Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Baking Sunday: Dairy-Free Hummingbird Cake

I love American baking. I love the variety and the flavours - I remember my mum had an American cookbook and the cakes were so exotic sounding when I was growing up: red velvet cake, key lime pie, german chocolate cake, boston cream pie and this beauty - hummingbird cake.

Hummingbird cake is made with bananas and crushed pineapple which makes it incredibly moist and one of the great things about the cake recipe is that it is dairy-free. It is traditionally slathered with a cream cheese frosting and this can be made dairy-free as well with just a few easy substitutions. There's quite a few decent vegan substitutions available now for nearly everything dairy and whilst it's relatively easy to get a dairy-free marge from the supermarket, you may have to make a trip to your local health food store to try and get a cream cheese substitution - I got mine from Holland & Barrett, and it's made by Tofutti.

This recipe is ironically by fabulous Southern cook, Paula Deen, well known for her "butter, y'all!" catchphrase. Hummingbird cake is known as a Southern specialty so it's no surprise her version is all over the internet. This cake gives out American sized portions too, and you'll need three 8 inch pans for the layers, and you'll also need cup measurements.

Dairy-Free Hummingbird Cake

3 cups self-rising flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil (Note: You could add just 1/2 cup of oil if you wish)
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
2 very ripe large bananas, mashed
1 small can crushed pineapple, with juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 large eggs, beaten
Cream cheese frosting (recipe below)
Extra pecans for decoration

1.  Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celcius. Grease three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans, tapping out excess flour; set aside.
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 an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the tops spring back when gently pressed with your fingertips, 26 to 28 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.
5.  Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to make level. Place the first layer of cake onto on the plate. Spread the top of the first layer with 1/4 of the frosting. Place the second layer on top and repeat process with another 1/4 of the frosting. Place the remaining layer on top of the second layer bottom side up. Spread entire cake with remaining frosting (note: If, like me, you do not wish to spreak the entire cake with the frosting, spread a third of the frosting between the layers and on top). Decorate with remaining pecans; refrigerate until ready to serve.

Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Frosting

6 oz dairy-free margerine, room temperature
10 oz dairy-free cream cheese, room temperature (Tofutti brand is generally available)
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix butter and cream cheese together with a mixer on medium speed until light and creamy. Slowly add the sugar, one cup at a time. Add the vanilla extract to the mixture and mix until it has a creamy consistency.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Blog love: Recipe testing and Baking Sunday - Chocolate & Lime Tart

This post is about two other bloggers, both of whom write beautiful original recipes with stunning photography.

The first lovely blog is Prepped, written by Vanessa Kimbell, who left her job to write a cookbook which will be published next May. I cannot express how much I admire her for following her passion - I would love to have the guts to be able to do this! My dream job would be to run my own bakery with a bookshop (and recording studio for the boy) attached, but sadly that dream will have to wait until I win the Euromillions.

Vanessa needs testers for her recipes and I tried out her Spiced Lamb and Rhubarb Tagine. Now one of my favourites dishes to make is lamb and chickpea tagine with chillies so I was very excited to try this version with spices and it didn't disappoint - it wasn't too sweet and the spices smelt divine (and made the house smell good for the rest of the night). Like all good tagines it tasted even better the next day. I made a jewelled cous cous to accompany it and the extra sauce tasted amazing over it - even my cous cous-suspicious boyfriend ate the lot.

The second blogger is The Pink Whisk, which is written by a lady named Ruth Clemens who happened to be one of the finalists on BBC show The Great British Bake Off. Her blog is full of gorgeous inspiring baking recipes, all of which are accompanied with step-by-step photos and even a list of links to buy equipment - most helpful! I had quite a few leftover limes from a cocktail night and when I saw this Chocolate and Lime Pie on the blog, inspired by her love of chocolate lime sweeties, it was the perfect thing to make. It's a sweetcrust pastry covered in lime curd and a dark chocolate ganache. Ruth issues a wee caution about colouring the lime curd too vibrantly so I coloured it a drop at a time and I quite like the brightness that I ended up with. Very sweet and extremely more-ish! You can find the recipe on the Pink Whisk here.

Edit: I know have an official Prepped recipe testing badge! Thanks Vanessa!