Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Arctic Circle

(guest written by Matt)

One of our friends was on the Coast Guard icebreaker that accompanied the Russian oil tanker on the recent "rescue" mission to Nome.  She was gone for a month and a half and was glad to get home again.  We very much wanted to say yes when we were asked to bring a cake to a party in her honor.  However, I was recovering from appendicitis and Sharon was working on a publication deadline, so we proposed a plain round white cake representing the Arctic Circle.  Our proposal was accepted, presumably because the hostess knew enough to expect some mission creep on my part.

For the cake, I thought a snowy theme throughout might be unwelcome, so I opted for tropical flavors.  I used the Pineapple Cake recipe from the 1953 Joy of Cooking.  The only modifications I made were:
-  added zest of 1/2 orange
-  added a pinch of ground cloves
-  made a 2/3 recipe, cooked in a 9" round pan plus a 4" round ramekin
The cake was good and well received.  Sharon particularly liked it because it seemed "more like food" than many cakes.  Crushed pineapple is mixed into the batter, which makes it very moist and sweet.  You do end up using a lot of  bowls:  one for the dry ingredients, one for the creamed butter, one for the fruit mixture, and one for the whipped egg whites; depending on how you separate the eggs, you might need one for that as well; plus a bowl for the icing.  If I were to make this cake again I might try substituting rum for some of the vanilla extract.

For the icing I made a meringue with 4 egg whites, flavored with a tablespoon of rum.  Before placing and baking the meringue I covered the top of the cake with sliced banana.  The banana tastes good with the cake, but if the cake isn't going to be eaten on the day it is made, I'd omit the banana -- it doesn't improve with age.

And I just couldn't help myself.  Inspired by this photo of the Healy (the icebreaker) and the Renda (the tanker),

I carved little models of the ships out of dried papaya and melon, stuck together with little bits of royal icing.  Based on the perspective in the photo I thought the Renda was longer than the Healy, but that is not the case.  Otherwise, the accuracy of the models got high marks.  The guest of honor enjoyed eating them.

The captain of icebreaker Healy,
When given her mission, said, "Really?
Ten weeks from home
bringing oil to a gnome?
You have to admit it sounds silly."

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