QUEENIE COOKS: Pineapple Cream Cheese Flat Cake

By Terry Harris

What’s light, refreshing, and absolutely perfect when you are in a hurry, on a budget, and need a dessert that looks and tastes like it’s from scratch but… well... starts off with a box of cake mix?  This “doctored” Pineapple Cream Cheese Flat Cake! 

I know, I know, “It’s from a cake mix???”  Well, anyone who knows me knows that I love making all kinds of desserts – especially cakes – from scratch.  But I have discovered that if you are on a tight budget – or in a really big hurry - with a little thought and planning you actually can transform a box-cake mix into something pretty tasty.

This particular recipe was born of desperation when I volunteered to make 150 desserts for a Caregivers’ Dinner.  A great deal of volunteer time and effort was going into planning, producing, and delivering “We Care” meals for housebound folks taking care of family members with debilitating situations, and I really wanted to make some desserts worthy of these selfless people. 

Unfortunately, between the amount of time that I knew it would take to make that many servings and some serious budgetary constraints, I knew I was going to have to come up with something different – fast!

I had heard a lot about “doctored cakes” and according to my research, it was possible to end up with a good cake that would be both affordable on the tightest budget and nearly impossible to tell from homemade. Sooooo – I did some advance experimenting! 

I knew that I would have to forego all the fresh fruits, coconuts, nuts, chocolate chips and other delicious things I like to add to desserts.  They give a great flavor boost, but, unfortunately, they can give the budget an even bigger one.  So, I did some creative shopping and found brand name crushed pineapple on special for $.99 a can and made that – with the juice – a major ingredient in the batter. Even with the juice from the pineapple, I knew I would need about another half cup of liquid, so I tried milk.  The result tasted great but browned much too quickly.  For the next attempt I went back to water instead of the milk and replaced the oil with softened butter. Now, I was getting somewhere!  For the third attempt, I added an extra egg to improve the texture, poured it all into a large, flat pan (because I knew that the extra moistening from all the pineapple juice also would keep it from rising much) and popped that one into the oven. 

Since one of the biggest problems with any cake is over-cooking (resulting in dryness), I was careful to remove my concoction from the oven as soon as a toothpick pressed into the center came out ALMOST dry – but with tiny bits of batter still clinging to the wood. Since I refuse to use pre-made frostings, (the real deal is too easy to make – and tastes infinitely better) while my pineapple wonder cooled, I whipped up some extra-creamy cream-cheese frosting.  I am sure any good, homemade frosting - or icing, if you’re from the South - would work, but it is hard to beat a good cream cheese frosting for elevating any dessert from good to great.  So that was my one splurge with these cakes.  If the budget had not been an issue, I also would have added nuts and coconut to the batter and probably had an end result that tasted like a pina colada.   

But you know what?  That experimental Pineapple Cream Cheese Flat Cake was delicious just as it was!  It was moist, surprisingly refreshing due to all the pineapple, and because of its thin presentation, every bite had a nice bit of frosting – always a plus. 

So, there you have it – quick, easy, inexpensive, and this cake drew raves! 

There are tons of “doctored cake” recipes on the internet, and after this experiment, I imagine many of those are pretty good as well.  Will the results always be as good as an “I spent hours and hours preparing a from-scratch” cake?  Probably not.  But this particular Pineapple Cream Cheese Flat Cake really is a delicious, beautifully textured dessert that most people will not recognize as “not from scratch.”

And while I might not plan on a “doctored” cake for a visit from the Queen, I guarantee that this one will be better than most anything you can find ready-made at the supermarket. In fact, it occurred to me while nibbling bits of this Pineapple Cream Cheese Flat Cake that one of these, cut into small squares, would make excellent “little party bites” for any occasion.

So go ahead – try it!  And do let me know how you like it at smilinatyanow@aol.com. I won’t be a bit surprised if this becomes your new favorite in-a-hurry/on a budget family dessert.   Enjoy! 

 

Queenie Cooks: Pineapple Cream Cheese Flat Cake

Prep time - 15 minutes   Cook Time – 20 minutes   Total Time - 35 minutes

 

1 box yellow cake mix

3 large eggs

½ cup softened butter

1 20 oz can crushed pineapple (with juice)

 

8 oz cream cheese, softened

4 tablespoons butter, softened

6 cups powdered sugar

6 tablespoons cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Beat together cake mix, eggs, butter, water, and pineapple on medium 2 minutes or until well combined.  Pour into greased 9x13 pan. Bake 18 - 20 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted comes out mostly clean.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

 

For frosting, beat softened cream cheese and butter on medium speed until creamy. Beat in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Add cream and vanilla and beat until smooth. Spread over cooled cake. Chill. 

 

NOTES: 

Because of all the pineapple this rises very little; thus, “flat cake.” 

Thoroughly cool (or freeze) cake before frosting.