The first Year 8 Cooking Club of the year coincided with Holyhead’s Black History Month celebrations. We decided on the students’ favourite: pineapple upside down cake.
Skillet cakes go back to Colonial times, when sponge cake and pancake batter were topped with apples, cooked apricots, prunes, or cherries and baked in a spider (a three-legged iron kettle) on top of an open flame, then inverted for serving. Annette Merson, creator of the book, ‘1987 African Cookery: A Black Heritage’, linked the upside-down cake to Liberia, where a crown of caramelized plantains or banana slices decorated ginger-bread that had been baked in a skillet.
During the 1940s and 50s, improvisational soul cooks turned upside-down cake a little topsy-turvy. This involved substituting canned or sliced fresh peaches, pears, or fresh pineapple and rum for the classic topping of pineapple rings with a maraschino cherry centre, while retaining the original sponge cake base.