Friday, May 22, 2009

Hummingbird Cake

Let me introduce you to my new favorite, albeit strangely named, cake: Hummingbird Cake. Though the name "hummingbird cake" may conjure cringe-worthy images of scattered feathers, beaks, and blood, I assure you that no birds are harmed during the making of this cake. I'm not positive about how it got its name, but the most common explanation I've heard is that it's as sweet as the nectar that hummingbirds love. Charming, isn't it? Its Caribbean and Deep South roots are evident in the ingredient list, which includes pineapple, banana, a healthy dose of cinnamon, and a lusciously smooth cream cheese icing. It's such a welcome break from the usual chocolate or yellow cakes that, while delicious, can get old. Please, do yourself and your loved ones a favor- bake this cake for someone's birthday, or for a family picnic, or just because it's Wednesday. You'll be surprised at how good this really is, and anyone who tastes it will think you're a genius.

I made this cake as a late Mother's Day treat, but I'm positive that I'll be making this several more times throughout the summer. My favorite part about it (other than the deliciousness factor) is how unfussy it is to prepare. Honestly, it's the closest thing to idiot-proof as cakes get. Just dump everything into a bowl, mix, bake, and *VOILA*... instant popularity at the next family picnic.

Hummingbird Cake
3 cups self-rising flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
2 large very ripe bananas, mashed
1 8oz. can crushed pineapple, with juice
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 large eggs, beaten

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans for baking.
2. In a large bowl, stir to combine self-rising flour, sugar, oil, pecans, bananas, pineapple, vanilla, cinnamon, and eggs.
3. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans, smoothing with a spatula. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the tops spring back when gently pressed with your fingertips, 25-30 minutes.
4. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto wire rack. Re-invert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.

Cream Cheese Icing
2 8oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, softened
2 lbs. powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp. vanilla extract

In mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine cream cheese and butter; cream until smooth. Add powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Swedish Visiting Cakes

I've not been this exhausted in quite a long time, but with the help of a very good friend and a couple of family members, we have finally arrived safely in VA. I don't have much time for a long post today, but I thought I could share a quick recipe, which can be found here. I've made this with and without the cardamom, and it's delicious either way. I've also used vanilla sugar in place of the sugar and omitted the vanilla (again, delicious). The cakes are dense, moist, and sweet (sweet enough that I'm tempted to scale back the sugar). The original recipe calls for the cake to be baked in a cast iron skillet, but I usually make mini bundts (mainly because I like to ask people if they'd like a mini bundt... come on, it's funny!) instead. It's a versatile recipe- have fun with it!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Grilled Pork Chops, Roasted Chickpeas, and a Sudden Change

Wow, my friends. It's amazing how much change one day can bring. I don't have a lot of time to post an explanation today, but the hubs and I are packing up and moving back to Virginia, and we have less than a week in which to do it. That's less than 7 days to pack up our entire apartment, say goodbye to friends, cancel our utilities, load the truck, coordinate schedules between us and a few other people who are helping us drive halfway across the country, and take care of all the other loose ends in this logistical nightmare. We're sad to leave our friends here in Kansas, and we wish the circumstances were different, but we're ready to dive into this new chapter of our lives. That said, I hope you will forgive me if my posts are less frequent over the next couple of weeks. We've been kinda busy. For now, I can at least leave you with pictures of what we call "the last supper," since it's the last meal we ate before having 2 huge bombshells dropped on us. The pork was just rubbed with a bit of salt and olive oil, then grilled; the chickpeas are incredibly addictive and you should take a peek at the recipe and go make them this instant. I think I prefer a tad more lemon and a tad less oil than the recipe states, but I never knew something so good could come from a can of chickpeas.