Recipe: Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

My husband loves Pineapple Upside Down Cake. It's his favorite cake in the world. I don't make it very often, though. This year, he told me he didn't need a cake for his birthday, and made me promise not to make him one. I, being the stubborn person that I am, nodded in agreement, while deciding that cupcakes were not "a cake" and therefore I was still honoring my promise.

My Google search for a cupcake-sized Pineapple Upside Down Cake resulted in quite a few recipes, surprisingly. The best one I found was from Allrecipes.com 
I made a few minor adjustments*, but was very pleased that they not only turned out well the very first time, but they kept well (refrigerated) through the next day.

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes
cooking spray
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
24 maraschino cherries
1 to 2 cans pineapple rings
1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix (if you can find pineapple mix, that will work, too)
3 eggs
1 1/3 cups pineapple juice
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Move an oven rack into the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 24 muffin cups with cooking spray. Line a work surface with waxed paper. Spoon 1 teaspoon melted butter into the bottom of each sprayed muffin cup. Spoon 1 tablespoon brown sugar in each muffin cup. Press a maraschino cherry into the center of the brown sugar in each muffin cup. Trim pineapple rings to fit around cherry. It's okay if it covers the cherry slightly.

Mix  cake mix, eggs, pineapple juice, and vegetable oil in a large bowl with electric mixer on low speed until moistened, about 30 seconds. Turn mixer speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes. Pour pineapple cake batter into the muffin cups, filling them to the top; do not overfill.

Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Allow cupcakes to cool at least 5 minutes before inverting muffin cups onto the waxed paper to release. Serve with pineapple and cherry sides up.

*Adjustments: The original recipe called for a pineapple cake mix, which neither of my grocery stores carried. The pineapple juice adds plenty of flavor, though, so I think the yellow cake mix worked fine. You can, of course, make the batter from scratch if you prefer. The recipe also called for crushed pineapple, pressed into the top, but I prefer the chew of the rings. And finally, I've omitted the dusting of powdered sugar called for because these are quite sweet all on their own. If the rings or cherries stick, it's easy to pop them out with a plastic fork/knife and rearrange while the cakes are warm. They'll stay put once they've cooled.


Quickie Review: Smart and Sexy by Jill Shalvis

Format: Mass market paperback
Pub Date: 2007, reprinted 2012 with the new cover
Publisher: Kensington
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

This is a reprint of the first in the Sky High series by Jill Shalvis which originally came out in 2007. And while you can get echoes of her now distinctive (and hilarious) voice in it, it does not come close to her more recent works in either characterization or charm.

Part of the problem is that this is an attempt to be both a romantic suspense book and a contemporary romance. Something it doesn't quite accomplish with any real skill. In a series of madcap episodes, the hero and heroine hop in planes and fly hither and yon trying to find hidden money at the heroine's deceased husband's unfinished resort properties.

I found the whole plot a little weird, really. Nothing made sense to me, the motivations and actions of the characters didn't match with who they were supposed to be, and other than an attraction, there didn't seem to be a lot of basis for a relationship between our hero and heroine.

As always, I liked the secondary characters, and the potential is there for the rest of the series (which I have not yet read).  This one just didn't gel for me, but given how excellent Jill's recent books have been, she may have set the bar too high.

My Grade: D

The Blurb:

Noah Fisher has worked for months to make Sky High the most prestigious charter airline in California. He's long overdue for a break - something involving ski slopes, cold beers, and hot ski bunny babes. The itinerary doesn't include being hijacked by Bailey Sinclair, gorgeous widow of one of Sky High's wealthiest (ex-) clients. But here they are, and being crammed in a cockpit with the scared, stubborn, unbelievably sexy former model he's been fantasizing about invokes Superman tendencies that could get Noah in serious trouble. Bailey is desperate to find the stash of money hidden by her conniving, thieving late husband - before the bad guys he owed find her. It's a long shot, but nothing compared to the gamble she's taking by being so close to Noah. Every minute in his company has Bailey thinking about doing crazy, reckless things like touching, grabbing, kissing...and oh wow, being kissed right back.


TBR Challenge Review: Don't Tempt Me by Loretta Chase

Format: Mass market paperback
Pub Date: July 2009
Publisher: Avon
Length: 355 pages
FTC: Picked up at RT Convention '10 or '11

This month's TBR Challenge Theme is Lovely RITA. Meaning any book that has won an RWA Rita award or been nominated for one. I had a Rita winner all picked out, weeks ago, but my house ate it. Or I left it in my husband's pick up. Something. It's disappeared. And then, after scouring my TBR, I realized that it was the ONLY book that precisely fit the theme. Oh well.

I had dozens of books written by Rita winners, though. Most either written immediately before after the author's winning book. Figures. So I ended up picking out a Loretta Chase book. I'm a late-comer to Loretta Chase, having only read Lord of Scoundrels (a Rita winner) a year or so ago. And I wanted to see how she handled what can often to be a problematic theme in Regency stories: the Harem Girl.


Trust and the Reader/Author Relationship

I got my ranty-pants on yesterday, but in an unusual turn of events, it wasn't about authors behaving badly regarding reviews or social media. It was about a publishing, writing, and marketing decision made by Sylvia Day and her publisher Berkley (a division of Penguin).

[To be as transparent as possible, I have not read the series in question. I can only gauge the content from the reader reactions I have seen online.]

In contrast to so many reader flame-ups regarding series direction, authorial choice, quality decline etc. this reader rage-fest was caused by a decision to extend a promised trilogy (the Crossfire books) to a (minimum) of 5 books—and in a less-than-transparent way that caught many readers who pre-ordered by surprise when they reached an abrupt ending in book 3. As of this morning, at least 50% of the readers who left reviews on Amazon are feeling taken advantage of, duped, misled... None of which is good for Sylvia Day's reputation.