Food, Fun and More

Whatever Happened to Birthday Cakes?

What ever happened to homemade birthday cakes? I remember helping my mom make cakes for my brothers’ and my dad’s birthdays. That tradition carried over to baking cakes for my own son and husband. There is so much more of “me” in the cake when the flour is measured and the mess is made at home in the kitchen and they know I’m taking the time and making the effort just for them. 
The kitchen is a place for mother and daughters (and sons too!) to come together. I don’t see that bond, which comes from families cooking together, happening much in this busy world.
An over-sweet, over-frosted cake from a store bakery has nothing over a love-filled cake made with your own hands. It is the flaws, especially ones made by little hands that touch the heart.
Store-bought cakes usually come in two varieties: vanilla and chocolate. Children grow up not knowing the delicious flavors that can be incorporated into a cake. There are orange cakes, black forest cakes, lemon cakes and pineapple upside-down cakes – my son’s favorite- just to mention a few.

I recently made a pineapple upside-down cake for my son’s 38th birthday. It had been a few years since I’d made the last one. As I was placing the maraschino cherries in the center of each pineapple ring I remembered the year he ate all of the cherries off the top of his cake. It was hard to justify being angry, after all, it was HIS birthday cake.
My stepson’s favorite cake is German Chocolate and the recipe I have for the frosting came from my sister-in-law and it is scrumptious. Every time I make that frosting I think of her.
I have recipes in my mom’s very English handwriting that only I can read. She passed away several years ago but it is like she is there with me in the kitchen when I make her mincemeat bars or baking powder biscuits.
Cooking and the recipes we share are delicious ways to keep us connected to one another, share out heritage and culture and feel close to those who are absent.
This is the recipe for my son’s pineapple upside-down birthday cake. It is from my old Good Housekeeping cookbook; the one so loving used that it is held together with a rubber band.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

1-20 oz can pineapple rings                                  1 cup butter, divided                                           2 c packed brown sugar, (2 sticks) divided           10 Maraschino cherries                                      2 ¼ cups cake flour                                               1 ½ cups sugar                                                 ½ teaspoons baking powder                                 1 teaspoon salt                                                   ¾ cup shortening                                                  ¾ cup milk                                                           3 eggs                                                                    1 teaspoon vanilla                                               ½ teaspoon almond extract

DIRECTIONS: Drain pineapple rings. Using two 9-inch round cake pans, place ½ cup of butter (1 stick) in each pan. Place in a low oven to melt the butter. Once the butter has melted, sprinkle 1 cup of packed brown sugar over butter, in each cake pan. Arrange 5 pineapple rings evenly over top of brown sugar in each pan. Place a maraschino cherry in the center of each ring. Set pans aside.  In a large bowl, combine cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add shortening, milk, eggs, vanilla and almond extract. Using an electric mixer, beat at low speed until ingredients are mixed then increase speed to medium. Beat for 5 minutes, occasionally scraping sides of the bowl. Drop batter over pineapple rings by large spoonfuls. Gently spread batter evenly and to the edges of the pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes. Cakes will be lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean when cakes are done. Let cool 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully run a sharp knife around the edges of the cake to release it from the sides of the pan. Invert onto a serving plate. If any of the topping remains in the pan, carefully remove with a spatula and place on the cake. Let cool then serve. 



  1. Christine Braxmaier

    I just read your email and you sound so like me. I use to make Pineapple Upside Down cakes with my Mother as a child. Just recently bought a cast iron skillet, as that is what we always used. And I did make one. Thanks for the memories.

  2. I made Macrae a homemade chocolate cake for his birthday. He actually helped make it and loved the process. And it was WAAAY better than anything store-bought!

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