Hummingbird Cake and a Blooming Milan.
Oh, what's in a name, Hummingbird Cake?
This is a cake that you definitely want to try if it's not one of your favourite cakes already - in my years of cake eating experience, hummingbird cake definitely takes one of the top 5 greatest hits. It's not difficult to make yourself either, it's a homely cake more than a fancy bakery cake.
Speaking of names, Hummingbird cake is said to take its name from the national bird of Jamaica - also called 'doctor bird' - and was a recipe pushed by the Jamaican Tourism Board in 1979 in an attempt to lure in more US tourists to Jamaica.
Did it work? Who knows. One thing for sure is that the recipe soon entered into the rich food culture of the southern states and was apparently the most requested recipe ever in the history of Southern Living magazine.
It's THAT GOOD.
If you live in Italy, you will never find it in any Italian bakery/pasticceria, obvs. So here's the recipe - now go get your hands dirty!
The ingredients are common enough - mashed bananas, pineapples (I used those pre-sliced in the tin because pineapples are all imported in Italy anyway), walnuts (the original recipe calls for pecans, as is common with many American recipes, but pecans are ridiculously expensive in Italy!), and the whole thing is covered with a cream cheese icing.
Lime in the icing is optional but it adds a very nice freshness that marries well with the overall pineapple/banana mix so I highly recommend it.
I added a few dried pineapple slices and crushed walnuts as garnish. Key to garnishes is, creativity aside, you should always use actual ingredients that make the cake. 😉
I dried the pineapple myself - totally not necessary of course, but thanks to this wonderful borrow & lend app called Paladin developed by a dear friend of mine, Nicola, I got to borrow a professional food dehydrator for a week for like €25! It was so much fun - I had great success drying apples, pineapples, strawberries, oranges and lemons.
Isn't it great that we have such forward thinking people that try to make our world a little less consumeristic? I'm all up for less purchasing and more sharing. The Paladin app works fabulously in Milan, try it out for any DIY tools, household appliances, shooting props, even formal dresses (!!!) that you would prefer to borrow for a few days than spend precious cash and limited storage space on.
In the meantime whilst you have been away, a few things have been going on in Milan. Apart from the city being in full bloom that makes everyone happy. Me included.
Foremost - but also a bit old now - Milan Design Week was held between the 17th-21st of April. Were you here? It was insane. SO. MANY. PEOPLE. and... PARTIES. (Impossible to avoid when your bf is a DJ playing at a whole handful of them💃🏻👯💃🏻!) My favourite was the party by YOOX + Toiletpaper Magazine and where there was Maurizio Cattelan and his clan dressed in 'Work-in-progress' gear (think work overalls and construction site-safety helmets), except for Cattelan himself - always the rebel, he showed up in an elegant tux with his hands painted black.
Cattelan is a controversial provocateur, and a wildly successful contemporary artist. Get to know him if you want to get into any conversation about art with any common Italian person.
Do you live in NYC? Then hopefully you got to see - and poop in - Cattelan's solid gold toilet at the Guggenheim. The 'America' exhibition was over in September last year, but it was reported that Guggenheim's curator Nancy Spector offered the used, gold toilet for long term loan to the Trumps.
I heard the spring-not-spring weather around the northern hemisphere has got people losing their bearings. Milan is heating up already, but I know over in the States the skies have been a bit choppy.
Hey, great news is that the markets are starting to look much more colourful. I've been going through quite a few spring produce recipes, and I think this week I will be dressing up my asparagus with almonds, goat cheese and basil, have balsamic roasted carrots with mozzarella di buffala for a light lunch, and make a batch of this wild rice salad with fava beans and pistachio for a couple of easy dinners whilst reading my beautiful new discovery, Flow Magazine that's full of inspiration for mindful living.
So let me know if you get cooking this week, and you MUST DM me on Instagram if you make this amazing Hummingbird Cake. It would totally make my day.
Makes a 2 layer 15cm cake, 6 servings
For a 20 cm cake, easily double all the ingredients
120 g plain flour/farina 00
125 g caster sugar
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder/lievito
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
25 g walnuts/pecans, roughly chopped
1 large ripe banana
4 rings of sliced pineapple from tin with syrup or juice, drained, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
90 ml vegetable oil
200 g icing sugar, sifted
70 g butter, softened
100 g cream cheese
zest of 1/2 lime, squeezed also for juice
1. Set your oven temperature to 200C/180C fan-forced. Butter and line two 15 cm cake tins with baking paper.
2. Place all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl, whisk to combine.
3. Mash the banana with a fork. Place in a large bowl, along with the rest of the wet ingredients. Whisk to combine well.
4. Place all the dry ingredients in the wet mixture, stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until just combined. Try not to over mix. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake tines and level out the top with a spatula.
5. Bake for 25 -30 minutes. When you press on the top of the sponges they should spring back slightly.
6. Let cakes rest in their tins for at least half an hour before turning them out on a wire rack to cool completely.
For the icing, beat the butter with the icing sugar with electric beaters on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add the cream cheese, along with the zest and lime juice and beat on medium high until just incorporated. Place in fridge until needed - the icing will firm up a little in the fridge which will make it easier to work with.
FINISH IT OFF
Make sure the sponges are completely cool before you start frosting it. Place one sponge on your cake turner or plate, and smear about half a cup of icing on top of it. Repeat for the other layer.
Decorate with crushed walnuts and dried pineapple if you like - I had to add the pineapple, it had just come out of the dehydrator!