Amaretto Pineapple Upside-Down Cake | Sharp Objects

Like many I fell into the seductive trap of HBO’s Sharp Objects (2018), the miniseries adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s 2006 novel. Created by Marti Noxon (who I would follow anywhere since Buffy) and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, the series perfectly captures a small town underbelly, mommy issues, rollerskating, addiction, and murder mysteries, and Amy Adams’s performance as Camille is painful and exquisite. 

However, it’s Patricia Clarkson’s Adora that inspried this dish. She’s an elegant and cruel Southern Gothic anti-goddess, sipping amaretto sours and crushing souls out on the veranda. Like Adora, this Calhoun Day pineapple upside-down cake is classic and old-fashioned. It’s marinated and swirled with lovely amaretto, and dotted with luscious maraschinos – “Mama, couldn’t you just take a bite out of her?” “Like a plump, juicy cherry.” 

Amaretto Pineapple Upside-Down Cake


For the topping

  • 1 cup amaretto
  • 9 pineapple slices
  • 4 ounces butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • maraschino cherries
Marinate pineapple slices in amaretto for several hours, preferably overnight. Prepare a 9×9 square pan, and spread the bottom with melted butter and brown sugar. Arrange pineapple slices evenly, with maraschinos in all the spaces. Reserve remaining amaretto/pineapple juice mixture.

For the cake

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 7 ounces almond paste
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Reserved amaretto/pineapple mixture, cooked and reduced to a thick syrup
Preheat oven to 350° Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Crumble in the almond paste (try to get it as fine as possible) and mix in well. Mix in eggs, and vanilla. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, and add to the wet mixture with a spatula. Combine, being careful not to overmix. Gently spread the batter over the pineapples and cherries in the baking pan. Gently swirl in the amaretto/pineapple syrup (I don’t know if this made much of a difference but I was feeling like Adora and being a little extra). Bake for 30 minutes, then cover with foil and bake 15 minutes more, until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cool slightly, loosen with a knife, and use a large plate or tray to invert. Cool a bit more before serving.

(I referenced several recipes that all look delicious, including this, this and this to come up with this almondy, boozy, and gorgeously caramelized mishmash).  

Recipe for Fiction Kitchen Episode 65: Nightbooks & Sharp Objects in which Carrie and Diana discuss the JA White middle grade novel and the HBO miniseries. Spooky modern Sheherazade and midwest gothic folktale with pumpkin pie, oatmeal cookies, kousa mahshi, pineapple upside down cake, ham after ham, all washed down with vodka and amaretto sours.