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Sunday, September 20, 2009


A few weeks ago when I started the "Cupcake of the Week" feature on Essence, my mother-in-law asked me if I had ever made a pineapple-upside down cupcake. My answer, "Nope, but I won't let that be a deterrent". Bring it on! I'll try almost anything once or twice and if I like it, well I just might keep going. I thought to myself why not make a cupcake version of an old favorite? But, I wasn't sure if they should be the standard size or the extra large cupcakes. Either, would do the trick. The giant size cupcake pan wasn't even a thought- for obvious reasons. I was on the fence with this one. Did I want deep and delicious or shallow and sweet- some decisions are really hard to make. So, I didn't make one, I chose both! I figured what could be better than a bite size treat. A bigger treat, of course.

I, made my batter, the pineapple glaze, cut up my maraschino cherries, floured my pans, and I was in business. Then, the unthinkable- I ran out of batter. Huh! I needed more batter to fill the rest of the cupcake wells. That's when it was time for the box legends to the rescue. I pulled out good ole Duncan Hines yellow cake mix from my pantry. Clearly, that wasn't part of the plan. I quickly mixed up the batter from the box and filled my empty wells. Normally, when I bake cupcakes, there is a sweet distinctive homemade aroma in the air, but not this time- it was an artificial scent. Mr. or Mrs. Duncan Hines was polluting my high. Nevertheless, this was the perfect opportunity to do a side by side taste test, not that there was any uncertainty who was the real champ, but I had to seize the moment.

The cupcakes were done, about 25 minutes later, the extra large looked more like mini towers or like the water buffalo hats Fred Flinstone and Barney Rubble use to wear to their water buffalo meetings. Not very appetizing! Maybe that didn't work after all. But, the standards, well that was an understatement there was absolutely nothing standard about these few mouthfuls. Quite the contrary. Anxiously awaiting to try one as they cooled, I analyzed the differences between the scratch and the box. The box had an artificial smell, orange-yellowish color and it was a bit spongy- in a bad way! The scratch was a perfect shade of pale yellow with brown bits and crispy edges, it smelled refreshing. I knew how this story ended.

Drum roll.....it was a clear-cut finish, Duncan Hines was not even a contender. Not only was scratch the winner, but the amaretto pineapple-upside down cupcakes were absolutely...DELICIOUS!! I hope you try them, and remember, you never know what sweetness you can gain from your mother-in-law.

Happy Cupcaking!!!

Amaretto Pineapple-Upside Down Cupcakes

Yield: 12 cupcakes

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1¼ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon pure almond extract
¾ cup milk
¼ cup amaretto


1. Preheat oven 350°F. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides of bowl periodically. Mix in extracts. Combine milk and amaretto, set aside. Reduce speed; add flour mixture alternating with milk-amaretto mixture, ending with flour until just combined.

Pineapple Glaze:

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1½ cups canned pineapple slices packed in juice, drained
6 maraschino cherries, halved

1. Spray muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray and dust with flour, tapping out excess.

2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar, stirring occasionally, until sugar bubbles. Divide butter-sugar mixture among cupcake wells to generously cover bottom.

3. Cut each pineapple slice in diagonal fours to create eight fan-shaped chunks. Place 4 or 5 of the chunks evenly over the butter-sugar mixture with the broader part of the fan along the edge of the well. Place half a cherry, rounded side up into the center, gently press down.

4. Divide batter evenly over pineapple glaze filling two-thirds full. Bake, rotating pans halfway through until golden brown, and a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer pans to rack or counter to cool completely before removing cupcakes.

5. To finish, run a small icing spatula or thin bladed knife around cupcakes and invert over a baking sheet to remove. Use a spoon to replace any topping stuck to bottom of pan. Serve immediately.

posted by Nicole Friday for the Cupcake Craze


  1. Now that sounds like a real adult treat. Wonder where the term "from scratch" originated?....hmmmm


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