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Help recreating Babbo's Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

DH and I went to Babbo for my birthday a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed the Pineapple Sopra-Sotto cake for dessert. It was truly one of the best desserts I've ever had and I would LOVE to recreate it for DH, as he loves it for Easter. I called the restaurant but (shockingly) they're not willing to part with the recipe. So, I thought perhaps you fine home cooks could help me out!

I don't know if any of you have had this cake - here are a couple of photos, although I'm not sure how much it tells you about the cake:
http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/-hUvO0...
http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/-hUvO0...

The cake itself is only about 3/4 of an inch thick and was an incredibly tender, moist, buttery yellow cake. However, it seemed as though the cake and fruit weren't cooked in the traditional "upside-down" manner. The cake was actually crispy and caramelized on the bottom, while the fruit (fresh pineapple) seemed to have been lightly cooked separately and then placed on top of the cake (I could be wrong - it looks cooked together in the photos).

Anyway, the whole thing is a mystery. I've never had such a tender yellow cake before, and I have no idea how they created the caramelized layer on the bottom. Would baking the cake in the traditional manner (with sugar and butter in the bottom of the pan) without the fruit result in that texture, so that I could then remove pieces and flip them so the crispy part was on the bottom? I never really get crisp bits on my pineapple upside down cake, though - perhaps the elimination of the moisture from the fruit and/or a cast iron pan would help? Or perhaps I should glaze the top of the cake with butter/sugar and run it under the broiler before turning it upside down?

I'm more than willing to experiment if anyone can point me in the right direction - a truly great yellow cake recipe would probably be a good starting point. Thanks in advance and if you're in NYC, go eat this cake!

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  1. I don't have it, but there is the Babbo dessert cookbook. It may be in there...

    http://www.amazon.com/Dolce-Italiano-...

    3 Replies
    1. re: roxlet

      Thanks - unfortunately I can't seem to find a table of contents online. I'll have to see if the library has it - or if anyone here does and would be willing to check I'd be grateful!

      1. re: biondanonima

        I found the table of contents online at amazon.com. Unless it is called by another name (Italian, etc.) I don't see any cakes listed with pineapple as an ingredient.

    2. I don't know if this is close but it might be a good starting point. The caramelized sugar that the pineapple is cooked in absorbs into the cake as it bakes. Either way, it's a great pineapple upside down cake:

      http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/em...

      You might use a little less batter to make a thinner cake. I wonder if you start w/ a hot pan, and pour the batter over that, that you might get a crispy bottom on the cake.

      3 Replies
      1. re: chowser

        This does look good - the crispy bottom is the issue though. The part of Babbo's cake that was crispy was actually the part that doesn't touch the pan in a traditional upside down cake, which is why I thought it was either cooked separately from the fruit or glazed/broiled later to create the crispness. I think if I made this one in a cast iron skillet, though, with a thinner layer of batter, then brushed the exposed side with some sugar syrup/melted butter and briefly broiled it before serving, that might do the trick. Not sure if this will be as tender and buttery as Babbo's but it's worth a shot!

        1. re: biondanonima

          Is it possible that the pineapples were cooked and caramelized, then removed? The cake poured into that hot pan and cooked. Then the pineapples replaced on top? It does look like they were put on after the fact.

          It looks like a great cake. If you ever do figure it out, please let us know!

          1. re: chowser

            Yeah, I think that might be part of the trick - not sure though. When I was eating it I felt like the pineapple was added after the fact, but looking at the pics I'm not so sure. I will be sure to post the results of my experiments!!!!!!!!!!!

      2. Is it possible that, after the cake was inverted, it was lightly blowtourched?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Joebob

          Yes - actually I think the blowtorching might have happened before the cake was inverted, since the bottom (the part touching the plate) was crisp. I'm just not sure what they used to make it crisp - if it was just some extra butter/sugar, some pineapple juice, or what. Hopefully one of my experiments will come close!

        2. I could only get one of the photos to load. Apparently Babbo does not call it an upside-down cake, nor does it look like one to me. If you "flour" your pan with white sugar rather than flour, you will get crispy, caramelized sides and bottom. I learned this from Martha Stewart. You might think the sugar would burn or the cake would not release from the pan, but neither occurs. Of course the top crust will have crispness like any other baked batter. The pineapple seems to be added once the cake is plated. Possibly they put pineapple juice in the batter too.

          1 Reply
          1. re: greygarious

            Babbo calls it a "soprasotto" cake, which does indeed mean upside down. However, I agree with you that it doesn't look as though it was baked in traditional upside down fashion. I think that baking it in a sugared pan might give me the crispness I'm looking for, but when the cake is inverted out of the pan onto a plate that crispness will be on the top, not the bottom. Of course, I can just reinvert! I'm just wondering if a brief hit with a blowtorch or broiler might not be more effective. The pineapple could have been added later, but I"m not sure of that either - it TASTED very integrated, although it didn't necessarily look it.

          2. Well, I tried to recreate this for Easter today - with moderate success! I borrowed the pineapple technique from Cook's Illustrated and cooked fresh sliced pineapple with brown sugar until it released most of its juice, then removed the fruit and reduced the liquid to a caramel and added some butter. I placed the caramel in the bottom of my 12" cast iron skillet, arranged the strained fruit on top, and then poured in a half recipe of cake batter (the amount you'd normally bake in a single 9" cake pan). I baked it off, let it cool a bit, then brushed it with some rum and sugar syrup and stuck it under the broiler briefly to see if I could achieve the crisp bottom.

            Unfortunately, the bottom didn't really get crisp - I'm not even sure that a blowtorch would have done the trick. I think the cake needs to be baked in traditional fashion in a sugared pan, and the pineapple added later to achieve that texture. I also think the yellow cake recipe I used (1 c. flour, 3/4 c. sugar, 1/2 c. butter, 4 egg yolks, 1 t. baking powder, vanilla, salt and 1/3 c. milk) needs an egg white or something to give it just a little more structure - it was nice and buttery and soft, but didn't have the open crumb of the Babbo cake. Anyway, all of that said - it was still darn good, and we've eaten half of it already (oops). I'm looking forward to further experiments even if my hips aren't!