Cannellini Bean Cake

When you live in Bellingham, or the Pacific Northwest for that matter, one thing is known: you get a lot of rainy days.  This means many things.  It means we get a wickedly beautiful green world, sponged with fresh water.  It means we get to go on many rainy hikes (and if it’s one thing the PNW has, it’s awesome hiking).  It also means we have clean, healthy air.  But it can also mean we find ourselves inside more than we’d like.

After a Spring-like yo-yo of Sun/Rain/Cloud/Rain/Sun/Sun weather, yesterday we found ourselves soaked in the wet stuff.  And during these rainy-days, there’s one thing (okay, quite a few, actually) I really enjoy doing: baking something new.  So, my two little boys and I ran to the nearest grocery and bought ingredients for what we named The Rainy-Day Bean Bundt.

Step 1.  Whip and fluff.  Whip and fluff.  I use a fork.  Get some air in that business.

Step 2.  In a food processor, cream the beans nice and smooth.  After that, cream all this together.  That’s right.  Make Eric Clapton rethink what Cream is all about.

Step 2 (Continued).  Make with Love.  Sweet boy hands (plus bits of crunchy egg shells, mmm) puts a yummy ingredient in any cake.  We all know what boys are made of…

Step 3.  Get those almonds out.  Bake ’em and grab a few to munch on.  Hey, if you’re extra adventurous, start a mini-food fight (we did, and the youngest won).

Step 4.  Once everything has been added in the cream mixture and you mix it all together, put all the gooey stuff in a greased bundt pan. Make sure to lick the bowl and get some of the sticky goo in your hair.  It’s a lot of fun getting it out once it’s been dried for a few hours.

Step 5.  After baking for 45-50 min, let cool.  While this is cooling, this is a good time to take a moment and drink a glass of wine and call your sister.  You know you’ll get some good stuff out of her.

Step 6.  Flip over and admire adoringly.  If this is your first bundt cake, be extra impressed.  Even if it’s not your first bundt, be impressed anyway.  Besides,  I’m sure that the glasses of wine will make it that much more impressive.

Step 7.  In honor of Spring, whip up meringue & get the coconut ready.  Fall in love.  Deep in love.

Step 8.  Decorate with playful skill.  Act like falling snowflakes while making your cake pretty.

Step 9.  Voila.  Now eat dinner in record-breaking speed so you can have dessert.  Scratch that.  How silly and irresponsible of me.  Eat cake for dinner.

Step 10.  Make sure to dish the cake in pretty, sweet dishes when serving to little Boys.  Afterall, they really are suckers for hearts and flowers and all things beautiful.  It’s not always about worms, soccer and super-heroes.

Ingredients For the Cake:

3 cups flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1 Teaspoon baking soda

1/2 Teaspoon salt

1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 large egg whites

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup slivered almonds

For the Meringue Frosting

2 large egg

3/4 cup granulated sugar

pinch of salt

pinch of cream of tartar

1/2 cup toasted coconut

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a bundt pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

Add beans to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment.  Whip until beans are almost to a smooth puree.  It’s ok if there are some beans that are not completely pureed.  They’ll be well incorporated once they are beaten with the butter and sugar.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add butter, sugar, and bean puree.  Beat on medium speed until butter and beans are well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes.  Beans will break down and create a slightly soupy mixture.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute between each addition.  Beat in vanilla and almond (if using).

Slow the mixer to low speed and add half of the dry ingredients.  Beat until almost completely incorporated, but several white streaks remain.  Add all of the buttermilk.  Beat until incorporated.  Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat until incorporated.  Stop the mixer and remove the bowl.  Use a spatula to fold together and make sure all of the wet and dry ingredients are completely incorporated.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake come out clean.  Try not to over-bake the cake, as it’s dense and can quickly suffer from dryness.

Remove the cake from the oven.  Allow to rest in the pan for 20 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While cake cools, make the frosting.

Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.

In a medium, heat-proof bowl, whisk together egg whites, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar.  Place the bowl over the simmering water and whisk until sugar has completely dissolved, about 4 minutes.  Mixture will be a foamy white and on it’s way to thickening.

Transfer the warmed egg mixture to the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until whites are thick and glossy, about 4 minutes.  Add vanilla extract and almond (if using).

Smooth frosting over cooled cake.  Top with toasted coconut.

Cake will last, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.

Mindport

If you enjoy rainy days, college students, retired and friendly folk and abundant outdoor activity, visit Bellingham, Washington.  A beautiful town, population of 65,000, located on a Bay that never ceases to disappoint, this charming little town is known for its local natives’ motto: You always come back.  It’s perfectly situated in between two major cities, Seattle and Vancouver, and is at the same time an outdoorsman’s haven of continual pleasure.  Whether it’s hiking, biking, skiing, walking, sailing, canoeing, kayaking or simply sitting on a rock atop Western Washington University’s “Big Rock” overlooking the Sound on a rainy day, the spirit of Nature blankets the soul of every green activist.

Bellingham may be a college town and home to the retirees, so it may come as a surprise to many that it’s also, among other things, a perfect place to raise a family.  There are so many things to do with children, one being the über-cool Mindport on W. Holly St.  MindportThis place, to put it mildly, rocks.  Its combination of fine and interactive art encourages youngsters to explore things in a different way.  And, yes, adults get a kick out of it too.

The term “fine art” allows kids to learn things in a more internal way (a painting, a sculpture, or a showcase of an Aquatic Ecosystem) and gives them the chance to think: “What does this painting mean to you?” or “What do you like about this sculpture?” and “ Look inside the tank: do you see the little tadpoles?  What do you think they feed on?”  Kids are hungry for learning new things, and asking them questions, or letting them ramble on about the things they see gives them the opportunity to discover.

Interactive art (which kids love best) is where they get to explore things hands on.  Just as you enter Mindport, to the left of its entrance before admission (which is a low $2 per person), is a hydromechanics exhibit.  Sure, it sounds like a complicated hands-on activity, but it’s not.  It’s a small 8ft down sloped “river” with rocks, and twists around to a small pool of water.  Children take a small handful of different sized/shaped chips of wood and place it on top to see how it moves down.  Seeing the kids’ delight in watching their chips making it all the way to the pools is enough to get every parent the sense of satisfaction for taking them here in the first place.  Sometimes the chips get stuck.  Sometimes they go slow, and sometimes they go fast.  They’re all different, and that’s the study of water, and objects being placed in water.  Children learn this through their experience with it first-hand.

The “Tornado” is also a big hit.  Align the three knobs in their right order, and you see wind and fog create an actual weathering system; a tornado.  Kids love sticking their hands in it and feeling the small sensation of wind, but what’s most impressive is seeing the formation of a tornado being created one foot away from you.

There are so many other creative and mind-stimulating exhibits here.  One could easily spend hours here, playing and learning (and not realizing you’re doing so).  If you have wee ones, keep it short: overstimulation can sometimes lead to a less-than happy child.  In any case, thirty minutes or three hours at Mindport, you’ll leave feeling like a kid again, wearing a bright grin and feeling hungry for more.