Did you know that if you combine butter and sugar and cook it for awhile, it turns into caramel? Well, my first caramel-making experience wasn’t quite that easy, but once it happened, it was pretty cool. Almost as cool as making whipped cream.
So, we got off to a rocky start. I melted 1/3 cup of butter and added a cup plus two tablespoons of sugar and cooked it over medium heat, as instructed. But, as seems to happen more often than not, the concoction did not look as Ms. Daley describes in the book. I expected at least a quasi-liquid, but what I had was a sort of sugar/butter paste—like there wasn’t enough butter. I kept stirring, waiting for this stuff to turn to liquid, and was freaking out just a little bit…the evening had turned into night and this cake still had to bake for over an hour and then cool before I could go to bed.
The sugar started to darken, as it was supposed to, but it was still nowhere near liquid form. There was only one thing I could think to do: add more butter. That seemed to help, but I had this nagging feeling that it was still not quite right.
I added the fresh pineapple slices (yes, I actually bought and cut up a real, whole pineapple…another first for me) to the caramel, and the juice from the fruit completely liquefied the caramel and I started to feel like everything was going to be okay. Except that it was 45 minutes later and my 10 pm bedtime was looming.
I placed the caramelized pineapples in the bottom of my new springform pan. (But not in a pattern of concentric circles, as suggested. I mean, honestly.) The caramel that was left in the pan went back on the stove to boil down to the thickness of honey. That took awhile—I guessing because it had twice the butter it was supposed to—but it happened and I was happy. Tired but happy. That went over the pineapples.
I mixed up the cake batter, which I agree with Ms. Daley is about the best-tasting cake batter you’ll ever have, poured it over the caramel and popped it in the oven. For a freakin’ hour. I read my new Cooking Light magazine while it baked. Ah, I love irony.
Okay…out of the oven and out of the super-cool pan and it was kinda pretty…not as pretty, I suppose, as if I’d stood there and put all those pineapple pieces in concentric circles, but still.
More importantly, it was really, really good. Pineapple isn’t my very favorite fruit, but soaked in caramel? That helped, and the cake: warm and über-moist, its batter included a few tablespoons of cheap brandy and that vanilla paste, which is really just the best stuff ever…it was worth the caramel drama and late night.
And the moral of this baking story, my dear readers, is that anything can be fixed with just a little more butter.