The owner of exclusive restaurants like Per Se and French Laundry, Thomas Keller always has a fresh take on classic cookery. Here, he puts his own twist on one of America's most iconic desserts with a recipe from the James Beard Award-winning, "approchable" new collection Ad Hoc at Home.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake


Serves 8

Here is another slightly quirky 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 fruits, and they 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.

PAN SCHMEAR

8 tablespoons (1 stick; 4 ounces) 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

CAKE

1 1/3 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

8 tablespoons (1 stick; 4 ounces) 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

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer ? tted with the paddle, combine the butter, honey, rum, brown sugar, and vanilla and beat until smooth and well blended.

Spread one 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 the top and bottom from the pineapple and cut away the peel. Cut the pineapple lengthwise into quarters, and cut off the core from each section. Cut each piece crosswise into J-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 ?rst one, overlapping the slices in the opposite direction, working toward the center of the pan. Reserve any extra pineapple for another use.

Sift the ?our and baking powder together; set aside.

Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer ?tted 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 the vanilla.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating until the ?rst one is incorporated before adding the second and scraping down the sides as necessary. Beat in the milk. Add the ?our mixture in 3 batches, beating just until combined.

Pour the batter into the pan and spread over the 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 the 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.)

Reprinted with permission from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller, Artisan Books, 2009. Photo credit: Deborah Jones

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