When I was little, I loved so many cartoon characters so much that I truly believed they were real. I wanted them to be real and I shied away from anything that could prove otherwise. I find that really silly because the characters are real (They just exist a little differently than I do.) and I love them twice as much now that I know how much work was done to bring them to life. If I had seen The Reluctant Dragon when I was younger, then I would’ve come to realize that years ago. It’s fun and (Dare I say it.) educational watching Robert Benchley lead the viewers on a tour of Walt Disney Studios, and taking them through each part of the animation process from drawing, score and voice acting, foley, cameras, ink-and-paint, maquette-making, storyboarding, and ultimately animating. (Whew! That’s a lot.)
The cartoon that this movie all boils down to is The Reluctant Dragon. The Dragon would rather recite poetry than fight and is so peace loving, he has trouble breathing fire. (The Boy has to call him a Punk Poet to make him angry enough to do it.) He invites The Boy and Sir Giles, the Dragon Killer, to his picnic full of cakes and muffins and tea and jam sandwiches. Sir Giles, also being a lover of verse, is most interested in the Dragon’s poetic abilities and they recite poetry. My favorite poem in the short (And one of my favorite ever.) is “To an upside-down cake.” The entire thing is about how an upside down cake has problems because its top is on its bottom and its bottom is on its top. It’s truly beautiful. And “Radish so red” by Sir Giles is also lovely, but I’m more into cake.
Upside-down cakes can be just about any flavor, but I like pineapple the best. The Dragon doesn’t have any fruit on his cake, so it’s okay to just leave off the pineapple slices. I baked my cakes in 6-ounce ramekins, but jumbo muffin tins work too. (It’s just stickier getting the cakes out.)
Recipe makes 8 mini upside-down cakes.
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons pineapple juice (Optional)
8 pineapple slices (Optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Divide the butter amongst the ramekins, so each one has 1 tablespoon. Add two tablespoons of brown sugar to each one and mix. Place a pineapple slice in each ramekin.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs. Then whisk in the sugar. Add the oil, milk, vanilla, and pineapple juice and whisk well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk until just combined. Divide the batter amongst the ramekins and bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the outside of the cakes to loosen them. Invert each ramekin onto a plate. Once the little cakes are free, they’re ready to serve!
A sweet, little upside-down cake may have cares and woes about its top and bottom being mixed up, but it should be more worried about me. You know, The Dragon and all the people get a happy ending, but I’m not so sure about that upside-down cake. Just like how I’m not so sure about Robert Benchley’s ending. He did get to meet Walt Disney, though. And I know that the animation process has changed a ton since The Reluctant Dragon, but it’s not any less magical getting an idea out of someone’s head and putting it on a large screen for the whole world to see.
Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!