Sunday, 23 February 2014

Hummingbird Cake

Ok, it was a little slow in getting here: my "island inspired" cake.
I was just setting the mood and giving you a taste of island time, that's all...

When I was thinking of what to make that was heavy on vanilla, coconut and tropical fruit, I kept  coming back to this Southern (as in Kentucky, not Cape Town) classic: Hummingbird cake.
The recipe may have originated in Jamaica, but first appears to have been published and made popular in the US in the 70's - clearly a good decade for classics ; )

The traditional frosting for a hummingbird cake is cream cheese icing, but in this case I've made it into a Bundt cake with a vanilla-rich white chocolate ganache.

I've also changed the mixing directions from the original recipe to make the cake lighter in texture.  (When working with mashed banana your cake can sometimes become dense and stodgy  - which makes me think of hostel food rather than holiday food! )

 So, here it is:

Hummingbird Cake with Vanilla Ganache
Recipe by Tea, Cake & Create

Preheat the oven to 180'C

Grease and line 2 x 20cm round cake pans or 1  Bundt pan


300g cake flour
250g light brown sugar
250 ml canola oil
3 large eggs
120g roasted pecans, roughly chopped
60g shredded coconut
1 tin (440g) crushed pineapple, drain excess liquid
2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda into a bowl. Add in the coconut and chopped pecans. Whisk together to combine.

Using a mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add in the vanilla extract.
With the mixer on low speed, mix in the oil. Add half the dry ingredients, then the pineapple and banana, followed by the rest of the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake at 180'C for approx 35 minutes for layers or          1 hour for the Bundt cake - or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Leave in the cake pan to cool before turning onto a cooling rack.

Vanilla Ganache

240g white chocolate
120ml fresh cream (35-40% fat content)
1 vanilla pod

Melt the white chocolate and cream together in a double boiler. Stir until smooth.
Split the vanilla pod in half,  scrape out the seeds and stir into the ganache.
Leave it to set slightly; pour over the cake once the ganache has reached a custard-like consistency.

Finish with a flourish - a generous sprinkling of shaved coconut.

If you're making a layer cake, I'd recommend cream cheese icing between the layers, with vanilla ganache poured over the top of the cake.

How did the hummingbird cake get its name? Maybe it was because that's the Jamaican national bird; perhaps it's the sweetness of the cake. I think it may be the hum of delight you hear when it gets eaten.
: )  
Give it a try and tell me what you think. 


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Homemade Fruit and Nut Bars

You know how stressed I was about going away for a few days without the kids? Well, I have to say that it was the most thoroughly appreciated freedom holiday I've ever had!
If you don't have children, borrow a couple to look after before you go on your next vacation, and then when you go you'll really appreciate what time out is!  After 5 years of full-time-parenting I've forgotten what it's like to have a day without an agenda. I'm still light-headed from the experience. (Although that might be a head-cold. But you get the point!)

Now, though it's straight back into full-time-mommy-mode (and that's a real privilege, too!)
So, while I have a few island-inspired treats in development, this recipe is for a practical, healthy lunch-box snack:

Homemade Fruit and Nut Bars
Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking

Preheat the oven to 160'C
Grease and line a 20cm square baking pan.
(Make a cross of baking paper in the pan, and let the baking parchment extend above the sides of the pan.)

1 1/2 cups dried dates and figs - chopped into small pieces
1 1/2 cups dried apricots, peaches, cranberries, etc - chopped into small pieces
1 1/2 cups mixed seeds and nuts - roughly chopped
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 XL free range egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup flour
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

In a large bowl, mix together the dried fruit, seeds and nuts with the flour and other dry ingredients.
Make sure that all the fruit and nuts have been coated with flour.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg and vanilla together until pale and fluffy.

Add the egg mixture to the fruit/flour bowl and mix thoroughly.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and bake at 160'C for approx 35-40min.
Allow to cool in the pan.
Once cool, lift out of the pan by pulling up on the sides of the baking parchment.

Cut into bars.
Store in a sealed container at room temperature.

I'm off to pack lunch boxes for tomorrow…


Friday, 14 February 2014

Valentines Cookies: Wet-on-Wet Hearts

This might be a few hours (days?!) too late to be of any use for V Day. I'm sorry about that, but it seems I'm still on island time. It was a great break, wonderfully relaxing; and so it's quite a shock to the system to be back to reality. What - I have to cook? And clean? And no-one's serving me vanilla tea for breakfast?? Not even today, on Valentine's Day??

Quite clearly, I'm suffering from island fever in reverse, and the only cure is another holiday… ha ha... sob…

Poolside iPhone snapshot
So, I'm going to keep this really short and simple, if that's okay with you?

Wet-on-Wet Hearts

Outline and flood a biscuit with flooding consistency royal icing (15second icing):


(Red icing coloured with a mix of Red Red and Super Red gel colours.)

Immediately pipe dots of a different colour icing onto the flooded background - use flooding consistency for the dots, too.

Wet-on-wet dots

Drag the tip of a toothpick through the dots - start above the dot and pull through the icing until you have created the heart shape. In this case the direction of pull was from the notch of the heart, anti-clockwise and downwards:

Wet-on-wet hearts

Repeat on the other side:

Allow to dry for 24 hrs before packaging.

I hope you are having a lovely and love-filled Valentine's Day!


Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Sour Cream Chocolate and Blueberry cake

I'm sitting here with a knot in my stomach - we're going away for a few days (yay!) without the kids (eek!). It's the first time we've left them for more than one night and I know they're going to be fine (they'll be looked after by granny, nanny, auntie and an au pair!) ... but I don't know if I'll be ok!
I really didn't appreciate the ease of travel BC (before children). Now it's stressful to go away with them, and without them. Easier to stay at home and bake.  So, although I am looking forward to a break - I'm already looking forward to being back. Ridiculous, right?!

So, let me just distract myself with chocolate for a bit....

Sour Cream Chocolate and Blueberry Cake.
Recipe adapted from  The Cake Genie / Good Housekeeping Magazine

Preheat the oven  to 180'C
Grease a 23cm Bundt pan

125ml boiling water
30ml vegetable oil
125ml cocoa powder
165g butter at room temp.
275g caster sugar
2 XL eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
320g cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
250ml sour cream
150g fresh blueberries + extra for decorating

Mix the cocoa powder with the boiling water and oil and set aside to cool slightly.

Sift the flour and baking soda into a bowl.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together.
 Add the eggs one at a time, beat well between additions.
Add the vanilla extract and the cocoa mixture. Beat well.

With the mixer on low speed, alternate adding the flour and the sour cream to the butter/ egg mixture. Begin and end with the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
Fold in the blueberries.

Spoon into the Bundt pan and bake for approx 45minutes or until a skewer comes out just-clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Dark chocolate ganache.

300g dark (bittersweet) chocolate
150ml heavy cream (fat content 35-40%)

Melt the chocolate and cream together in a double boiler.

Allow to cool. Pour over the cake.

Decorate with blueberries dusted with icing sugar.

See you when we get back from our trip.


Saturday, 1 February 2014

Dirty Colours and Valentines Cookies

It's amazing how often what we're looking for is right in front of us, isn't it?
And I'm not trying to be deep and philosophical here - this is a baking blog; it's supposed to be light and fluffy and taken with a pinch of salt ; )
No, I'm talking about that jar of mayonnaise that you turn the whole fridge upside down to find, while it's right at eye level all the time (cunningly disguised as... a jar of mayonnaise!) 
Or the sunglasses on your head. Or the child on your hip - and you might not believe it, but that one really did happen. Not to me, of course - my husband.
On this occasion it was the clock on the wall. 
Well, ok - it wasn't quite that simple.
I had an idea of the colours I wanted for our Lovebirds / Valentines Cookies class, but couldn't find an image that pulled it all together for me. So, frustrated with the intangible inspiration, I muddied through the task, eventually getting the shades exactly as I wanted. Two days later I looked at the clock on our kitchen wall and realised: oh, hey - there it was - my inspiration. Right in front of me. 

I can't think of any other description for these shades than "dirty". Which is perhaps appropriate (or very inappropriate??) for Valentines Cookies. 

A "clean" colour is one that has very little or no black/grey in it. It is bright and pure. 

A "dirty" colour had been muted/ "muddied" with grey or black. 

To achieve this effect you just add a smidgeon of black (gel colour) to your already-coloured royal icing; mix it in (get over your initial horror as the first streaks of black appear) and repeat until you've got the dirtiness you're after. 
With ivory you'll probably stop after the first smidgeon; with blue and brown you'll need a drop or two more - but go slowly. If you find that you've over done it, add a little of the original gel colour to brighten up the icing again. 
It's a fascinating way to transform a colour. And the common thread of black really pulls all the colours in the project together. 

Just as I've already written about the use of warm and cool colours together, as a rule of thumb - use dirty colours together and clean colours together, but don't mix the two groups. 

Happy decorating!