How to screw up a perfectly fine pineapple upside down cake

Let me say it. This is the perfect example of how things can go wrong. Let me guide you through this little nightmarish shoot of mine...

As I put this cake into the oven, I already had in my mind an idea of what I wanted to do for this shoot, how I wanted to photograph this cake, still believing everything was gonna come out perfectly fine. As the cake baked in the oven, I started laying the set. I knew I wanted a dark mood, with abundant reds and burgundies and plum coloured or black accents. I was going for something slightly medieval, after being quite struck with the photos I saw on @somniumdantis's instagram account. If you're not familiar with her work, go to her facebook account, you will see the most glorious dresses and outfits, all reenactments of ages long gone, beautifully made.

She had posted a photo of a shoot she did inspired by the TV show Outlander, and I was reminded how much I love the whole ambiance of that show - despite the fact that I am not very keen on the script and the story. If you don't know the show, it is set in Scotland, and that alone should say it all in the way its scenery appeals and calls to me. But it is also mostly set in the 1740's, and that helps, casting a veil of wonderment on the clothings, the interior design, the props. It all speaks volumes to me, it all inspires me so, visually speaking. I knew what I wanted to do for this shoot and it was a hybrid between Outlander and medieval influences.

I wanted a dark setting, and lavish fabrics, between silks and gold embroideries, I also wanted pewter and cast iron, I wanted candlelight and fresh fruit, dark fruit such as plums. I picked my props, I set the supposed table, I lit my candles. I used my living room curtains for a background - I usually shoot in my living room, on a sidetable by my desk - a Christmas tablecloth, in dark red and gold, hanging from the side of my desk to hide it from view, and a spread of small individual table runners in burgundy and gold trimmings as the base. I brought out my cast iron candle holders and fruit bowl, my pewter tankards and pitcher. I stood back and sighed. It all looked the part.

Once the cake was out of the oven and had cooled down enough, I transfered it into a very rustic platter and positioned it where I wanted it for the shoot, and grabing my tripod, I started working. You have no idea how many shots I took for this one. Sometimes I take five shots and wrap it up, knowing I have exactly what I want in those five shots, everything falling into place straight away and working out perfectly well. Other times, I take a few more shots, whether because I really want to have plenty of choice when editing, or because the setting is so lovely I cannot stop shooting from each and every angle. Other times, fewer, thankfully, I just keep shooting because I feel like I haven't yet gotten what I needed. It doesn't feel right, you know? It happened with this shoot. It didn't feel right, and even when I called it a day, I knew I did not have one good shot in the midst of all those.

It started out with the cake. This doesn't look like a cake, nor do I call it a cake. It's a tart. But it was meant to be a cake, one of those upside down things I have been crazy to try for ages. A pineapple upside down cake. First mistake: I followed the advice on a website that said you should just melt you butter and pour it on the bottom of the tin and then spread your sugar over it and cover it all with the pineapple, and the caramel would take care of itself in the oven. Not so. Note to self: make the caramel in advance. Do it. Then it escalated with my choice of tin. I went for a big, round one. I didn't make enough batter to use that particular tin. So when I poured the batter over the pineapple, I immediately knew it was all wrong. The batter hardly covered the pineapple. When the cake came out it was a tart and had no sticky caramel over the pineapple. It was weird and it tasted weird - though husband and son both adored it.

I actually thought of chucking the whole thing and not posting this. But then again, I thought it would be a good reminder to myself of how things can go awry, and how much I still need to learn, in case I happen to be getting too big for my own head. I need to learn a lot about controlling the light I shoot with. The shadows and the reflexes, the amount of light and the lack of it. I need to start playing with the settings in the camera again, more. I froze on certain settings, as they served so well for the type of shoot I was doing lately, and once I decided to change things up a bit, I wasn't up to it. It did not work out. There is so much light coming out of the cake, it looks ridiculous. At the same time, the reds are looking so very bright, not dark and moody as I wanted to have it. It's all wrong, and the tart was all wrong, and it serves me well to have this here to remind me of not falling into a rut and take things for granted. Of not taking the easy road, the one most traveled, as that has never been my motto.

Still, here's your recipe for this Pineapple Tart, should you care to make one. You'll need, for the topping:
  • one medium pineapple, peeled and cut in to pieces
  • a knob of butter
  • 50gr brown sugar
Make the caramel in the way you prefer, by letting the sugar melt in a pan and then adding the butter to it. Pour it into a round tin that has been lined with baking parchment. Cover it with the pineapple pieces in a way you cannot see the bottom. Then start on your batter, which needs:
  • 100gr flour
  • 100gr butter
  • 100gr sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ts baking powder
Cream the butter with the sugar until it's nice and fluffy and pale. Add the flour with the baking pwoder and the eggs, alternating between the two. Pour this batter over the pineapple and bake on a preheated oven at 180º for about forty minutes. Let cool before you place a serving platter on the top of the cake and then turn it over so the bottom becomes the top. Serve warm-ish with cream or icecream and enjoy!


  1. Eu gosto muito do aspeto visual de um Up Side Down Cake. Mas é pelo medo que corra mal que fico sempre de pé atrás para o fazer! Beijinho

    1. também gosto do aspecto visual da coisa, infelizmente a minha tentativa ficou longe de estar á altura ehehehh

  2. oh babe, bolo torto não perde o gosto! tenho uma receita de um destes no blog, algures, que hás-de experimentar porque sai sempre bem. quanto às fotos e à composição cénica eu gostei imenso!


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