The story of pineapples is a fascinating old-world-meets-new-world foodway that winds from South America to Europe to Hawaii and the South Pacific.
During the Colonial era of that journey, the pineapple gained its now-cliche status as a leading symbol of hospitality. It's too bad that pineapple's image has been over-commercialized, because it's kind of charming how that hospitable reputation came to be.
Botantically, the association with hospitality is sort of befitting. In forming the fruit, the pineapple plant produces as many as 200 flowers or more. The individual fruits of these flowers then coalesce - fuze, if you will - into the one big pineapple we're all familiar with. So in the sense of coming together, like people do socially, the symbolism is deserved.
The plant is indigenous to South America, likely the area of modern-day Brazil and Paraguay. The cultivation spread north to the Mayas and Aztecs of Central America and the Caribbean islands before jumping the pond to Europe and Africa. That happened after Christopher Columbus and crew "discovered" pineapple in 1493 on the island of Guadeloupe. They called it pina for its resemblance to a pine cone.
Naturally sweet and exotic, the pineapple soon captured the fancy of Europeans, who attempted to grow it in hothouses.
In Colonial America, pineapples were prized, too, in part because they were precious cargo. Making the voyage from the Caribbean to one's dining table was a dicey affair. Having one showed you had the money and wherewithal, and so hostesses made sure they were prominently displayed when entertaining guests.
Over time, the pineapple image began adorning household furnishings and goods such as bed posts and silver. Today, if you're shopping in a gift shop that caters to tourists, pineapple-themed products are inescapable.
Welcome to today's recipes: pineapple cakes and pies, as requested by reader Deb-bie Johnson requests recipes for a pineapple pie and a pineapple cake.
We haven't heard from Holly H. Bagdonas of Johns Island for awhile, and so we also welcome her back. "This is probably one of the easiest pineapple cake recipes I have ever made," she says.
Lauri Bailey of Charleston sent virtually the same recipe, only her recipe calls for using an electric mixer to blend the ingredients. She writes, "My co-worker, Pam Peterson, gave me this recipe for a quick, simple, healthy and downright delicious pineapple cake. I like to serve it warm with a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt melting over the top."
Editor's note: For a number of comments, including additions and mixing/baking suggestions, search for pineapple angel food cake on allrecipes.com. This cake is especially popular with those watching their waistlines.
Angel Pineapple Cake
1 (16-ounce) box angel food cake mix
1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice, undrained
Frozen nondairy whipped topping, thawed, for serving
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or spray with oil a 9x13-inch metal baking pan.
In a large bowl, mix cake mix and pineapple togeth- er (will expand). Pour into the prepared metal baking pan.
Bake on middle rack of oven until medium brown, about 30 minutes (pulls away from sides of pan).
Turn upside down to cool. Remove from pan when completely cool.
Serve with thawed nondairy whipped topping.
We also heard from Connie Mulleady of West Ashley, who says, "This is easy and delicious."
1 (16-ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
Frosting (recipe follows)
In a large bowl, mix the eggs, pineapple and juice, vanilla, sugar and pecans. Add the flour and baking soda and mix well. Pour batter into a 9x13x2 greased and floured pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter or margarine
11/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chopped nuts for garnish
Combine ingredients except nuts and beat with mixer until slightly runny. Ice when cake is cool. Sprinkle cake with nuts.
Kay Parker of Charleston shares a recipe for pie. "My mother made this for my birthday many times because I preferred pie to cake."
Pineapple Pecan Pie
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or 3/4 stick margarine
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup pecans
1 baked pie shell
Mix salt, sugar, butter, eggs and pineapple in a double boiler and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture coats a spoon. Add pecans. Pour into baked pie shell.
Variations: You can also use 1 boxed crushed vanilla wafers instead of a pie shell. Press half of wafer crumbs onto the bottom and sides of a greased pie plate. Pour in half of filling then add a second layer of crumbs, then pour in balance of filling.
Garnish with whipped cream if desired.
If there's a recipe you've lost or a dish you desire, email food@postandcourier or call Features Editor Teresa Taylor at 937-4886.