Ballyknockenapples rsz

Fruits on the Flip Side

Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes.


Ireland Hopping | Margaret M. Johnson

Pineapple upside-down cake is a wonderful old-fashioned dessert. My mother used to be able to assemble one in “two shakes of a lamb’s tail,” and not a minute too soon for all of us who relished its gooey top and the lovely cake beneath. A little more time-consuming upside-down fruit dessert is a tarte Tatin, a French apple tart cooked in a skillet or baking dish. The bottom of the pan is covered with butter and sugar, which caramelizes on the stovetop, and is then topped with apples and a pastry crust. After baking, the tart is inverted onto a serving plate and the caramelized apples become the topping. Culinary historians might know that the tart was invented more than 100 years ago by the Tatin sisters, Fanny and Caroline, in Lamotte-Beuvron, France, while cooking at their family’s hotel. The girls apparently forgot to put the crust in the tart pan, so they put it on top of the fruit then flipped it over. Many cooks have adapted the technique, including Derry Clarke, chef-proprietor of Dublin’s l’Ecrivain restaurant, who gives it a distinctly Irish identity by topping his version with soda bread crust. Clarke shared this recipe with me more than a decade ago and it remains one of my favorite “flipped” desserts.

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Tipperary Apples.



SERVES 8 to 10

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup Irish whiskey

1 cup sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon ground cardamom

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced crosswise

2 cups cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 cup sugar

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup buttermilk

Vanilla ice cream or crème fraîche, for serving

  1. In a small bowl, combine raisins and whiskey, soak for 30 minutes, and then drain; reserve whiskey.

  2. In a 10-inch ovenproof, nonstick skillet, combine sugar, reserved whiskey, butter, and cardamom. Cook over medium-low heat for 4 to 5 minutes, or until butter melts and begins to caramelize. Remove skillet from heat and starting in center, arrange apple slices in concentric circles over caramel.

  3. Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and sugar. With a pastry cutter, 2 knives, or your fingers, work or cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in raisins and buttermilk and mix until dough comes together.

  4. Dust a work surface with flour. Turn out dough, and with floured hands, form it into a ball. Knead for 20 seconds, then roll or pat dough into a circle 12 inches in diameter.

Place dough on top of apples, tucking it around edge of pan. Bake tart for about 25 to 28 minutes, or until crust is golden. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Place a rimmed serving plate over pan, and with potholders to protect your hands, invert tart onto plate and remove pan. Slice tart and serve warm with ice cream or crème fraîche.

Tarte Tatin.




A slice from a can of sliced pineapples is a perfect fit for an individual ramekin, so my mother’s recipe for pineapple upside-down cake offers great potential for individual cakes. A bit of Celtic Honey Liqueur (formerly called Celtic Crossing) adds wonderful flavor to the topping.


4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons Celtic Honey Liqueur

8 pineapple slices, drained, from a 20-ounce can of pineapple slices

8 maraschino cherries


1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup buttermilk

  1. Make topping. Preheat oven 350º F. Generously butter 8 (8-ounce) ramekins.

  2. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine butter, sugar, and liqueur, if using. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until sugar melts and mixture is smooth. Divide mixture among prepared ramekins. Place a pineapple slice over syrup and put a cherry in center. Set aside.

  3. Make cake. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast coconut, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it lightly browns. Remove from heat and let cool. In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

  4. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in half flour mixture and half buttermilk until well combined, and then beat in remaining flour and buttermilk until smooth; stir in coconut. Spoon batter into prepared ramekins and place them on a baking sheet.

  5. Bake for 30 to 32 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean and tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around sides of ramekins and invert onto 8 dessert plates. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page expands this year to “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, or to order a signed cookbook with FREE SHIPPING, visit

Ballyknocken Apples.