely agreeing with the sixteenth century author’s sentiment, by the way. So, I decided to trot back down the mountain for some more. I wanted to make strawberry shortcake. You know how you think about certain foods until one day that nagging little voice inside demands, “Enough already! Must. Have. It. NOW!” Well, I once read somewhere that if you physically crave something and the desire does not go away, it means that your body is in need of some amino acid or mineral (or whatever) that only that food can satisfy. I wasn’t exactly sure how strawberry shortcake with whipped cream would replenish my depleted stores, but I didn’t want to risk it. So, I drove lazily and happily down the long, winding road, on my mission to augment myself with one of my favorite old-fashioned desserts.
My smile quickly turned upside-down when I walked to the rusty display shelf that had been loaded with strawberries less than forty-eight hours before. There were only blackberries. Sure, they were gorgeous – gigantic, deep amethyst cones the size of my thumb, but I had my heart set on strawberries. Slightly bummed but easily distracted, I purchased the consolation fruit and made my way to the car. I casually popped a blackberry in my mouth and stopped, dumbfounded, in my tracks. Usually larger fruits don’t have as much flavor as smaller berries, but that was not true in this case. These blackberries were as sweet as sugar and tasted like summer feels. I ate another…and then another. I stuffed my mouth with three and four of those babies at a time and wiped the purple juice that was trickling down my face and neck with the back of my hand. I couldn’t stop eating them. When I realized that I had inhaled almost half of my purchase before I had even fished out my keys, I knew that the remaining ones would not be safe within arm’s reach, so into the trunk they went. As I drove home, I could not stop thinking about them.
I started to obsess about them, darting looks into my rear view mirror, as if I could muster my Superman X-ray vision and get a glimpse of those brambles under my car’s rear compartment. I chastised myself, reminding my inner child that these berries were reserved for the dessert that we had planned to not only enjoy – but to photograph for you. I can only plead insanity for what was about to happen next. I was so crazy about those blackberries that I pulled over in the full sun of the K-Mart parking lot and devoured the remaining berries in record time in the front seat of my convertible. I ate every last one of them with relish, then drove back to the farm stand and embarrassingly purchased yet another batch (along with a perfectly-ripe pineapple and a handful of juicy South Carolina peaches) before heading home. I knew these would not be touched, as I was well on my way to a date with my couch, nursing a very big stomachache. But, oh, was it worth it. As I tossed the empty basket that had housed those glorious gems into the recycle bin, I recalled the rest of Butler’s poem: “Doubtless God could have ever made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.”
So…some blackberries…a ripe beauty of a pineapple and peaches. Forget the shortcakes! We’ve got the makings for another fabulous dessert – upside-down cake! When Adam was a little boy, his mother – a true Southerner – told him one day she was going to make an upside-down cake. Well, this completely baffled the child. He said he spent hours trying to grasp just how in the world an upside-down cake would be made. I always think about that every time I unmold mine and it never fails to make me smile. Of course, my cheery mood just might have something to do with the fact that I’m about to dig into such a sublime dessert. Probably.
Peach and Pineapple Upside-Down Cake with Fresh Blackberries
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon dark rum, optional
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1-1/2 cups diced pineapple
- 1 cup peeled, pitted and sliced peaches
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup blackberries
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a glass measure, whisk the buttermilk, vanilla and rum together and set aside.
- In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, add ½ cup (1 stick) of butter and the brown sugar. Heat over medium until the butter is melted and the mixture is bubbling, stirring frequently. Add the pineapple and peaches, evenly distributing the fruit. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the remaining butter (1 stick) with the sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in three additions alternately with the buttermilk mixture. Stop to scrape down the bowl as needed. Mix just until combined. Spread the cake batter evenly over the fruit and bake until the cake is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes.
- Invert a cake plate over the pan. Holding the platter and skillet together, invert them to unmold the cake. Lift off the skillet. Tuck the blackberries in the top of the cake and serve warm or at room temperature.
…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:
Planning: You can also swap out all peaches, pears or apples for the fruit medley. There may be a tense moment just before you invert the cake, but be brave! It’s not that tricky – just give yourself a little pep talk. It’s really not that difficult – you can do it!
Product Purity: I like the island vibe with the addition of the rum, but the cake is just as fabulous without it. Use pure vanilla extract for the best flavor.
Presentation: Although round is the classic shape for an upside-down cake, I used my square cast-iron skillet for a fun twist. If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, you can use a 9-inch cake pan. You can certainly toss the blackberries in with the peaches and pineapple (they will give your cake a purple burst of color), but I like to place them on top after the cake has baked – almost like a pretty fruit garnish that lends a fresh taste to the dessert.