Following the COVID-19 safety precautions (me in the backseat, passenger side, the windows rolled down despite the crisp air), we pulled up to Brian Mikesell and John Weinstein’s house. It’s not hard to miss: the bright phoenix statue and two flags outside mark it clearly as the Correct Destination.
This week we’ll be baking pineapple upside down cupcakes with Giacomo Battaglia. Baking with Brian is Brian Mikesell’s regular event, where a student or alumnus brings in a recipe for their peers to attempt in the White House’s beautiful kitchen (designated, he tells us, for catering).
The cupcakes are meant to be vegan, a quality of which I am highly suspicious, but while a handful of other students, along with Brian, mix batter, I enthusiastically slice cherries in half. We pour the batter into cupcake pans, necessary due to a lack of a specific pineapple upside down cake pan (possibly Bundt, though I am not intimately familiar with distinct forms of cake pans).
While the cupcakes bake alongside a few extra smaller ones made due to an overabundance of batter, John offers us pineapple snacks and a tour of the house. I slip the former into my pocket.
The house is beautiful and old, originally some family’s estate in the nineteenth century. Some of the windows are still original, and one can almost imagine men and women dressed in many historical layers and bustling skirts peering out of them.
Before my first Baking with Brian, I hadn’t been in an actual person’s house in months, let alone a person’s house that my parents didn’t also live in. There’s something special about visiting a house without the presence of my parents, like I’m putting on a special civilized grown-up hat to compliment vases and dish towels.
Brian tells us there are bears who come round one of the living rooms often, big and lumbering, and he watches them through the windows. He also reveals that Provost John Weinstein was once a decorated figure skater, and John’s awards hang up in one of two dining rooms. I was once a roller skater. Perhaps there is a solidarity in being a skater who is not a skateboarder...
By now, the aroma filtering through the hallway is impossible to ignore. The cupcakes are ready.
We let them cool and flip them over, hence the name “upside down.” The cherries I sliced and placed carefully at the bottom of each cupcake slot are now shiny, perched triumphantly atop each cake. We put them in Tupperware containers and thank Brian.
“Come back again,” he tells us, “Have a great afternoon!”
Vegan Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes
(modified from Alison Andrews’s “Vegan Pineapple Upside Down Cake”)
Start to finish: 40 minutes
1/4 cup Vegan Butter (Melted)
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
10–12 Pineapple Slices (Canned)
15–20 Maraschino Cherries
1 & 3/4 cups All Purpose Flour
1 cup White Sugar
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
3/4 cup Soy Milk
1/4 cup Pineapple Juice ( from the can or fresh)
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp White Vinegar
Andrews, Alison. “Vegan Pineapple Upside Down Cake.” Loving It Vegan, Mediavine Food, 6 Nov. 2018, lovingitvegan.com/vegan-pineapple-upside-down-cake