04/26/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Allergy-Free Pineapple Upside Down Cake and the Bumpy Road to Baking It

Yesterday morning, I woke at 5:00 AM to get ready for the TV segment about Allergy-Free Desserts for Better TV. I should have known from the moment that I woke up and heard rain drops tapping on our air conditioner that this day was going to be full of surprises.

I chose, instead, to ignore the rain and dutifully blow out my hair. I subsequently spent the rest of the morning swathed in a Little-Edie-from-Grey-Gardens babuschka, apologizing everywhere I went for my elaborate headdress. Hair finished, I walked the dog, dropped of the girls at school and loaded the car. My friend who was coming for moral support was late and arrived without coffee. I was panicky but kept my worry under cover.

We got on the road and drove up to Connecticut. Thanks to the rain and just above freezing temperatures, I drove nearly the entire way unable to see anything more than, first, the fog on the windshield and second, the hearts and stars that I drew on the windshield to try to see through. At last we arrived.

Fortunately, the segment went smoothly.

However, the ride home was a completely different story. My nerves had led me to leave the car lights on, and as you have probably already guessed, the battery was dead when we returned. Then the transmission went and we had to find a car dealership to service it. Five hours later, my bedraggled friend and I returned to my apartment and unloaded the four allergy-free pineapple upside down cakes that I had baked for the segment (the recipe follows).

I returned home to find the apartment a wreck and the dinner that I had carefully prepared the night mysteriously lumpy and nearly inedible. The dog threw up before the night was finished, and I had had so much coffee on the way home that I was unable to sleep.

So, Murphy's Law is still relevant, people, and the lesson that I learned is this: while I can check off cookbook author on my life's "to do" list, I might want to add "how to jump start a car" and "how to make polenta without lumps". I may have figured out how to make cake without gluten, dairy, soy, nut and eggs, but I do not know how to live SNAFU free.


[1/4] cup + plus [1/3] cup organic palm fruit oil shortening
[1/2] cup packed dark brown sugar
One 14-ounce can pineapple rings packed in syrup, drained
7 Maraschino maraschino cherries
[2/3] cup gluten-free vanilla rice milk
[3/4] teaspoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon ground flax seed meal
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed meal
1[1/2] cups Betsy's Baking Mix (see page 000)
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
[1/2] teaspoon baking soda
[1/2] teaspoon salt
[1/2] teaspoon xanthan gum
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a heavy 10-inch cast-iron skillet or 10-inch round cake pan, melt [1/4] cup of the shortening over medium heat. Remove from the heat and then sprinkle the brown sugar over the topmelted shortening. Arrange the drained pineapple in a circular pattern in over the bottom of the pan, placing 1 cherry in the middle of each pineapple ring.
In a small bowl, make "buttermilk" by combining the cider vinegar and rice milk. In a small cup, combine the water and flax seed meal and allow to thicken for 3 to 5 minutes.
In the bowl of the stand mixer, mix together the baking mix, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum. Add the remaining [1/3] cup of shortening, the "buttermilk" mixture, the granulated sugar, and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add in the flax seed meal mixture and beat until thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove it from the oven and immediately turn the cake upside down on a serving platter, leaving the pan in place on top of the cake for a few minutes while the brown sugar runs down the sides of the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely before serving.
Store the cooled cake, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days.
Serves 6 to 8