Milk Street The New American Bakery (Ep 421)



Pineapple Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake

Start to finish: 1¼ hours, plus cooling | Servings: 12

Briana Holt, owner of Tandem Coffee + Bakery in Portland, Maine, makes a rich, sturdy buttermilk cake with cornmeal for texture and flavor, as well as ricotta cheese to keep the crumb tender and moist. We adapted her winning formula and paired the cake with fresh fruit to update the classic all- American pineapple upside-down cake. To avoid a soggy layer where cake and fruit meet—a common problem with upside- down cakes—we first cook the pineapple to remove excess moisture, and we make sure the fruit is hot when the batter is poured on top so it begins to bake upon contact. To get the timing right, begin mixing the batter after placing the pan with the pineapple in the oven. This gives you 5 to 10 minutes to finish the batter; if it’s ready sooner, it can wait a few minutes. A nonstick cake pan works best because the dark finish speeds the bake time; if your pan is not nonstick, increase the oven temperature to 350°F and give the cake an extra 5 minutes or so to finish baking.

Don’t use canned pineapple, as the fruit is thickly sliced and may not fully cook through. Its flavor also is dull and “cooked” compared to fresh. For convenience, however, you can use store-bought peeled and cored fresh pineapple sold in the produce section of the supermarket. Don’t use part-skim ricotta cheese; the cake needs the richness of whole-milk ricotta.


  • 162 grams (1¼ cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 45 grams (5 tablespoons) fine yellow cornmeal
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 140 grams (½ cup) whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, room temperature, divided
  • 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • Eight ¼-inch-thick fresh pineapple rings (about 1 pound), cut into quarters
  • 214 grams (1 cup) white sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature


Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the middle position. Mist a 9-by-2-inch round nonstick cake pan with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ¾ teaspoon of the salt, the baking powder, baking soda and allspice. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, buttermilk and ricotta.

In a nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium-high, combine 2 tablespoons of the butter, the brown sugar and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until bubbling. Add the pineapple and cook, stirring often, until softened and caramelized and the liquid has nearly evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes.

Transfer the pineapple and butter mixture to the prepared cake pan, distributing the fruit in a single layer. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes while you prepare the batter.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the remaining 6 tablespoons butter and the white sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce to medium and add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl with a spatula between additions, then beat until well combined, about 1 minute. With the mixer on low, add the cornmeal-buttermilk mixture, then beat until just combined, about 30 seconds; the mixture will look curdled. Scrape down the bowl.

With the mixer running on low, add the dry ingredients and mix just until the batter is evenly moistened, about 20 seconds; the batter will be thick. Using the spatula, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and give the batter a few folds to ensure no pockets of flour remain.

Remove the cake pan from the oven (close the oven door) and carefully scrape the batter onto the hot pineapple, then spread in an even layer and smooth the surface with the spatula. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted at the center of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 to minutes.

Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around the pan to loosen the cake, then invert it onto a serving platter. Cool to room temperature.


Glazed Maple-Whole Wheat Muffins

Start to finish: 1 1/2 hours, plus cooling and drying | Makes 12 muffins

These two-grain, maple-sweetened breakfast treats were inspired by muffins baked by Briana Holt at Tandem Bakery + Coffee in Portland, Maine. The smoky, caramel notes of pure maple syrup accentuate the nuttiness of whole-wheat flour, and a modest amount of cornmeal in the batter adds pleasing texture. Be sure to use fine cornmeal, not coarse stoneground, so the granules hydrate and soften properly. And for richest maple flavor, use the darkest syrup you can find. These muffins like to stick to the pan, so be sure to generously coat both the cups and the flat surface of the muffin pan and dust the cups with flour, even if your pan is nonstick. An easier alternative is to use baking spray such as Baker’s Joy or Pam for baking; these formulations include flour for simple one- step pan prep.

Don’t use Greek yogurt, as its moisture content is too low to properly hydrate the cornmeal and whole-wheat flour. Don’t make the glaze in advance—mix the ingredients just before you’re ready to glaze the muffins so it won’t begin to dry and harden. Finally, don’t glaze the muffins until they’re fully cooled to room temperature or their warmth ill make it difficult for the glaze to cling.


For the muffins:

  • 32 grams (¼ cup) all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 251 grams (1¾ cups) whole-wheat flour
  • 72 grams (½ cup) fine yellow cornmeal
  • 2 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks
  • 342 grams (1½ cups) plain whole-milk yogurt
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 107 grams (½ cup) white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, melted and cooled

For the glaze:

  • 248 grams (2 cups) powdered sugar
  • ½ cup maple syrup, room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt


To make the muffins, heat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle position. Generously mist a standard 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray, dust with all-purpose flour and tap out the excess. In a small bowl, whisk together the whole-wheat flour and cornmeal. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and yolks. Add the yogurt, maple syrup, vanilla and lemon zest; whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the whole wheat flour–cornmeal mixture (reserve the bowl), then stir with a silicone spatula until evenly moistened; let stand for 15 minutes to hydrate.

Meanwhile, in the now-empty small bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, white sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. After the whole-wheat flour mixture has hydrated for 15 minutes, add the sugar mixture and stir with the spatula until just incorporated, then add the melted butter and fold until homogenous. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Scoop the batter (it will have become lighter and fluffier) into the cups of the prepared muffin pan, dividing it evenly; the cups will be full. Bake until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted at the centers comes out with a few crumbs attached, 15 to 17 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan (if needed, rap it against the counter to loosen the muffins), setting them right side up directly on the rack. Cool completely.

To make the glaze, in a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, maple syrup, melted butter, lemon juice and salt. Set the wire rack with the muffins in a rimmed baking sheet. One at a time, hold the base of a muffin and dip the top into the glaze to fully and evenly coat. Turn the muffin upright while allowing excess glaze to drip back into the bowl, then set right side up on the rack. Let the glaze dry for about 30 minutes before serving.

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