N and I have always nurtured a love-hate relationship. We were the best of friends in school, and at times the worst of enemies. We helped and supported each other, but also had those abominable showdowns, of which we can only think 15 years hence and laugh our heads off!
Our paths diverged after school. I went to study History in Presidency College while she took up Medical at NRS. We met for a brief while when she was doing her MD in Delhi and I was working there. But within a couple of months, she got a much better and more coveted stream at CMC and came back to Calcutta. The only thing that tied us together through rain and storm was the strangeness of our birthdays, which fell exactly 6 months apart. So she would turn half a year older when I’d turn one, and vice versa. And in all the 20-odd years that we’ve known each other, we’ve never ever missed wishing the other person a “Happy Birthday” and a “Happy Half Birthday”!
This September she finally set sail for Birmingham to study Clinical Oncology. Since there’s no certainty when we’d meet next, I chose to hold for her a farewell lunch. Another of our friends B and her li’l sister C (who happens to be a phenomenal baker herself) were also present. I had decided to order in lunch so that we could properly chat like good old days without my having to rush to the kitchen every now and then. The only thing I chose to make was the dessert, and since pineapples — adorably sweet and juicy ones — were rampant in the market, my mind was set on a Pineapple Upside Down Cake.
Now, I generally bake way past midnight, and on this occasion too by the time I was done with the prep and making my batter, it was the dead of the night. I turned on my oven to preheat it. So far, so good. Next, I embarked to set the temperature at 200ºC to bake my cake, and lo and behold! The damned temperature wouldn’t come down to anything lower than 900ºC!! After spending a good 20-25 minutes twisting and turning the knob in every angle possible, the screen was finally able to record a temperature of 200ºC. I pushed my batter-filled cake tin in and timed it for 30 minutes. After the stipulated time, it came out almost perfect — rich, golden and ‘pineapple-y’. But I still felt it needed 5 minutes more in the oven. So I pushed it back and tried to set the timer for 5 min. But this time it did not relent. My oven had died an unceremonious death after serving my family for 7 long years. I couldn’t bake my cake for those extra 5 minutes, but my friends (which included a trained baker!) said it was as perfect as anything and between the 3 of them, they lapped up all 8 slices! So in the end, those 5 minutes didn’t matter much then!
Pineapples, cut into big triangles or circles: 12-15 slices
Pineapples, chopped finely: 1 small cup
Flour: 100 gm
Caster sugar: 100 grams + 2 tbsp
Butter, at room temperature: 60 gm
Olive oil: 40 ml
Baking powder: 1.5 tsp
Baking soda: 1/2 tsp
Salt: a pinch
Eggs, at room temperature: 2
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Grease the base and sides of a round cake tin (springform or otherwise) and set it aside.
2. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of caster sugar on the base. Arrange the pineapple slices on it without overlapping till the entire area is covered.
3. In a bowl sift the flour, baking powder and soda and salt and set aside.
4. Now in a mixer, cream butter, olive oil and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well.
5. Pour this mixture in a big bowl and add the flour mixture (1/3rd at a time) and fold in well till no lumps remain. Add the chopped pineapples along with their juice and fold them in as well.
6. Gently pour the batter on the pineapple slices already lining the base of your cake tin and spread out with the back of a spatula or tap it against the kitchen counter a couple of times to make the batter even.
7. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool on wire rack for at least half an hour. This is important.
8. Before unmoulding, run a knife around the cake that’ll help loosen it a bit. Turn your tin upside down on a plate and once you remove it, you have your deliciously golden Pineapple Upside-Down Cake smiling at you!
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