Hi Food Friends:
I’m a little behind on posting these days, as my new job at Terlato Wines (which I love!) is taking most of my time these days, so pardon my absence. But I’m here today to share with you the cooking and eating adventures of the most recent gathering of my cooking club, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pans. We met in October for a “Master Chef Challenge” and we each had to make something we’ve always wanted to make from one of our favorite chefs. I chose Chef Art Smith’s Hummingbird Cake. Behold:
I had this cake at Smith’s restaurant, Table 52, several years ago on my birthday, and ever since, I’ve wanted to make it – so I did! It’s a cinnamon-y batter with pineapple, bananas and pecans and a super-rich cream cheese frosting and IT. IS. DIVINE! Also? It’s not hard to make! The hardest part was the flipping of the whole cakes out of the pans onto cooling racks and then onto a serving platter. It’s rich and sweet and I’ll definitely make it again. But right now I’m going to show you how to make it! Ready? Let’s bake…
3 C. al-purpose flour
2 C. white sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 C. chopped ripe bananas (2 large bananas)
1 C. drained crushed pineapple (canned is most reliable)
1 C. vegetable oil
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 C. finely chopped pecans
1 stick butter, at room temp
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temp (1 “brick” type package)
1 pound (yep) powdered sugar (about 4 1/2 C.)
1 tsp vanilla extract
WHAT YOU DO
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Get your cake pans ready: butter two 9″ round pans and then sprinkle flour in and shake the pan about to coat it and then tap out the excess into the sink. Yes, this took me about 10 minutes, but it is the KEY to getting those cakes out of the pans cleanly, so just do it.
2) Okay, onward! Get two bowls – one really big, and put your flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in the really big one. And yes, there is no baking powder in this cake. I had to call my mom and ask, “How can there be no baking powder in a cake?” And it’s because this cake is not built to rise a ton, because of the all the moist, yummy bananas and pineapple in it. So there you have it. No baking powder. Whisk all this dry stuff together til its combined.
3) In the other bowl, put your bananas, pineapple (You’ve got to drain it well; one 20-ounce can yielded just a tiny bit more than I needed), oil, eggs and vanilla. Stir it all up til it’s combined.
4) Merge the wet with the dry! Pour the wet stuff into the flour mixture and fold it in with a rubber spatula. No beating, just stirring. Now add in the pecans and stir those in.
5) Pour the batter into the pans. Just do the best you can to pour neatly and evenly and use your spatch to smooth things out a bit. Now pop ‘em in to the oven, on the same rack, together, like cake friends and let ‘em bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Now my oven runs cool, so 350 means 360 on my oven, and mind turned out a teensy bit undercooked in the very center, so next time I’ll go 40 minutes to fully cook them. The ol’ “stick a toothpick in it” thing doesn’t work, because you might hit a piece of banana and it’ll come out wet. So use your eyeballs and a finger – the center should spring back ever so slightly when you press it lightly with a finger – and it’ll be done!
6) Put the pans onto a cooling rack and let them cool for 15 minutes. Then carefully flip the cakes out onto the cooling rack. It’s easiest to just upend the rack on the top of the pan and turn the whole thing over and then remove the pan. Et voila! Now let them really cool completely. And I mean completely. You don’t want to attempt to handle them warm OR frost a warm cake. Time to make the frosting!
1) Two things: make sure your butter and cream cheese are REALLY at room temp, so they’re mixable. And: a stand mixer works best, I think. I tried to use an old electric hand mixer and it was a clusterf%&@k.
2) Just beat the cream cheese and butter together until mixed and then gradually beat in the powdered sugar, then the vanilla and presto! Cream cheese frosting. Mmmmm. Taste it to be sure it’s delicious. Then stop tasting and start frosting. Ready? Here are some tips for frosting this baby:
1) Get a cake stand or serving plate. Put one cake onto, upside down (so the flat side is face-up) .
2) Get an off-set spatula! I cannot tell you how much easier it is to frost a cake with this thing. It’s the angle, or the leverage you can get that makes it SO much easier than using a table knife. Plus, you can make fancy swirls and stuff.
3) Use about 2/3 cup frosting on top of the first cake (I just eye-balled it). Then gently plop the second cake face-up (the way it came out of the oven) on top. Now frost the top — and then do the sides, holding the spatula at a 90-degree angle; you’ll figure it out.
4) Slice and serve! It was hard to take a beautiful picture of a slice, but here’s the best I could do:
The rest of The Sisterhood made some fabulous food, too and here’s just a quick look at the fun and the food.
Clockwise from top left: Tina finishing the sauce for her potato-wrapped Halibut, Mara’s version of Rick Bayless’ pork something or other (sorry, I can’t remember its name, but it was gooood), Tina’s finished dish and Amy’s version of Ferran Adria’s tortilla Espagnol, made with potato chips!
Alright – happy baking and happy Saturday. I’m off to Old Town School to rehearse with the ELO ensemble for a set we’re doing tomorrow night! Bon appetit!