Vanilla-rum caramel roasted pineapple

Day 1: Vanilla and rum roasted pineapple


This stopped conversation at the dinner party – thanks to fxcuisine and Pierre Hermé.


Even though I only got one grainy shot with my phone before the guests cut into the pineapple, this is still one of my more memorable cooking adventures.

And we got a juicy pineapple upside-down cake the next day (below).

To present this spectacular dessert, I searched high and low for a ripe pineapple that came with its spiky top. The top was saved, and cunningly reattached just before serving (with a toothpick…).

The whole pineapple is slowly baked in a rum-infused spiced caramel, the whole ensemble drowned in vanilla each step of the way. The resulting sauce was dark, almost lava-like in consistency, and very, very smooth. I poured the sauce over the roasted pineapple just before serving. It gave the pineapple that extra brush of glistening dark-golden-brown, before pooling in the dish in a lick-me way.

The caramel surface of the pineapple cut away to reveal a deep golden yellow centre, the unadulterated colour of the tropics. The pineapple’s tartness had mellowed during the 1 hour roasting. By now, it was a back of the tongue reminder that balanced the rich vanilla-rum caramel. The pineapple’s assertive sweet-sunny flavour was concentrated by the long roasting. The rum and vanilla bath intensified the taste and aroma of the fruit without overwhelming it.

I thought, this is how pineapple might taste after hours under the lazy tropical sun, sitting in a basket of rum-soaked Tahitian vanilla pods.

Roasted vanilla-caramel pineapple recipe adapted from

1 fresh pineapple, about 1.5kg
120 gr granulated white sugar
30 gr pureed banana
3 allspice berries freshly crushed
8 vanilla pods (I used 8 or more teaspoons of vanilla paste instead – whenever the recipe calls for vanilla pods, I added vanilla paste)
20 ml rhum
10 thin slices of fresh ginger

In a heavy-bottomed or copper-lined pot, heat the sugar over high heat. Wait until the caramel is deep amber. If part of the sugar is caramelized while the rest has not melted yet, turn your pot to move the hot spots under the unmelted sugar.

Split 2 vanilla pods and release the seeds. Add to the caramel along with the ginger and crushed allspice. Leave 10 seconds, then pour a 30ml cold water into the caramel to stop the process. Mix a ladle of this caramel into the puréed banana and add it back into the pot. Bring it to a boil, remove from the fire and add the rum.

Leave one night to infuse in the fridge. Then, filter the vanilla-caramel syrup through a fine sieve.

Peel the pineapple with a knife. Cut in half five vanilla pods horizontally. Using a skewer, drill holes across the pineapple big enough for the vanilla pods to fit in.

Heat the oven to 230°C and put your pineapple in the smallest oven proof dish where you can fit him laid on the side. Pour the vanilla-caramel sauce on the pineapple and bake for 60 minutes, turning the pineapple regularly so that every part can bathe in the caramel for a moment. Check that the caramel remains liquid or else it will burn. If too thick, just add half a glass of water. Do not forget to stand the pineapple upright on both ends for a few minutes as well.

Day 2: Pineapple upside down cake

Pineapple upside down cake is having a renaissance. It has become more rustic in appearance (mostly without those infamous red glace cherries), yet more refined in taste. Brown sugar and butter caramel snuggling against handfuls of sweet-tart fresh fruit, topped with buttery cake. What’s not to like?

David Lebovitz posted a story about making stone fruit upside down cake, but also assured his readers the recipe can be used with oranges, fresh berries and cranberries. I decided to give it a go.

The butter cake had a dark brown crust, which cracked very slightly to reveal a pale yellow interior. The kitchen filled with the smell of browning butter and sugar. I could barely wait for the cake to cool before turning it, well, the right way around.


Vanilla-rum pineapple upside down cake

adapted from David Lebovitz’s upside down cake 

For the fruit layer:

3 tablespoons butter (45g), salted or unsalted
3/4 cup vanilla-rum syrup, from Pierre Herme’s roasted vanilla pineapple
fruit: sliced roasted vanilla pineapple  

For the cake layer:

8 tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature.
1 1/2 cups (210g) flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (125ml) whole milk, at room temperature

For the syrup (optional):

1 tablespoon candied lime peel, diluted with 1 tablespoon water and mixed with a drop of vanilla essence

1. Melt the 3 tablespoons (45g) of butter in a cast iron skillet, or cake pan (see Note). Add the caramel and heat until the mixture begins to bubble. Remove from heat and let cool.

2. Arrange the sliced pineapple in the bottom of a springform cake pan. Set aside.

3. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350F. (190C)

4. Beat the 8 tablespoons (115g) of butter and sugar until fluffly. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, until smooth.

5. Whisk or sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

6. Stir in half of the flour mixture, then the milk, then the remaining dry ingredients. Stir just until the flour is barely incorporated into the batter.

7. Spread the batter over the fruit, then bake for 45 minutes to one hour. The cake is ready when it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and the center feels just set.

8. Pour over lime syrup. Wait for 20 minutes until cake cools. Invert carefully.

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