Wednesday, July 30, 2008

An Eye-Popping Birthday Cake

Birthday time for the lovely Ms Martine! I promised a cake, but then came the agonising choice of what to make. Martine is French, and her partner cooks beautifully, so I felt that the best strategy was to aim for something less European / more new world, but what?

I ultimately decided to make the Hummingbird Cake that I first saw in an old edition of Martha Stewart Living. I have made this cake before and it always provokes a lot of oohs and aahs. In fact, when I stopped at a cafe to grab a coffee (with the cake in a carrier), the proprietor took it into the kitchen to show the chef. Very festive indeed. The cake itself is moist, and has lots of fruit and nuts, so if you try, you could nearly convince yourself that it was quite low on the "sinfulness scale".

Have a look at the beautiful picture on Martha's website to see how really amazing this cake could look. I like my pineapple really crisp for the textural contrast with the cake, so my pineappple looks a little less yellow and less perfect. It also takes a couple of hours instead of one hour to dry the pineapple out to my preferred level of crispiness, but the good news is it keeps well, so you can dry the pineapple the day before you make the cake. If you want the pineapple to cup like Martha's I suggest laying the slices in a lined muffin tin, as mine were as flat as the tray I dried them on.

Hummingbird Cake adapted from Martha Stewart Living
3 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups mashed ripe banana, about 3 large
1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup desiccated coconut

Preheat oven to 180C. Butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans, and flour the sides. Line the bottoms of the pans with baking paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, and then set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat oil, vanilla, and sugar until combined, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each thoroughly before adding the next. Beat at medium speed until mixture is pale yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Mix together banana, pineapple, walnuts, and coconut. Add to egg mixture; stir until well combined. Add flour mixture; blend well, but do not overwork.

Divide batter between pans. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer pans to a greased wire rack. Let cool 15 minutes. Run a knife around edges to loosen. Invert onto racks; reinvert, top side up, and leave to cool completely. Assemble cake, or wrap each layer well and freeze (thaw before using).

With a serrated knife, trim and discard rounded top off one layer. Place layer on serving platter. Spread top of layer with 1/4 inch of icing. Top with untrimmed layer. Frost sides and top of cake with remaining icing. Decorate with pineapple flowers. Serve at room temperature. (Cake can be refrigerated up to 3 days.)

Cream Cheese Icing (I halved the recipe and still had leftovers)

24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
375g unsalted butter, room temperature
6 cups icing sugar, sifted

With electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add butter, 1/4 cup at a time, and beat until smooth. Reduce speed to low and then add icing sugar 1 cup at a time, beating until fully incorporated. Chill before spreading.

Dried Pineapple

1 large pineapple

Preheat oven to 110C. Line two baking sheets with baking paper. Peel pineapples. Using a small melon baller, remove and discard "eyes." Slice pineapple very thinly; place slices on baking sheets. Cook until tops look dried, about 30 minutes. Flip slices; cook until completely dried, 25 to 30 minutes more. Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 3 days.


webbie said...

Wow! The cake looks lovely! I've made Hummingbird cake a few times, but have never seen the dried pineapple. Just a little FYI, the cake originated in the southern US and was for many years a regular at state and county fairs.

I hope your friend enjoyed it.

Debinhawaii said...

How beautiful your cake is! I think I like the dried pineapple better too. The way you have it it looks like flowers--very cool!

Anne said...

Wow, it looks wonderful! I saw that cake in Martha Stewart a few years ago and have always wanted to make it. Great job!