Cooking as a metaphor for life is certainly not a new idea by a long shot and I doubt very much that I could add to the already beleaguered concept . I will tell you, however, that any real metaphors are frequently lost if they are viewed through the blog lens. Blog optics are designed to emphasize the ‘perfect’ while filtering out the harsh “less than perfect” details. Less Than Perfects are rarely ever featured in a blog post. At least not here! (That is going to change tonight!) What’s more, unless the blogger’s photograph comes out stunning it might not even matter how good the actual dish might be, you know, on the inside. Get it?
By and large, most blog posts I read are full of “fantastic” or (worse) “amazing” and everything usually makes the house smell wonderful. Photographs are always beautiful and inspiring. Usually full of great props too. One pixel out of place and the keepers of food beauty will tell you “lighting issues - dull/unsharp”. (For the record, NO IT WASN’T! That photo was fantastic! Truly one of my best! Are you blind? Harumph.) The truth is, it is just not very self-satisfying or affirming to blog about the things that don’t really turn out the way you anticipate. The way they told you they would. You know, the way it is is supposed to be. But why not?
Away from the pressure of the blogging lens, cooking can be freer to suggest metaphorical similarities to the various and assorted meanderings of your life. I awake each morning and set my sites on achieving/cooking something special during my day, week, month, or year. I check my resources and enlist the support of those around me I will need to succeed, ask for guidance and feedback, then I create. And you know what? I win some and I lose some. You might as well see those now and then too, right? Some goals, er, um, cooking projects just need a little assistance from someone more knowledgeable than I or a slight tweaking of my own direction before their potential can be realized. Or, I will opt to just steer a course well around and avoid the rematch altogether. Stuff happens. Its not usually anyone’s fault. Or mine. The recipe is just bad and I’m not invested enough to make it more than once. Fool me once…
Sometimes that glossy, magazine cover first impression gives way to a shallow, sunken, squishy mess and I just don’t want to stick around any longer to see what becomes of him, um...it.
Enter Pumpkin Cranberry Pecan Upside Down Cake. PCPUDC came into my life full of hope and promise. PCPUDC wasn’t even something I had even thought about until a friend put it in my mind and suggested it was within my reach. It was to be the perfect date to a holiday evening I was invited to attend. But pumpkin? Again? How much of it am I to tolerate? Maybe this time it would ‘the one’? The recipe came from someone I trusted and he insisted I could do it. He had been dying to set me up with a winning recipe. His experience with it turned out fantastic so surely mine would too, right? (But pumpkin? Ack.) So, against my better judgment, and ignoring how I was already suffering from acute HPFD (Holiday Pumpkin Fatigue Disorder), I meekly agreed. Instinct was telling me to stay away but just LOOK AT IT! Sadly, it wasn’t the first time I would be swayed by beauty only to end up in misery and it probably will not be my last. All I can say when face to face with such beauty is, “bring me my cake pans! “
Our date seemed to go great but within 20 minutes of the cooling the cake began to give way under its lack of support and foundation. All my good intentions would not be enough to coaxe this project to success. I realized later I was a victim of a bad tweak somewhere in the recipe's checkered past. Cook’s Notes in the recipe had suggested a 9” round pan would be "more appropriate" for the dessert which I interpreted to mean a 9” round pan would work for the recipe as written. Nope. The note actually meant visually the pan would be better. Not volume-wise. Oh well. Seems I had unknowingly over filled the pan! Despite my testing for doneness with a toothpick, the cake would cave under its own weight and ambitions.
Its nearly February now and I never went back to tweak this cake and I was certainly never going to share it with you. I think it was that last glass of wine that gave me the courage. Don't feel too sorry for it. He made a very lovely prop at the dinner buffet but I had to beg the guests not to actually eat it. I instead guided them to the spare Sis Boom Bundt Cake I cranked out just quickly enough after seeing the handwriting on the wall with this dessert. It pays to always have a Plan B, don’t you think?
I present the recipe here as written. Tweak it yourself or just use a larger pan. Or bake it more. Something like that. Just don't fall into that mushy center!
Life’s Cranberry Pecan Pumpkin Upside Down Cake
- 8 ounces (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 cups cranberries
- 4 ounces (1 cup) coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees . Line the bottom of a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.
Melt the butter in a small saucepot over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and whisk until smooth. Pour the brown sugar mixture into the bottom of the cake pan. In a medium bowl combine the cranberries and pecans. Place them in the pan over the brown sugar mixture.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, and oil.
Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Carefully spread the batter over the cranberry pecan topping.
Bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Cool the cake for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Place a large plate or platter on top of the cake. Invert the cake and plate together. Remove the pan. Carefully peel off the parchment paper.