Pineapple-Pecan Upside-Down Cake
1 large can pineapple rings in heavy syrup
1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 C. light brown sugar
2 T. honey
1 C. pecan halves (or sliced almonds)
1 1/3 C. sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 C. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 C. sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
1 t. pure vanilla extract (or almond extract)
Heat oven to 325° F. If you’ll be baking the cake directly in a cast-iron pan, choose a deep 10- to 12-inch variety. If you prefer, use a 10-inch springform pan, which should have a baking sheet positioned on the rack underneath it in case syrup from the topping seeps out during baking. Spray sides of pan liberally with nonstick vegetable oil coating. (If you’re baking the cake in the same pan in which the topping will be prepared, coat the sides with nonstick cooking spray after arranging the fruit and just before spooning in the batter.)
Prepare the topping: Melt 1 stick of butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until it’s bubbling and melted. Stir in the honey, blending well. Remove from heat. (If you are using a separate baking pan, transfer the topping to that pan using a flexible spatula.) Arrange drained pineapple slices in a decorative pattern on top of the sugar-honey syrup; next place a maraschino cherry in the center of each ring and arrange additional cherries amongst the pineapple. Scatter pecans generously to fill empty spaces. Let topping cool while you prepare the batter.
Prepare the batter: Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. Place 2 sticks of butter and the sugar in a mixing bowl and cream until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time until mixture is light and fluffy. With mixer running on low speed, gradually add the sifted dry ingredients to combine, then add vanilla and beat on medium speed about 1 minute, stopping to scrape bottom and sides of bowl with a flexible spatula.
Assemble, bake the cake: Spoon batter over prepared topping, smoothing gently in order to avoid disturbing the pattern you’ve created with fruit. Place on middle rack of preheated oven and bake approximately 1 hour, until cake has risen, golden brown, and tests done using a toothpick piercing near center of layer.
Cool, invert the cake: Remove from oven to a wire rack and cool for about 20 minutes. While cake is still fairly warm, quickly run the blade of a thin, sharp knife around edges of pan to loosen, then place a serving plate over top and quickly invert cake onto plate. (If any pieces of fruit or nuts cling to the pan, gently remove them and reposition them on cake.)
Presentation: Cake is best served warm or at room temperature. It keeps nicely for up to 24 hours under a cake dome in a cool room. You can refrigerate the cake for longer periods of time, but return it to room temperature before serving. Plain vanilla ice cream or a small dollop of freshly whipped cream with only a touch of sugar and vanilla are best accompaniments.
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