tropical hummingbird cake

25 Aug 2014

Hi Every-one,

I hope you all had lovely weekends. Saturday was another wet day here in Sydney and when it rained most of day, I thought this poor cake would be spending another week in the frosty depths of the deep freeze. I adapted and made this Pineapple Crush Cake recipe from Belinda Jeffrey's book, Mix and Bake, 3 weeks ago now. I ran out of time to decorate the cake and I was out of town last weekend, so it's been stored in the freezer since then. Yesterday I woke to sunshine so I took out the butter and cream cheese ready to make the passionfruit cream cheese icing.

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When I looked through the pineapple crush cake recipe in 'Mix and Bake' it looked very much like a Hummingbird cake with some tropical elements added like the macadamia nuts. I added passionfruit to the cream cheese icing and adjusted the proportions a little to fit my special little spring form tin. As always if you double the ingredients it will make a 23 cm/9inch cake and the cooking time remains the same.

I decorated the cake with some macadamia nut brittle adapted from a recipe in the the Ottolenghi Cookbook and a few wisps of toasted shredded coconut.

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When the rain stopped falling, I decided to take the cake outside for it's photo shoot and yes I did put the cake up on a pedestal. I have no idea where the pedestal came from but it's been a feature of our back yard for about 2 years now.

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Here's the recipe for you.

Tropical Hummingbird Layer Cake, adapted from Belinda Jeffery’s Mix and Bake. 

Makes a 16 cm cake 

¾ cup SR flour 
¼ cup Plain flour 
pinch salt 
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
pinch ground nutmeg 
25g roasted macadamias, coarsely chopped 
1 egg 
 cup caster sugar 
½ cup vegetable oil 
½ teaspoon vanilla extract 
 cup canned crushed pineapple in natural juice, undrained 
 cup mashed banana 

Passionfruit Cream Cheese Icing 
60g softened unsalted butter, diced
125 g softened cream cheese, diced
2 teaspoons passionfruit juice 
2½ cups icing sugar mixture, sifted  

Optional - Macadamia Nut Topping 
75 g macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped 
50g caster sugar 
tbl water  

1) Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF. Grease and line the base of a 16cm round cake tin with baking paper. Lightly dust the tin with flour. 
2) Sift the flours, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large bowl. Stir in the chopped macadamia nuts. 
3) In another bowl, beat the egg lightly with the sugar. Whisk in the oil and vanilla extract until well combined. Add the pineapple and mashed bananas and mix thoroughly. 
4) Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir them together to form a batter. If the batter is too thick, add a little more pineapple juice. 
5) Bake for 50 – 60 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Cool the cake before turning out of the tin.  
6) To prepare the nut topping, scatter the nuts over a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 140ºC/275ºF for about 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan with a thick base. Heat the sugar mixture gently until it turns into a golden-brown caramel. Do not stir the mixture at any stage or the toffee may crystallise. Carefully add the toasted nuts and mix gently with a wooden spoon. When most of the nuts are coated in caramel, pour them on to the lined tray and leave to set. Break bits off and chop them very roughly with a large knife.  
7) For icing, put all the ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment beat the mixture until it becomes light and fluffy, 8-10 minutes. 
8) Using a serrated knife, halve the cooled cake horizontally. Sandwich the two cakes together with about a third of the icing. Spread the remaining icing on top of the cake. 

I decorated the cake with macadamia nut brittle and a tablespoon of toasted shredded coconut. If you like, you could just drizzle the iced cake with some passionfruit pulp.

The cake is really moist as it's studded with nuggets of pineapple, banana and macadamia but I found it a bit too sweet. I'm sure I'll be making it again so maybe next time I'd cut down the sugar just a little or ditch the the macadamia nut brittle. It's such a sunshiney cake though, I'm glad I could finally photograph it outdoors.

See you all again next week,


split pea and israeli couscous soup

18 Aug 2014

I've just flown back to Sydney from Brisbane and the weather here in Sydney is absolutely revolting - cold, gray, wet and windy. I'm in the process of sprucing up my place and should be looking at furniture shops but instead I came home to put on some warm clothes and to make a pot of warming soup.

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Growing up I would never eat split pea soup. It was something about the grainy texture I didn't like so I felt pretty brave attempting this recipe for split pea and israeli couscous soup. The recipe comes from Colin Fassnidge's book, Recipes from Four Kitchens.

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Living in Sydney I'm lucky enough to have eaten at both the Four in Hand and at Four Fourteen, two of Colin Fassnidge's restaurants and the food has always been delicious. I made this soup for the first time a few weeks ago and it's really tasty, though I did use chicken rather than vegetable stock. Best of all, I've managed to track down the recipe for you.

Split pea and israeli couscous soup - serves 8

1 carrot, peeled and diced 
1 onion, peeled and diced 
1 celery stalk, sliced 
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped 
100ml white wine 
200g Israeli couscous 
300g green split peas
litres vegetable stock (plus more if you like) 
splash of olive oil 
thyme leaves, to serve

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over low heat. 
2. Add the vegetables and garlic, and sweat until soft but not coloured
3. Deglaze with white wine then add the couscous.
4. Add the split peas and stock. 
5. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat slightly and cook uncovered for 30 minutes or until the vegetables, couscous and peas are tender. 
6. Add more stock as it cooks if you like, but it is supposed to be a thick and chunky soup.
7. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and serve sprinkled with thyme leaves.

Don't stress if you can't track down the israeli couscous, any small pasta like risoni or ditalini will do.

I hope you enjoyed your weekends despite the rain. See you all again next week with a tropical cake which is presently languishing in the freezer waiting until the sun returns before it can be photographed.

The ironing needs to be done so I better go and get that done.

Bye for now,

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