We are almost able to take that big sigh of relief because the dreaded, yet unavoidable season of confounding forms, evanescent deductions, and really bad headaches will shortly be behind us. A goodbye this tremendous begs to be celebrated. There is only one proper way to celebrate, and that is with cake.
My immense fondness for cake is no secret. Cupcakes are a particular favorite with me. One morning, in the depths of hunger (I had probably eaten two hours before, but that is neither here nor there), I decided that pineapple would be a pleasing partner for that oversized stock of star anise that I had been hoarding for months.
Anise is a tricky spice to tackle. Subtle is her sweet spot - she’s the backup dancer of your spice cabinet. Though she does not possess the grace to carry off the leading role, she will spin intriguing, unobtrusive circles around your star ingredient, transforming that which was already good.
Stop thinking about black jelly beans. I caught you. This is nothing like that. Unlike those audacious “punch you in the face with my flavor” black beans of horror, the anise in this application is like a satin curtain, softly cascading over the sweet, acidic pineapple. It playfully bounces about your palate in perfect harmony with the tangy fruit.
So… Even if you, like myself, do not like anise AT ALL, there is no need to shy away from these humble celebratory cakes.
Oh, did I mention that my brother loves black jelly beans? Red flag if I ever saw one.
I have always taken slight issue with the pervasive 1950s southern delicacy that is pineapple upside down cake. The cloyingly sweet caramel combined with a dense, butter-fattened cake is just too rich for me to enjoy past two or three bites.
In an attempt to lighten things, I went with a chiffon cake. It is lifted with egg whites and fattened with oil, both of which produce an all around airier cake that is reminiscent of an angel food cake.
If you realize halfway through preparing your mis en place that you are out of cake flour, you can use our friend, Joy the Baker's cake flour substitute . It works like a charm, and thank goodness because, I’m really bad at buying cake flour.
Though these tiny treats make a smashing dessert, they would also make very nice company for your morning cup of restoration, also known as coffee.
I topped my warm cakes with a bit of whipped cream that I had sweetened with a drizzle of Turkish honey, and I really enjoyed the subtle floral notes it added.
Remember to always flip with confidence and garnish with more whipped cream than what is considered socially appropriate. It’s Wednesday, live it well.
Pineapple & Star Anise Upside Down Chiffon Cakes with Honey Whipped Cream
makes 4, 3.5 ounce ramekins / recipe adapted slightly from Alton Brown
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 3/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided use
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground star anise
- 1 cup fresh pineapple, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- 2 3/4 ounces cake flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 eggs
- 3 ounces granulated sugar, divided use
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 3/8 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoons honey
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted, stir in brown sugar, 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, and ground anise. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the caramel is bubbling and has thickened slightly. Remove from heat and stir in pineapple. Divide the mixture evenly amongst the four ramekins. Allow to cool while you prepare the cake batter.
Sift to combine cake flour, baking powder, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; set aside.
Separate egg yolks from egg whites. In a large bowl combine yolks and 2 ounces sugar. Beat on medium speed with an electric mixer for 2 minutes, or until the yolks have lightened in color and have become somewhat thick. Slowly beat in water, vegetable oil, vanilla, and orange juice. Gently whisk in flour mixture until just combined. Set aside while you prepare the egg whites.
In a clean bowl, combine egg whites and cream of tartar, beat on high speed until the whites become thick and foamy. Reduce the speed to medium and gradually add in remaining 1 ounce of sugar. Increase speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form; about 2 minutes.
Add 1/3 of the egg white mixture to the batter and whisk until well combined. Gently fold in remaining egg whites, until just incorporated. Divide the batter evenly among the ramekins. You may have some batter leftover.
Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. While the cakes are cooling, prepare the whipped cream.
Combine cream and honey in a medium bowl and beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Set aside until ready to use.
Allow the cakes to cool for 20 minutes and then run a butter knife along the edges to loosen each cake and flip over quickly. Serve with whipped cream. Enjoy!
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