Spring Cakes

 

Is it just us, or does spring make you think of cakes, too? Okay, fine, we’re thinking about cakes all year long, but there’s something about springtime that calls out for a delicate cake. Maybe it’s the warmer weather, beckoning us out into Mother Nature for a picnic. Maybe it’s the return of celebrations that call for darling confections. Or maybe it’s just another excuse to have sugar! Whatever the reason, we’re itching to bake. So join us in the kitchen this month to whip up one of these spring cakes.

Classic Hummingbird Cake

While it’s practically a southern food group, the Hummingbird Cake actually has its origins on the island of Jamaica. Despite lots of lore to the contrary, the cake takes its name from their national bird. (They also call the cake the Doctor Bird cake, as that’s another name in Jamaica for the hummingbird.)

This cake hit our shores in 1968 when the Jamaica Tourist Board sent a press kit of Jamaican recipes to media outlets all over the US. Southern Living printed a version by L.H. Wiggins in 1978 – the same recipe that won the Favorite Cake Award at the Kentucky State Fair the same year. It remains one of the magazine’s most popular and beloved recipes.

Ingredients:

  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. brown sugar (packed)
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice (can be left out) 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 8 oz. can crushed pineapple, in juice (undrained)
  • 3 bananas, chopped
  • 1 c. chopped toasted pecans (feel free to add up to 2 cups!)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans.

Whisk together flour, sugars, salt, cinnamon, and allspice. Add eggs, vanilla, and oil, stirring just until combined. Fold in banana, pineapple, and pecans.

Divide batter evenly among prepared pans. Tap bottoms gently on the counter to burp out any air bubbles.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely.

Assemble on a cake tray, layering with cream cheese frosting. Top with toasted coconut, dehydrated pineapple “flowers” and/or more toasted pecans.

(adapted from Southern Living)

TIP!

To make pineapple “flowers”: Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Cut off pineapple shell. Slice very thinly, with a mandoline if you have one. Press with a paper towel to remove as much moisture as possible, then transfer to a baking grid. Place in the bottom of a baking sheet and cook until the edges begin to crisp, about 2 hours. Carefully drop each pineapple slice into a muffin tin cup and let cool. Experiment with layering pineapple slices as they cool for more complex “flowers!”

Shortcakes (Strawberry or Otherwise)

Sweet biscuits are a must for spring celebrations and summer picnics. It’s an easy dough to make, and it works for just about any fruit filling, whether fresh, macerated, or turned into jam. (And yes, strawberries are usually the fruit of choice, but give peaches, blackberries, cherries, or blueberries a go!) Whatever fruit you choose, be sure to dollop on plenty of whipped cream.

Ingredients:

  • 4 c. flour
  • 3 T granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 5 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 c. butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 c. cream
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Sift together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add softened butter to mix, and rub with your fingers into the dry ingredients (if your butter is too cold, work with a pastry cutter at first.) Gradually add cream and mix to form a soft dough. The dough should cling together but slightly resist sticking to the sides of the bowl.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently until manageable, about 10 strokes.

With a floured rolling pin, roll out to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut an even number of rounds with a biscuit cutter (roughly 2-to-3 inches in diameter).

Place half of the rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with melted butter. Place the remaining rounds gently on top.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until shortcakes are golden brown.

Pull shortcakes apart while still warm. Feel free to brush the insides with more melted butter.

(adapted from The New York Times)

TIP! Macerating fruit: Wash and clean your fruit. Remove stems, seeds, or peels wherever appropriate, and chop as you like. In a glass bowl, toss with sugar (around 1/6 c. per pound, depending on the fruit) and a little lemon juice. Cover and let sit at room temperature for an hour. Transfer to refrigerator until serving. Be sure to use that sweet syrup at the bottom as a drizzle on your shortcakes.

Lemon Bundt

Who doesn’t love a Bundt? Straight out of ‘50s kitchens, these were the original “naked” cakes. Bundts always feel incredibly special. The more complicated your mold is, the more potential for disaster – but the lovelier the result!

This lemon cake brings its own tartness, so serve it gently dusted with powdered sugar or alongside some macerated (there’s the word again!) blueberries.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 T finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/3 c. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 c. sour cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (if using a dark coated Bundt pan, drop to 325.) Butter and flour your Bundt pan well, being sure to get down in those nooks and crannies.

Whisk together flour, zest, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar together with a mixer on medium-high until you get a light, fluffy consistency (about 5 minutes). Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Mix in lemon juice.

Set mixer to low and alternately add 3 batches of dry mixture and 2 batches of sour cream. Mix until just incorporated.

Transfer batter to your Bundt pan. Smooth top and tap the pan firmly once on your counter.

Bake for about 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool completely.

Using a wooden skewer, poke holes in the cake. Brush the cake with lemon syrup (recipe follows), allowing it to absorb into the cake.

(adapted from Martha Stewart Living)

Lemon Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. lemon juice
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar

Directions:

Combine in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until the sugar has dissolved completely.