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FOOD 101: History Of The Upside Down Cake & Cake Pans

If you’ve never had an upside-down cake, today’s the day: April 20th is National Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

Why are cake pans round? The answer is below, with the history of cake pans.

With an upside-down cake, fruit is set on the bottom of the pan, topped with cake batter.

When the cooking is complete, the skillet is inverted onto a plate, such that the fruit is now on top, although it was baked upside-down.

SCION OF THE SKILLET CAKE

This cake was originally made on the stove top in a skillet, and called skillet cake (photo #4). Today, it’s the same process, but with the benefit of cake pans and ovens.

(Want to be authentic with a skillet and the stove top? No one will stop you! Those who want to go really authentic should try cooking it over a campfire or wood fireplace.)

To make a skillet cake, fruit is set on the bottom and the batter poured on top. When the skillet or pan is inverted, the fruit that was once at the bottom forms a decorative topping. Any fruit can be used.

When canned pineapple rings became available in the first half of the 20th century, Pineapple Upside Down Cake became the rage—often with maraschino cherries in the center of the pineapple rings.

As the recipe evolved, cooks put their skillets in the oven to bake. Nordicware, creator of the bundt pan, created a special round pan with indentations for the pineapple slices (photo #6), guaranteeing a perfect presentation.

To show how popular the cake became, they also make mini pans for individual Upside-Down Cakes.

Check out these upside down cake recipes:

  • Blood Orange Upside Down Cake (photo #2)
  • Upside-Down Ginger-Pecan Peach Pie
  • Upside Down Irish Whiskey Cake
  •  
    Upside Down Cake is related to Tarte Tatin, an accidental upside-down pie from 1880s France.

    Also check out the different types of cakes.
     
    THE HISTORY OF CAKE PANS

    Why are cakes round?

    Generally, the round cakes we know today are descended from ancient breads, before there were baking pans of any kind.

    Yeast-risen breads and cakes were made by hand, patted into balls and baked on hearthstones, griddles, or in low, shallow all-purpose pans.

    By the 17th century, cake hoops made of metal or wood were placed on flat pans to shape cakes.

    According to food writer Elizabeth David, in the seventeenth century, tin or iron hoops (photo #4) were increasingly used and to shape cakes, and are frequently mentioned in the “cookery books” (think of the modern flan ring, but much deeper).

    The hoop was placed on an iron or tin sheet, with a layer of floured paper on the bottom (think of today’s parchment paper). The sides of the hoop were buttered to ease removal of the baked cake.

    You can find “these or similar directions offered over and over again in Eliza Smith’s The Compleat Housewife, first published in 1727 (which has recipes for 40 cakes, the large ones being yeast-leavened).

    In the preface of her book, Mrs. Smith says that her recipes reflect some 30 years of experience, so it is likely that her methods date back to the previous century.

    Some recipes direct the reader to bake the cake in a paper hoop (oiled so not to burn), which was used in kitchens of the 1600s [source].

    Wooden hoops were also fairly common. Some cooks preferred them to tin, perhaps because they didn’t rust and thus were easier to store. Wood also didn’t overheat, so were less likely to burn the sides of the cake in those primitive ovens.

    Over time, baking pans in various shapes and sizes became readily available to the general public. By the 17th century, it was common for a western kitchen to contain a number of skillets, baking pans (including cake pans with bottoms), a kettle, and several pots, along with a variety of pot hooks and trivets.

    In the American colonies, these items would have been produced by a local blacksmith from iron, while brass or copper vessels were more common in Europe.

    Improvements in metallurgy during the 19th and 20th centuries enabled the economical production of pots and pans from lighter metals such as steel, stainless steel and aluminum [source].

    Molded cakes in fancy shapes reached their zenith in the Victorian era (commencing with the crowning of Queen Victoria in 1831).

     

    Pineapple Upside Down Cake

    Blood Orange Upside Down Cake

    2 Layer Apple Upside Down Cake

    Skillet Cake

    Wood Baking Hoop

    Pineapple Upside Down Cake Pan

    [1] A Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (here’s the recipe from King Arthur Flour). [2] A Blood Orange Upside Down Cake (here’s the recipe from Good Eggs). [3] A two-layer Apple-Whiskey Upside Down Cake (here’s the recipe from Betty Crocker).[4] A skillet cake. Here’s the recipe for a Pineapple Upside-Down Skillet Cake from King Arthur Flour. [5] An old-fashioned baking hoop (photo courtesy Creeds Direct). [6] Nordicware’s Pineapple Upside-Down Cake pan (here it is on Amazon).

     
    Today, fancy cake molds can still be had; as well as animal molds, action figures, beehives, sports equipment and football fields, vehicles and other popular culture shapes. Here’s the history of the bundt pan.
     
    LIKE FOOD HISTORY?

    Check out the history of more than 180 foods on THE NIBBLE.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: What To Do With Amaretto

    Amaretto Di Saronno

    Homemade Amaretto

    Amaretto Preserves

    Coffee With Amaretto

    Shrimp With Amaretto Marinade

    [1] The grandaddy of amaretto: Amaretto di Saronno (photo courtesy Illva Saronno S.p.A). [2] Homemade amaretto (here’s the recipe from Mantitlement). [3] Amaretto preserves (photo courtesy Telltale Preserve Co). [4] Pour amaretto into your coffee, or serve it as a chaser (photo courtesy Coffee Door Country). [5] Shrimp in an amaretto marinade (photo courtesy Kansas City Steaks).

     

    Today is National Amaretto Day, in honor of an almond-flavored liqueur initially made with local bitter almonds in the area of Saronno, Italy.

    Amaretto is Italian for “a little bitter,” which it may have been back then. Today, it is sweet—and often made from apricot pits, which taste like almond and are a whole lot less expensive.

    But what to do with that bottle of amaretto?

    Gone are the days when a glass of liqueur would be a sweet ending to dinner. Has anyone had an after-dinner liqueur at home since, say, the 1970s?

    Don’t let the bottle of amaretto gather dust on a closet shelf. Today’s tip is: Take that bottle down and put it to good use!

    1. Revive the custom of the after dinner drink.

    Drink your dessert instead of eating something sweet.

    You don’t need to buy delicate, stemmed liqueur glasses: Rocks glaasses, even shot glasses, will do just fine.

    We use miniature brandy snifters.

    2. Bring out the bottle with after-dinner coffee…

    …or brunch coffee…or coffee at any respectable time of day.

    We have long followed our Nana’s custom of bringing a silver tray with four liqueur bottles (amaretto, anisette, Courvoisier, crème de cacao) and small cream pitchers to the table with coffee.

    Why the little pitchers? Nana was far too elegant to pour liqueur from a bottle into a coffee cup. It was poured from the bottle into the pitcher, and then into the cup.

    Why didn’t she serve the amaretto as a chaser in her crystal liqueur glasses? Alas, it’s too late to ask.

    But anyone who enjoys a shot of flavored syrup in their cup of coffee will appreciate the even greater depth of favor from a sweet liqueur—mixed in or served separately.

    3. Make cocktails.

    You can even throw a cocktail party with a menu of amaretto cocktails: Almond Joy, Amaretto Alexander, Amaretto and Coke, Amaretto Sour, Italian Sunset and others.

    Here are “the 10 best amaretto cocktail recipes.”

    Everything old is new again.

    And for dessert: a DiSaronno Milkshake, which is just as it sounds: amaretto and vanilla ice cream, tossed into the blender.

    MORE WAYS TO USE AMARETTO

    We have almost 40 different ways to use amaretto.

    While the biggest opportunity comes in adding a tablespoon or two to sweet foods, there are also savory uses.

    Amaretto In Desserts

  • Almond cookies
  • Anything that uses almond flour
  • Applesauce
  • Any chocolate recipe, including chocolate truffles
  • Baked or sautéed apples or pears, or sautéed stone fruits
  • Cake: sprinkle directly onto angel, pound and sponge cakes, or reduce into a sauce
  • Cannoli cream
  • Cheesecake
  • Compote or stewed fruit
  • Cookie dip (make a sweet dip, or just dip the cookies in straight amaretto)
  • Crêpes
  • Dessert sauce (butterscotch, caramel, chocolate, fruit)
  • Fresh fruit and fruit salad (pineapple or peaches and amaretto are inspired pairings)
  • Frostings and fillings
  • Ice cream: churned into homemade (really delicious!), or poured over a scoop of ready made
  • Jam and preserves
  • Maraschino cherries (replace half the sugar syrup with amaretto)
  • Marinate dried fruits (as a garnish for proteins or desserts)
  • Pudding (almost any flavor)
  • Sautéed bananas
  • Tiramisu
  • Whipped cream
  •  
    Amaretto In Beverages

  • Beertails (yes, add some to beer, especially a bland one)
  • Cherry, peach or pineapple Jell-O shots
  • Cocktails
  • Cherry, cola or lemon-lime soft drinks
  • Coffee, hot or iced
  • Floats and milkshakes
  • Hot chocolate
  • Neat or on the rocks
  • Tea, hot or iced
  • Sparkling wine
  • Spritzer (club soda and amaretto)
  •  
    More Amaretto Uses

  • Almondine sauce for chicken, duck, fish, pork and vegetables
  • French toast, pancake and waffle batter
  • Peanut butter or chocolate spread (e.g. Nutella)
  • Marinades for meat and seafood (delish with grilled shrimp—here’s a recipe)
  •  
    What if you simply have too much amaretto?

    Give it away. Our Dad, who didn’t drink alcohol, had four bottles in his closet—and didn’t understand the concept of re-gifting.

    Tie a bow around the neck; and if you feel you need to buy something, add some liqueur glasses.

    Not enough amaretto?

    Make your own with this recipe.

     

    RECIPE: AMARETTO BROWNIES WITH AMARETTO FROSTING

    Thanks to Rosie Bucherati of King Arthur Flour for this yummy recipe.

    Ingredients For About 4 Dozen Small Squares

    For The Brownies

  • 1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces bittersweet or unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons amaretto
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Optional garnish: 1/3 cup tablespoons sliced or slivered almonds
  •  
    For The Amaretto Frosting

  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup natural or Dutch-process cocoa
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons amaretto
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (for enhanced flavor)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

     

    Amaretto Brownies

    Amaretto Pound Cake

    Anything baked tastes good with amaretto. [1] Amaretto brownies (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour). [2] Amaretto pound cake with amaretto glaze (photo courtesy The Baker Chick).

     
    2. MELT the butter and chocolate in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until melted (or you can microwave). Add sugar, stirring until combined. Remove from the heat, and cool to lukewarm. Stir in the eggs and amaretto.

    3. ADD the flour, salt and espresso powder, beating gently until thoroughly combined. Spread the batter into the pan. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

    4. MAKE the frosting. Combine the butter and chocolate in bowl, stirring until smooth. Add the sifted confectioner’s sugar alternately with the milk, beating on medium speed. Stir in the amaretto and espresso powder.

    5. SPREAD the icing on the cooled brownies. Garnish with almonds. Cover and refrigerate the brownies for at least 1 hour before serving; this will help the icing set, and make cutting a lot less messy.

    6. CUT the brownies in small squares to serve. Cover any leftovers, and store at cool room temperature. If it’s warm in your house, you can wrap them airtight and store in the fridge for a day or so; or freeze for longer storage.

      

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    PRODUCT: Good Zebra Gourmet Animal Crackers

    Good Zebra Animal Crackers

    Good Zebra Animal Crackers

    Spirit animals await you, in chai, lemon and vanilla. Photos courtesy Good Zebra.

     

    Good Zebra calls their animal crackers “spirit animal crackers.” That’s because their four varieties represent different spirit animals.

    You can take the quiz to find your spirit animal—a totem representing you in the animal kingdom.

    A totem is a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol of a tribe, clan, family or individual.

    Native American tradition provides that each individual is connected with nine different animals that will accompany each person through life, acting as guides.

    Cultures around the world consider their spirit animal to be an otherworldly guide, who appears during difficult times to offer love, healing and/or support.

    It generally takes the form of an animal with which a person (or a clan) shares a certain set of characteristics, and thus a kinship.

    The animal acts as a guide and protector for humans. In death, the humans’ spirits are absorbed into the animal. (Here’s more from The Atlantic.)

    You don’t have to pursue your spirit animal in order to enjoy Good Zebra animal crackers, however.

    We call Good Zebra gourmet animal crackers, because the sophisticated flavors taste so good—in chai, lemon and vanilla.

    There are 11 different animal shapes*, inspired by original tattoo art, “each with a soul-touching message to enlighten, uplift and empower,” according to the producers.

     

    Each 2-ounce resealable bag contains approximately 20 animal crackers, delivering 12 grams of protein.

    The crackers are all natural, nothing processed or refined (they’re sweetened with honey and coconut sugar). Made with 70% organic ingredients, they’re certified kosher by OU.

    You can buy 12 packages for $28 or four packages for $17.

    Get yours at Good-Zebra.com.

    If you’d prefer to bake your own animal crackers, here’s a recipe.

    ________________

    *We identified a butterfly, deer, fox, grizzly bear, kestrel, owl, peacock, turtle, unicorn, wolf, and of course, zebra. There is a Native American zodiac with additional animal symbols.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Animal Crackers

    National Animal Crackers Day is celebrated on April 18th.

    You’re never too adult to enjoy animal crackers..and since your palate is likely much evolved since childhood, to taste the superiority of homemade versions.

    Any adult will smile at a plate of cookie nostalgia with a cup of coffee or tea (and listen to six-year-old Shirley Temple sing “Animal Crackers In My Soup”).

    The standard-bearer, Barnum’s Animal Crackers, have far less sugar than other cookies. In fact, they’re barely sweet enough to be called a cookie.

    So why are they called crackers?

    Animal crackers originated in Britain in 1889, when P.T. Barnum toured with his circus. British manufacturers called them animal biscuits, biscuits being the British word for cookie.

    The cookies were exported to the U.S. When American manufacturers made their own versions, they changed the word biscuit to cracker instead of cookie (we opine, because consumers would expect cookies to be sweeter).

    Today, brands like Annie’s and Best Choice call their products animal cookies…and add a more sugar to the recipe.

    Here’s more history of animal crackers.

    This recipe, from King Arthur Flour, uses small (2” to 2¼”) spring-loaded plunger cutters. You can buy a set of four for $9.95: elephant, giraffe, lion and zebra. You plunge down, then pop the dough right out.

    If you don’t want to buy the cutters, use whatever animal cookie cutters you have—even large ones.
     
    RECIPE: ANIMAL COOKIES

    This recipe, from King Arthur Flour, makes sweet, buttery cookies. It uses Princess Cake & Cookie Flavor, an extract that combines vanilla and lemon and emulates the flavor profile and aroma of Barnum’s Animal Crackers.

    If you don’t want to purchase a bottle, you can substitute only vanilla extract, 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract, almond extract, anise extract, other flavor of choice.

    Prep time is 15 to 20 minutes; bake time is 8 to 10 minutes per sheet.

    Ingredients For About 5 Dozen Cookies

  • 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) butter, soft
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon Princess Cake and Cookie Flavor (or substitute)
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup oat flour or finely ground rolled oats
  •  

    Homemade Animal Cookies

    Animal Cookie Cutters

    Homemade Animal Crackers

    [1] Homemade animal cookies. [2] Make your own with these little plunger cookie cutters (photos #1 and #2 courtesy King Arthur Flour). [3] Here’s a vegan recipe from Dessert With Benefits.

     
    Preparation

    1. BEAT together the butter, sugar, honey, salt, baking soda, and flavor until well combined. Add the flour and oat flour, mixing to combine.

    2. DIVIDE the dough in half, flattening each half slightly to make a disk; then wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

    3. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease several baking sheets, or line them with parchment.

    4. TAKE one piece of dough from the refrigerator and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough 1/4″ thick.

    5. DIP the animal cookie cutters in flour (each time you cut), then use them to cut the dough. Using the cutters may take a little practice, not to mention patience making so many small cookies. Press the cutter down by the outside edges first, then use the plunger to emboss before picking up; and push the plunger again to release the cookie over the baking sheet.

    6. TRANSFER the cookies to the prepared baking sheets and freeze for 15 minutes. This help the cookies retain their shape and imprint.

    7. BAKE the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges (do not let the cookies brown). Remove the cookies from the oven, and let them cool on the baking sheet for several minutes, or until set. Then transfer the cookies on parchment to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
     
     
    HOW ABOUT 3-D ANIMAL CRACKERS

    Check ‘em out!

      

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    RECIPE: Robin’s Egg Cheesecake

    For spring, we love a “robin’s egg” cake: a speckled exterior, garnished with some chocolate Easter eggs.

    Last year we made this Speckled Egg Malted Milk Egg Cake.

    This year, McCormick sent us a speckled cheesecake recipe, developed by Amanda Rettke of I Am Baker.

    For step-by-step photos and a video, visit Amanda’s recipe page.

    Two white cake layers sandwich a bright yellow lemon cheesecake layer.

    For even more springtime color splash, tint one of the white layers pink. Just add 3-5 drops of red food color to the white batter until you reach the desired shade.

    RECIPE: SPECKLED ROBIN’S EGG CHEESECAKE

    Ingredients

  • 1 white cake recipe (you can use a box mix)
  • 1 lemon cheesecake (recipe below)
  • Garnish: candy grass and speckled eggs
  •  
    For The Lemon Cheesecake

  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon McCormick Lemon Extract
  • 2 eggs
  •  
    For The Buttercream

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon Sky Blue food color, McCormick’s Colors From Nature (photo #3)
  •  
    Cocoa Water For The Speckles

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sky Blue food color
  •  
    Plus

  • Whisk
  • Cake stand
  • Small offset spatula
  • Bench scraper
  • Paint brush
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BAKE the white cake layers per box instructions. Set aside. (We baked the cake layers the day before and wrapped them in plastic after cooling.) When they are cool, level the tops if necessary.

    2. PREPARE the cheesecake: Heat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a springform pan: Line with parchment and spray with non-stick spray.

    Allow it to cool for at least 3 hours before assembling the cake.

     

    Robin's Egg Cheesecake

    Robin's Egg Cake

    McCormick Colors From Nature

    Blue Eggs

    [1] and [2] A cake for Easter or other spring celebration (photos courtesy I Am Baker). [3] The blue color is created with McCormick Colors From Nature. [4] The real deal, robin’s eggs in their nest (photo courtesy Erica Lea | Flickr).

     
    3. COMBINE the cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon extract in the bowl of a stand mixer, until well blended. Add the eggs; mix just until blended. Pour into the springform pan.

    4. BAKE for 40 minutes or the until center is almost set. Cool. Refrigerate 3 hours or until firm.

    5. PREPARE the buttercream. In medium bowl, mix the sugar and butter with a spoon or an electric mixer on low speed. Stir in the vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the milk. Gradually beat in just enough remaining milk to make the frosting smooth and spreadable. If too thick, beat in more milk, a few drops at a time. Add 1 teaspoon of the sky blue food coloring. You can add more or less to reach your desired color. Set aside.

    6. ASSEMBLE the cake. Place the first layer of white cake on a cake stand. Carefully place the lemon cheesecake directly on top. Set the final layer of white cake on top of cheesecake. You may need to trim and level the cheesecake before putting the cake together. (No frosting between layers is necessary.)

    7. COVER the cake in buttercream and smooth with a small offset spatula. Go back with a bench scraper to get extra-smooth sides and top.

    8. WHISK together the speckling liquid ingredients. Place the cake on a table lined with newspaper and wear a protective apron. Dip the brush into the cocoa water and then hold it in your left hand near the cake. With your pointer finger of your right hand, run your finger along the bristles of the paint brush. The first time you do this, try to be a little farther away from the cake, just so you are able to gauge how much pressure you can use, how much liquid you need on your brush, and how close you need to be.

    Spatter the speckles all over the top and sides of the cake. If you get a big spot or an area you don’t like, you can carefully dab a paper towel onto the area and remove most of the brown, while still blending in with the cake. When done, clean off the edge of the cake stand.

    9. GARNISH the top with candy grass to center and add small chocolate eggs. Chill until ready to serve.

      

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