Do you need a summery sort of everyday cake? The sort of cake that you can slice with a cup of tea at 3 pm and not feel too leaden, that deviates a little from your common culprits of banana cake, carrot or chocolate? Do you need a morale boost that uses up the rest of the spelt flour in the pantry and can be made dairy and refined sugar free? If so, skip straight to the recipe at the bottom. This twist on a classic hummingbird cake may be what you’re looking for. If you have time for some chat, read on.
There is one delightful inclusion in this cake – and that’s fresh pineapple. Why pineapple? Well, for one, it adds acidity, pop and some surprising sparkle. And for two, this week that’s the size of my daughter-to-be. And gracious me, isn’t she a spiky little thing. I’d forgotten how much I love the final weeks of gestating. It’s so glamorous. There’s the sighing and heaving when rolling over in bed. There’s the careful cairns of pillows that have to be built around you each night, more perilous than aging pyramids. There’s the rogue nerve in my right leg that gets twanged without warning and fells me while walking, like a wobbly giraffe trinket.
But wait! There’s more! Yet I’ll spare you. Suffice to say, that as much as I know she’s not completely cooked, I’m almost ready for this to be done. And now that The Hungry One is back in residence, it nearly can be. Last week was our last full week of flying solo- which invariably coincided with Will getting croup again. Cue a week of long nights in a rocking chair next to a humidifier, plus longer days as he bounces off the walls with steroid-induced rage. Most mornings started at the ungodly hour of 3.50 am after four or so broken hours of sleep while he rattled off a shopping list of demands into my face, insisting it was morning time. ‘BRING ME A PINEAPPLE’ was one, verbatim. Later in the afternoon I may have reverted to an extended game of fetch, which is much more appropriate for a puppy than a child, but does allow me to sit on a chair on the deck, while he runs to try and catch a ball I have lobbed into a stray corner of the yard.
And now, Christmas is coming. So over the weekend we made gingerbread cookies and attended his Christmas concert, bought presents and have started listening to carols. There is nothing quite as soothing as the sound of 24 three year olds belting out their version of Jingle Bells in a confined space on a swelteringly hot day (where is my sarcasm font when I need it?).
It’s about time we start to take things quietly. More time for cups of tea. More warm salads for supper. More sitting down. More wafting in tidal pools. More sleeping (please). And more cake. Because life is always better with cake.
This version of a hummingbird strays quite extensively from the original. Traditionally hailing from Jamaica, where it’s also known as a Dr Bird Cake it was popularised in the southern states of the US where it’s often found with multiple layers of cake sticky with banana, pineapple, pecans and frosted luxuriously with cream cheese. Here I’ve added carrot, because a little bit of sneaky veg in your cake can be a good thing and kept it to one sedate layer (though you could just as easily double the recipe and have two ). I’ve held off on the frosting, opting for a side of Greek yoghurt, as I tend to pack up small slices of cake to take out for portable snacks – and I find frosting mainly just gets stuck to the side of the tupperware – but again, if you were looking for something celebratory, then the cream cheese frosting I’ve used on carrot cakes in the past would be perfect. See here.
The pecans add a lovely crunch and the pineapple is such a pleasing surprise. This is another easy mash and mix cake, which conveniently happens to be dairy free, leaning on coconut oil for both a plush texture and extra boost of flavour. I’ve used spelt flour here, for the additional fibre it carries, but you could just as easily substitute plain flour, your favourite gluten free flour blend or wholemeal flour. Just be sure to bake until a skewer comes out clean and allow the cake to cool in the tin.
I like this best with a cup of tea on the side at 3 pm, but am fairly certain it would present well as a pudding, with some coconut gelato on the side.
Here are a few other things that are going on:
Writing: A piece for Harris Farm on 13 No Fuss Nibbles to get you through the holidays (the Caprese Salads on Sticks are my go-to for ‘bring a plate’).
Reading: Patton Oswald’s heart pinching piece on his year of magical parenting in GQ following the abrupt passing of his wife. Read it here.
Listening: Van Morrison was made for lazy Sundays. There’s a reason there’s that great West Wing scene of Josh and Amy in a kitchen with Van Morrison in the background. Amy; ‘Why have I been dancing? Nobody really knows’. I know Amy, I know. Current favourite ‘Everytime I see a River‘.
Eating: Smoked Mozzarella, in a chicken parm/ involtini hybrid. On Sunday while doing the weekly shop, The Hungry One lobbed in a ball of smoked mozzarella for a lark/challenge. And so this curiously addictive new favourite was formed. Take four chicken thighs and cut them in half. Take one very large eggplant, or two medium eggplants and cut into 8 slices about 5mm wide from top to bottom. Grill the eggplant slices in a panini press until pliable. Allow to cool. Swaddle the half pieces of chicken thigh in one eggplant piece, with a few basil leaves tucked in for extra flavour. Empty into the bottom of a baking dish one 400 g tin of cherry tomatoes. Add 4 tbsp of cooked quinoa if you want a little more substance and a handful of finely chopped kale. Nestle the eggplant/chicken involtinis in the tomato/quinoa. Top with slices of smoked mozzarella and bake covered for 1 hour in a 180C/350F oven, until the chicken is piping hot. Remove the foil or cover for the last 10 minutes to brown the mozzarella. Top with ribbons of courgette and more fresh basil. You could use regular mozzarella, but there is something terrific about the dusky flavour of smoke with the eggplant and tomato. Similarly, you could stuff the eggplant with quinoa bound together with ricotta instead of chicken for a vegetarian version.
Drinking: Campari Frose Punch.
Well, not quite yet. But this recipe from Adam Liaw in the weekend paper was clipped for good reason. As soon as this baby comes out, I see at least a couple of these with my name on it. A glorious love child of a slushee, a glass of pink wine and a Campari cocktail. In the category of ‘things that are good for morale’.
Celebrating: After four long months, some heartache, mess and trauma, we’ve cracked toilet training. Possibly TMI, but when half of your life is the wrangling of someone who is no taller than your thighs and a day regularly involves throwing multiple pairs of soiled pants, it’s a significant thing. In the end it was a Peppa Pig Advent Calendar that proved the most successful bribe. Something about the combination of a surprise, getting to open something (even if it’s just a cardboard flap), a piece of crummy chocolate and a novelty Peppa Pig picture. Who would have guessed. We’d told Will that if he managed to get it by Christmas then Santa would bring him a red bike with pedals. Guess we better get shopping.
Watching: The Crown on Netflix. Glorious scenery, sedately paced and the young Prince Phillip is disturbingly fly.
Treating: Myself to a replacement Uppababy Alta/Cruz pram for when the baby arrives. Our current one has been driven, literally to death over the last three years (it has been put through a serious ringer). As much as I’ve looked around, I’ve realised I just want the same thing again, in shiny ship shape (and maybe a soothing grey, rather than sombre black). Why do I love this pram? The size of the shopping basket. The front/rear facing seat. The adjustable hand height. The SPF shade. The ease in putting it up and down. The fact that the baby can go in it from birth without the need for a bassinet. And it’s not nearly as much as a bugaboo. Sign me up again please. I’d like to say that I didn’t three and a half years ago lose a day of my life plotting the merits of all different prams on a spreadsheet to compare which ones best suited our design brief. But that would be an outright lie….
Loving: The BitMoji app. Who knew creating your own emoji avatar could be such a novel way to pass the time at 9.30 pm while you’re sitting outside your child’s door, calmly imploring him to get back in bed?
Pineapple, Carrot, Banana Spelt Cake (a sort of Hummingbird)
1 ripe banana
2 eggs, beaten
60 ml liquid coconut oil
80 g honey/ rice malt syrup
2 small to medium carrots, or 1 large carrot, grated (approx 150 g)
100 g fresh pineapple, cut into small dice
50 g pecans, chopped
170 g spelt flour (or plain flour)
50 g desiccated coconut
1 tsp baking powder
generous pinch of salt
Here’s how we roll
1) Preheat the oven to 180C/350 F and grease and line a 22 cm circular cake tin.
2) Mash together the banana, coconut oil, honey and grated carrot until you have a smooth batter.
Previously in Poppyseed to Pumpkin
Each week mad websites and baby books will tell you how big your baby now is in comparison to a seed, fruit or vegetable. It starts as a poppy seed and goes from there. To make this process a little more palatable, join me as I bake my way through. Here’s the journey so far. (Nb, you can also see the poppy seed to pumpkin process in the app, or ebook from my first pregnancy with Will, or read about it on the blog here.)