Grandma Tilly’s Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

May 15th, 2015


Dog people / cat people; cilantro / no cilantro; bikini / tankini / no-kini – there are a lot important preferences in this world but I discovered a new one recently: those who think pineapple upside-down cake is antiquated, disgusting, extinct even / those who find it to be the most fantastic thing either side of the Mississippi.

Our magical god-mother, Kristen, arrived to Hannah’s Easter party this year with a pineapple upside-down cake in-hand and changed my life forever. I spent much of the party saddled up to the dessert table eating the cake straight off the platter (my apologies… or rather #sorrynotsorry, that’s still a thing, right?). I had been converted and knew right then-and-there I had to make it for my husband’s upcoming birthday. When I told Kristen this she explained that her grandma Tilly had made Kristen’s father that very same cake every year for his birthday. Well, dear reader, I smell a new tradition in my house and it smells like rightside-up cake. And on the 8th day, God said, “please save me a piece of that cake.”

Since this is Kristen’s recipe I decided to pay homage to her by actually organizing my ingredients before I began; usually I am a wild gal with a bag of flour in a wet sink trying desperately to find baking powder while balancing bowls on top of bowls and trying to listen to my girl Lynne Rossetto Kasper talk about lard bread and latin-chinese-polish fusion desserts on my Splendid Table podcast… Kristen’s way is obviously better.


  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tall can of pineapple rings, or one fresh pineapple
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees – melt butter with brown sugar in cast iron skillet in the oven.

2. Separate yolks from whites and add a dash of salt to the whites.

3. Cream white sugar and egg yolks.

4. Sift or whisk flour and baking powder. Add the yolk and sugar mixture alternately with the egg whites, and 1/4 cup of pineapple slush (liquid and pineapple left over in the can mushed up).

5. Lay pineapples on top of brown sugar and butter mixture. Add berries if you wish to the center of the pineapples.

6. Dollop/spread batter into the pan and bake for roughly 30 minutes. DON’T OVER BAKE!!!

We were without a proper camera on the cake’s big day – many apologies. She was prettier than this in real life, but always remember that it’s whats on the inside that really counts: sugar and flour and butter and all that crazy stuff.

And thank you to Kristen’s grandma Tilly – who here looks like a Pineapple Cake Angel.


Cooking with Big City Grits

August 21st, 2013

Bologna Bowls

vivian & june
While my blog is named after two of my grandmothers, I had one more that I absolutely adored: Cauzette Crowell. She was a hilarious East Texas transplant who was filled with an endless amount of love for her family. But let’s be honest, the name Cauzette just does not roll off the tongue, so she did not make the cut. One of the great mysteries of my life is why she went by her middle name, Cauzette, when her first name was Addie which is lovely, the name I would later give my first daughter. Then I consider the fact that her sisters were named Frankie Whortense, Orella and Modena and I just stops trying to make any sense out of that bunch. She was originally from the tiny town of Buchanan, TN, a woman of deep faith who was prone to speaking in tongues, a collector of “what nots”, a dyed in the wool Walmart shopper and madly, madly in love with David Hasselhoff.  She was also the world’s worst cook. I asked my Dad not long ago what grandma cooked for him when he was a boy and the only thing he could come up with was bologna bowls. Fried bologna in bacon fat with fried sauerkraut on top. I feel nauseated just typing the words. My sister, Carrie, of Big City Grits incorporated this recipe into a beautiful cookbook she made for all the Crowell daughters, a collection of the recipes from all the women of our family. Carrie and I wanted to do a joint post, and as we both love to cook, we wanted to do something in the kitchen. While we in no way endorse or recommend this recipe, we wanted to honor ole Cauzette with a bologna bowl. The left overs were sent home to Dad for a little East Texas nostalgia.

Carrie and I set out with our shopping list (dictated by dad):
-cheap bologna with the red string thing on it
-frying oil (Grandma used bacon fat but we just went with vegetable oil as we were not ready for that level of commitment).
Vivian & June
Heat 2 skillets with oil or bacon grease.
Sauerkraut into one.
Vivian & June
Remove red string from the bologna.
Vivian & June
Vivian & June
Fry bologna in other skillet. In theory it should fry up into a dome creating a “bowl”. Ours was reluctant.
Vivian & June
Vivian & June
Once the bologna and sauerkraut are fried well, top bologna with sauerkraut.
If you are Carrie- enjoy! If you are me- you just try and keep it down.
Vivian & June
Vivian & June
Cauzette and JW Crowell back in the bologna bowl days.

Make sure you check out my sister’s blog Big City Grits. In addition, our dad wrote a beautiful memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks about his young life as the son of Cauzette and JW Crowell. Truly brilliant. And I don’t just say that because he’s my Dad and I love him so.



May 3rd, 2013

My baby sister, Carrie Crowell, is my favorite person on earth. She is beautiful, hilarious, and brilliant in the kitchen. She and her friend Matt Porter have a show/blog called Big City Grits and I live for each new episode. In this particular one, they make Fried Chicken & Hot Sauce. It’s a must see!

For Fried Chicken:

One whole chicken, cut up
3 cups flour, divided
4 cups buttermilk
Salt & pepper to taste
For Hot Sauce

250g (about 2 cups) freshly chopped red chillies
500ml (about 2 cups) white wine vinegar
500g (about 1 pound) white sugar
1 large nugget fresh peeled grated ginger

Boil the chopped chill with sugar, ginger, and vinegar for 15-20 minutes until a syrupy consistency is achieved
Cover chicken in coating of flour, then put all the coated chicken into a large bowl of buttermilk. Keep in refrigerator overnight.
Combine left over flower with salt and pepper and coat each piece of chicken in the mixture.
Fry chicken in peanut oil at medium to high heat until cooked through.