black fortunes

The Cake Historian Podcast: Shomari Wills and Mary Ellen Pleasant

Photo of Shomari Wills courtesy the author. Photo of Mary Ellen Pleasant via The Paris Review.

Photo of Shomari Wills courtesy the author. Photo of Mary Ellen Pleasant via The Paris Review.

Find Shomari Wills on Twitter @showills. Black Fortunes is available wherever books are sold!

Photo of Octavia House courtesy SF City Guides

Photo of Octavia House courtesy SF City Guides

Pages from one of Mary's handwritten recipe diaries. With thanks for Sho!

The Cake of the Episode—Pineapple Upside-down Pound Cake with Sweet Cream Lime Curd Ice Cream—in honor of Mary Ellen, Sho, and his grandmother.


Pineapple Upside-down Pound Cake
Oven preheated to: 325° 
Pan: 9" round set upon a half-sheet pan

1/2 c (105 g) brown sugar
1 20 oz. can pineapple chunks, drained, each cut in half top-down
1 stick plus 3 T (154 g) unsalted butter, very soft
1 1/2 c (150 g) cake flour
1/4 t baking powder
1/4 t fine sea salt
1/2 c (120 g) whole milk
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 c (113 g) Spectrum brand shortening
1 1/2 c (300 g) granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature

Smear every last bit of 3 T (42 g) soft unsalted butter all over the bottom and sides of a 9" cake pan. Sprinkle and press around the brown sugar. Circle the pan from the outside in with the halved pineapple chunks. 

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and sea salt.

Mix together the milk and the vanilla extract.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the remaining 8 T (112 g) unsalted butter with the shortening and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, letting the mixer at medium speed for one minute between each egg. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl. Alternate the dry ingredients and milk/vanilla in three parts, beginning and ending with the dry. 

Spoon the batter on top of the pineapple, being careful not to nudge the sweet chunks about.  Smooth the top with an offset spatula and set the cake on top of the half-sheet pan before putting the lot in the oven. 

Bake at 325° for 10 minutes, then increase the heat to 350° and bake for an additional 40–45 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center (but not all the way down to the fruity bottom) comes back clean. 

Remove from the oven and set the cake pan only on a rack to cool. After 10 minutes, run an offset spatula around the edge of the pan to loosen the sides, then turn out the cake to cool completely. 


Sweet Cream Lime Curd Ice Cream

I used THIS recipe for the ice cream (sans vanilla) and THIS for the lime curd. I follow the genius Jeni's way of adding goodness to ice cream: alternate layers of ice cream with layers of curd in whatever container you plan to freeze it in.