Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
Pineapple upside down cake is peak American retro dessert.
In the 1950s and 1960s, sweeping into a dining room or a backyard barbecue with a cinched waist and pineapple upside down cake for company was the height of suburban hostessing. The magazine clippings and index cards bearing recipes for America's own version of tart tartine could have built a land bridge to Hawaii. But after a couple of decades, the maraschino-studded cake fell on hard times, considered as tacky as the tiki torches stashed in the back of the garage. I blame burnout on fake luaus and widespread use of box cake mix, both of which are the worst unless you are under 6 years old.
Like many mid-century marvels — teak tables, movie musicals — it's making a comeback. (Note to food magazines: I see you trying to bring back aspic and that's a hard no
.) The bundt version at Polynesian-style barbecue joint Sammy's BBQ (1709 Fifth St., Eureka) makes a solid case for the return of the pineapple upside down cake ($3.50). The homemade yellow cake, whipped up by the family matriarch, is firm, eggy and dotted with chunks of fruit. The top has the requisite rings of pineapple and the sticky, caramelized brown sugar. Those of you scowling at the maraschino cherries, I would like to remind you that throughout childhood you guzzled Shirley Temples for the cherries floating therein and fought with siblings over possession of the sole gleaming cherry atop a shared banana split. Let yourself enjoy it. If you're too full from ribs and kalua pork, order a piece to go. You've got a comeback in you, too.