Checking In with Eric Wolitzky from Top Chef Just Desserts (Plus: His Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Recipe)

Many of you will remember my friend Eric Wolitzky from Season One of Top Chef Just Desserts. Back then, Eric was the pastry chef at Baked in Brooklyn where Eric and I once did a live video podcast, answering your questions; he also shared his top secret recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Now Eric lives in Atlanta, Georgia where he’s the pastry chef at Cakes & Ale, one of the hippest and most celebrated food joints in town. I thought it’d be fun to check in with Eric, so what follows is a Q&A with a few pictures of the food that he’s been serving; plus, Eric shares his recipe for his favorite Cakes & Ale dessert creation, a pineapple upside-down cake.

Hey Eric! Congrats on your move to Atlanta and your new gig at Cakes and Ale. How does this job differ from what you were doing at Baked?

Thanks! The move to Atlanta has been exciting and the job at Cakes and Ale was one I couldn’t pass up. Cakes & Ale is a restaurant but it also has a bakery right next door. So not only do I get to continue creating baked goods, which I love and never wanted to stop doing, but I’m also in charge of creating all the plated desserts for dinner service. It’s really allowed me to expand my repertoire and let me translate my style to a plate. There is this crazy moment that happens mid-day when I have to go from making cakes, cookies and breakfast pastries…

…to working on multi-component desserts.

[That’s Mississippi Mud Pie with Stout Whipped Cream.]

We also focus heavily on seasonal ingredients so many of my decisions are based on what was at the market that day. Keeps me on my toes!

You were a beloved contestant on Top Chef Just Desserts. What’s been life like after doing that show? Do you still get recognized? Would you do it again?

Gosh – I was totally shell shocked after that experience! But once I came out of it I had such a clearer picture of who I was as a chef and what I wanted to do with my career. The best part has been being able to give baking demonstrations. My goal always is to get people excited about baking at home, to not be frightened of it as so many seem to be. As far as getting recognized, it definitely happens more in ATL than NY. Especially now that Erika Davis (from the show) has been spending a lot of time here (yay), people will approach us when we are out together. And would I do it again? Um, you would have to give me a lot of money.

How are you liking Atlanta so far? Any favorite places to eat?

I’m loving Atlanta. I especially love how friendly people are, how it’s so easy to strike up a conversations at restaurants and bars. I’ve eaten in quite a few places so far. Just had an incredible meal at JCT Kitchen – can’t wait to go back. Also love Miso, Wisteria and The Shed. And really, I’m not just saying this but Chef Billy Allen’s food at Cakes & Ale is AMAZING. It has often induced tears in my eyes, it’s so so comforting and satisfying.

What food-related stuff do you miss the most about New York?

DELIVERY! I spent half my life getting awesome food delivered to my door several nights a week. Now I’m kind of fending for myself and cooking at home a lot. NY food is just so comforting to me, so simple and unfussy. I also really miss just being able to walk outside my door in the Lower East Side and having this vast array of food from so many cultures within walking distance. Can you tell I haven’t quite gotten used to the whole driving a car thing??

What’s your favorite dessert you’re currently making at Cakes and Ale? Any chance we can have a recipe?

It just came off the menu but I think my favorite dessert has been the Pineapple Upside Down. It really seemed to connect with people. And I was finally able to realize it as a true plated dessert without sacrificing my comfort style. We served it with this outrageous cherry compote ice cream, with cherries that I stewed in brandy and cinnamon. I can definitely share the recipe for the cake!

Anything else going on that we should know about?

I’m currently working on a magazine article for the fall, which I am super excited about! That’s all I’ll say for now. Other than that – if you are in the ATL area come to the Bakery and say hello!

Recipe: Eric Wolitzky’s Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Summary: From Cakes & Ale in Atlanta, Georgia.


  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 ounces butter (for caramel) + 4 ounces butter (for cake)
  • 1 tablespoon Bourbon
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 2/3 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of Cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Pineapple rounds (as needed)


  1. Spray a 10” cake pan with cooking spray. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. For the caramel, combine dark brown sugar and butter in a small saucepan. Cook over medium high heat until bubbling and the sugar is completely dissolved. Whisk in bourbon. Pour into cake pan and swirl pan until bottom is completely covered in caramel.
  3. Slice rind off of pineapple, making sure to remove eyes. Cut ¼ “ rounds and remove cores with a small round cookie cutter. In a pinch you can buy canned pineapple rounds. Place rounds decoratively around cake pan, using as many as needed. You can cut rounds in half and place in any large gaps at the top.
  4. For the cake, in a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom.
  5. In a bowl of a kitchenaid mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla one at a time until incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl. Alternate adding dry ingredients (3 additions) with the sour cream (2 additions).
  6. Scoop batter on top of pineapples. Spread evenly with an offset spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean around 30-40 minutes.
  7. Let cool for 10 minutes and then with oven mitts, invert onto a large plate. Remove parchment and serve.

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