Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hummingbird Rose Cake

I'm not the world's best cake decorator, but ever since I was turned on to the rose cake by my friend Dottie I wanted to try it, because it is so beautiful. She made one for the band boosters bake sale that we all were raving over.  Also, I had once sampled the classic Southern hummingbird cake at Zingerman's Roadhouse, and I always knew I wanted to try it at home.  Then this month's issue of Cook's Country featured a recipe for it, so I decided to give it a shot.   It is both delicious and beautiful to look at!

I adapted the Cook's Country recipe a little bit for what I had on hand.I didn't have any overripe bananas but found some red bananas on the clearance rack at Meijer.  They worked perfectly and had a very banana-y taste.   Note that a rose cake requires a lot of frosting, and that the frosting needs to be pretty firm or it will slide off the cake.   I wasn't sure if cream cheese frosting would hold up, but it worked great.   I refrigerated the cake until serving time just to make sure.

1 (20-ounce) cans crushed pineapple in juice
3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (14 ounces) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
4 very ripe large bananas, peeled and mashed (2 cups)
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 sticks  unsalted butter, softened
16 cups confectioners' sugar
3 T vanilla extract
2 teaspoon salt
4 (8-ounce) bricks cream cheese, chilled and each cut into 20 equal pieces

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 light-colored 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper, grease parchment, and flour pans. The recipe said to drain pineapple in fine-mesh strainer set over bowl, pressing to remove juice. Pour juice into small saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced to 1/3 cup, about 5 minutes; set aside, but I barely had 1/3 cup juice so I didn't bother.  Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together in bowl. Whisk sugar and eggs together in separate large bowl; whisk in oil. Stir in bananas, pecans, vanilla, drained pineapple, and reduced pineapple juice. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and smooth tops with rubber spatula. Bake until dark golden brown on top and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Let cakes cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, discarding parchment, and let cool completely on rack, about 2 hours.

To make the frosting, using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt together on low speed until smooth; continue to mix for 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium-low, add cream cheese 1 piece at a time, and mix until smooth; continue to mix for 2 minutes.  If you have a small mixing bowl, you can split it into 2 batches.

Put a little smear of frosting on the stand to hold the cake down. Place 1 cake layer on cake stand, and put some strips of waxed paper under the edges to keep your cake stand from getting frosting all over it.  For the center filling, frost the cake with about a 1/2 inch thick and put the tip layer on.   Apply a thin coat of frosting over the surface of the cake, also known as a "crumb coat", by the serious cake decorators, of which I am not!

Now, for the decorating part....I was nervous about it but this was super easy to do!  To make the roses, you need the Wilton 1M tip, and I was able to find it at Meijer in a set of extra large tips, but it is easy to find online.  It's an extra large tip, so it doesn't fit with my standard coupler, but you can cut the tip off the icing bag and just stick it in.   I have yet to find an easy way to fill a piping's always a mess for me, even though I fold down the top over my hand or use a cup to hold it.  This is where I wish I was Martha Stewart and had an assistant that would have to do it for me! Once you are ready,try making a practice rose.  All you have to do is start in the center and swirl outward....while squeezing the this...

Be sure to end your flower on the top, because the next layer of roses will cover it so it doesn't matter if it looks good at the end or not.   Start your line of roses at the bottom of the cake...

...try to stagger the roses in between the 2 below it, and when you get to the top, try to get half the rose on the top of the cake and half on the side.  Always try to fill all the gaps, but if you end up with some, you can fill the holes by piping some more frosting in the direction of the swirl.  I found that counter clockwise worked the best for me.   If you end up with a crappy looking rose; don't despair.  When the cake is done it will look fine.   Just keep on piping!

I'm not a great cake decorator, but I think this cake came out beautiful.  I am going to experimenting with my other extra large tips, and maybe with my favorite icing recipe Swiss meringue.   It couldn't be easier!  Happy Easter everyone...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Great Harvest Trek Bars my way

In Dexter, we have a great coffee shop called The Foggy Bottom, or at our house, we call it "The Foggy" or just plain and simple "Froggy" for short.   They have something called a Yeti Bar that I love to get for breakfast, and I set out to figure out the recipe for myself.   I asked the coffee shop and they said that they get it from a bakery, so they didn't know the recipe.  After much googling, I found a copycat recipe for something called a "Trek Bar" at the Great Harvest Bread Company that had many of the ingredients, but the recipe wasn't quite right.  I've never sampled the Great Harvest bars, but the recipe I found needed to be jazzed up a little.   I customized it a bit - I added some cinnamon and salt to the mixture, and replaced the dried cranberries with dried cherries because we live in Michigan.   These bars are fantastic!    

Trek Bars (aka Yeti Bars)

2 1/2 c. old-fashioned oats
1 c. honey
1 c. natural peanut butter
1 t. kosher salt
1 T. cinnamon
1/4 c. chocolate chips
1/4 c. dried cranberries (or  dried cherries)
1/4 c. wheat bran
1/4 c. oat bran
1/4 c. flax meal
1/4 c. millet
1/4 c. sesame seeds
1/4 c. sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9″ x 13″ baking pan.

In a large bowl, combine oats, honey,peanut butter, cinnamon and salt and mix well. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Use your hands! Pack the mixture tightly and evenly into the baking pan and cook for 15 minutes, until nicely toasted or golden brown.

See how they grow...

April 8 seeds started

Lavender slow and steady

a couple tomatoes already?
Mexican Sunflowers transplanted on April 8
Exotic Love Vine has already germinated