03 August 2009

Amy's Breads' Monkey Cake (Hummingbird Cake)

Monkey Cake (with title)
Some bizarre things happening in my life right now, so I can't think straight enough to relate a story to this post. Don't worry (if you are ;), I'm not in any trouble or anything bad, just a little more anxious than usual, but still happy (contrary to what my previous post may suggest, heh heh). Instead you will get two of my favorite music videos and a story behind this beautiful cake.

Kylie Minogue's Come Into My World: this came out when I was in medical school, and it really helped to color my everyday walk to the hospital (though I did not multiply, sadly).

Star Guitar by The Chemical Brothers: inspired by the video, I tried to turn the landscape from boring trips to the country into a song, but they did not appear with sufficient regularity to have a rhythm. Pity.

These videos and more can be found in a fantastic compilation of director Michel Gondry's work (master of time and space).

Anyway. About the cake. I served it recently at my mum and dad's anniversary party, which unexpectedly had a number of guests. One of them is a big fan of my cooking (er, baking most of all), and when I told them that they'd be having a banana and pineapple cake, she was audibly bummed because she was expecting a chocolate cake, as I served chocolate-flavored cakes the last two times she ate here (which have not been posted yet!). Well, what was I supposed to do, bake another cake on the spot? Anyway, confident that they'd like it (even though I hadn't tasted it), I just left my mom to serve it. Her story was her guest liked it so much that she even took a big slice home. And she had a couple as guests, who said they'd just share a sliver, but ended up getting more and more cake (probably against medical advice- ulp). It is really that good and I'm glad it's gone because I gained back 2 of the 9 pounds I lost, ha ha ha.

I just realized that if you mash a banana that has just ripened for a cake, it will release enough ethylene (probably even as it bakes) to make the remaining barely-ripe banana taste great. So if you need to bake a banana cake in a hurry (don't laugh, it happened to me for this one), you don't have to have falling-apart bananas. Good to know, right? It will just be hard to mash-- I had to use my tiny chopper.
Monkey Cake (top)
Monkey Cake adapted from The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread

  • 345g (2-3/4) cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 275g (1-1/4 cups) canola or other neutral vegetable oil

  • 350g (1-3/4 cups) sugar

  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

  • 225g (1 cup) mashed bananas (about 2 medium bananas)

  • 400g (2 cups gently drained) crushed pineapple

Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Spray 2 8-inch round cake pans with baking spray and line the bottoms with parchment cut to fit exactly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the baking soda and flour. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the oil, sugar, eggs, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla until well-combined. Sift the flour mixture over this and fold in 3 additions, alternating with the bananas and pineapple. Use a strong whisk to give the batter a few good stirs to make sure the fruit is well-distributed.

Divide the batter equally between the two pans (if using a scale, the weight will come down to around 880g of batter per pan. See how easy that was?). Give each pan a spin to flatten the batter and bake for 35-40 minutes, or a toothpick inserted in the center of each comes out barely moist.

Let the cakes sit in the pan for 10 minutes, before carefully unmolding onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Flatten the top of the cake you've chosen to be the bottom layer with a serrated knife, if necessary.

Cream Cheese Frosting
This makes just enough for a thin filling (see the photograph above). If you like a lot of frosting or are not confident in your frosting abilities, multiply the quantities by 1.5.
  • 225g (1 cup) cream cheese, softened

  • 175g (12-1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

  • 300g (3 cups sifted) sifted confectioner's sugar

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

In a large bowl, beat together all the ingredients until homogeneous. Use to fill and frost the cake all over.

To create the swirl I made above (inspired by the Cake Love cakes), just apply a thin coat of frosting all over and freeze the cake for a short bit to firm the frosting, while keeping the rest of the frosting at room temperature. Once it's firmed, center the cake on a turntable and apply the rest of the frosting all over (neatness doesn't matter, just make sure it's not horribly uneven). Using a small offset or icing spatula, lay it at an angle (30 degrees should do) at the top center of the cake and spin the turntable (it doesn't have to be fast), moving the spatula so that the widening circles you create overlaps the previous circle slightly. It's important that the frosting is soft so you can smoothly create the spiral, or if you don't like the one you've made, just spread the icing over the top and start over again.

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