There is nothing more satisfying or comforting than tying on a favourite apron and baking something delicious. And nowhere has this been so woven into life than in the American South, where the attitude is that every day is worthy of a special treat from the kitchen.
Cheryl Day, one of the South’s most respected bakers, a New York Times bestselling author, and co-owner—with her husband, Griff—of Savannah’s acclaimed Back in the Day Bakery, is a direct descendent of this storied Southern baking tradition. Literally: her great-great-grandmother was an enslaved pastry cook famous for her biscuits and cakes. Now Cheryl brings together her deep experience, the conversations she’s had with grandmothers and great-aunts and sister-bakers, and her passion for collecting local cookbooks and handwritten recipes in a definitive collection of over two hundred tried-and-true recipes that celebrate the craft of from-scratch Southern baking.
Flaky, buttery biscuits. Light and crisp fritters. Muffins and scones with a Southern twist, using ingredients like cornmeal, pecans, sorghum, and cane syrup. Cookies that satisfy every craving. The big spectacular cakes, of course, layer upon layer bound by creamy frosting, the focal point of every celebration. And then the pies. Oh, the pies!
The book steeps the baker in not only the recipes, ingredients, and special flavour profiles of Southern baking but also the very nuances of how to be a better baker. With Cheryl as your guide, it’s like having generations of Southern bakers standing over your shoulder, showing you just how to cream butter and sugar, fold whipped egg whites into batter, adjust for the temperature and humidity in your kitchen, and master those glorious piecrusts by overcoming the thing that experienced bakers know—a pie dough can sense fear!
Time to get out that apron.
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Upside-down cakes are such a joy to bake; it’s the surprise when you unmold them that makes them so satisfying. You can make this cake with just about any fruit, but pineapple is the true retro classic. You can add a little rum or bourbon to the glaze if you’re serving grown folks.
For the Caramel Pineapple Topping
1 ripe pineapple or one 15-ounce (425 g) can pineapple slices, drained
6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter
1 cup (200 g) packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
8 maraschino cherries, preferably Luxardo
For the Cake
2½ cups (313 g) cake flour (not self-rising)
1 tablespoon (13 g) baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground mace
3 large (150 g) eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks/170 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
1½ cups (360 g) sour cream
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Have a 9-by-13-inch (23 by 33 cm) baking pan at hand.
To prepare the pineapple: If using a fresh pineapple, slice off the top and bottom. Stand the pineapple up and remove the peel by slicing it away in long strips following the contours of the fruit, making sure to remove all the “eyes” as well. Put the peeled pineapple on its side and cut into H-inch-thick (1.5 cm) rounds; you want 8 slices. Using a 1-inch (3 cm) cookie cutter, remove the core from each slice. Set the pineapple aside on paper towels to drain. If using canned pineapple, place 8 slices on paper towels to drain thoroughly.
To make the caramel pineapple topping: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, vanilla, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the butter is melted, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Pour the butter mixture into the baking pan and swirl the pan to evenly coat the bottom. Arrange the fresh pineapple slices or canned pineapple rings on top of the caramel mixture, without overlapping. Place a cherry in the middle of each pineapple ring.
To make the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and mace. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the egg mixture a little at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary.
Turn the speed down to low and add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand (if using) and use the rubber spatula to incorporate any ingredients hiding at the bottom of the bowl, making sure the batter is completely mixed. Pour the batter over the pineapple slices and smooth it with a spatula.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes.
Run a small knife around the edges of the pan, then place a large serving plate upside down on top and invert the pan to release the cake onto the plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.
The cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Excerpted from Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking by Cheryl Day (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2021. Photographs by Angie Mosier.