Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread: Monkey Cake

While doing a cookbook review, I came across a recipe for Monkey Cake. It's basically a hummingbird cake at heart, and despite the fact that there's only one of me to slowly snack on such a confection, I knew I had to try it.  Plus there's just something about telling someone that you're eating monkey cake.  Like it's made with monkeys or something.

The cake was actually really easy to make, but when I got to the icing, I was stopped short. The recipe in the book called for making fondant from scratch (including a mandatory overnight resting period). I'm more of an instant gratification person, so I knew the fondant icing was definitely not going to work. Instead I went with my mother's recipe for cream cheese icing from her carrot cake recipe, and the world was at peace.

Monkey Cake
Adapted from The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree

2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1¼ cups granulated sugar
1¼ cups canola oil
3 large eggs
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups bananas, ripe, mashed with chunks remaining
1 cup crushed pineapple with juice
1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
Cream Cheese Frosting

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease two 9-inch round cake pans.  Line the bottoms with rounds of baking parchment, then dust them lightly with flour.  Shake out the excess.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon and stir briefly on medium-low speed to distribute the ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla until they are well combined.  Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix on medium-low speed just until all the flour has been moistened (less than 20 seconds).

Add the bananas and pineapple and stir briefly, 20 seconds, on low speed to distribute them evenly.  Then add the pecans and mix again on low speed until just combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.  Do not overmix the batter or the cake will be tough.

Divide the batter equally between the two prepared cake pans.  The pans should be about half full.  Place the pans on the center rack in the preheated oven.  Bake them for 35 to 38 minutes, or until the cake is almost ready to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Cool the pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert them onto a wire rack and lift off the pans.  Peel off the parchment and right each layer.  Cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
¼ teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 (1-pound) box powdered sugar (about 3½ cups)
Milk or cream to adjust consistency of frosting, if necessary

Beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add the salt and vanilla. Beat in the sugar. Add a teaspoon of milk or cream if the frosting is too stiff to spread; add additional sugar if it's too thin.

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