This weekend was my mother’s birthday. She just turned 81. She’s very spry for her age and still sharp in mind, and I’m thankful every day for that.
She’s also set in her ways. She likes what she likes, and doesn’t like what she doesn’t. She’s never liked going out to restaurants much, since, in her opinion, restaurant food lacks in many departments. The one and only time she was ever really excited to go to a restaurant was when my brother and I took my parents to Felidia, Lidia Bastianich’s place in Manhattan. She’s a huge fan of Lidia and just being in her world was a thrill for Mom. (One of my regrets is not getting a picture with Lidia when I met her at the James Beard House when I was interning there. She treasures the picture of me with Jacques Pepin and I think one of me with Lidia would have made her swoon.)
Anyway, my brother and I stopped trying to take her out for her birthday. The fact of the matter is, my mother enjoys cooking for us, including on her own birthday. She doesn’t need or want to be taken out. What she needs and wants is to cook for her children, because that’s what she does—cook. She’s an Old World Italian, and that’s how she shows love.
I got my love of cooking from her and, although I enjoy a meal in a good restaurant, I understand the joy that comes from feeding those you love. So, Mom cooks for her own birthday. We go there and bring her flowers and a cake and she’s happy.
As for the cake, sometimes my brother brings a beautiful cake from an Italian bakery, and sometimes I make one. This year, my sister-in-law was joining us for lunch. She has Celiac Disease, so I took the opportunity to expand my gluten-free repertoire. Plus, it sucks for her to be unable to enjoy the same desserts that the rest of the family enjoys, so I like to make stuff that she can eat.
I had already created a Chocolate Cake with Avocado Cream, but I’d been wanting to try a cake using avocado in the cake itself, in place of butter. I’d seen a recipe for an avocado cake but it wasn’t gluten free, so I went totally rogue and created my own recipe from scratch. And hoped for the best. Thankfully, it worked (otherwise, I would have had to text my brother to make a quick detour to the bakery).
I decided to decorate my cake simply. My family is not big on frosting (and neither am I), so I used confectioners’ sugar and fruit. I have these stencils that are for easy cake decorating. You place one top of a cake, shake sugar over it, and it creates a design. You can use frosting, if you like, or dust confectioners’ sugar across the entire top.
Here is my recipe for Avocado Pineapple Cake. Enjoy!
Avocado Pineapple Cake
2 cups coconut flour
1 cup almond flour
¾ cup rice flour
1½ cups sugar, separated
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon sea salt
2 ripe Haas avocados
3 tablespoons lime juice
4 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 medium pineapple
1/3 cup blueberries or other berries
Grease an 8-inch springform cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, whisk together coconut, almond, and rice flours, 1 cup sugar, lime zest, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a food processor (or blender or mixer), mash the avocado flesh with lime juice until smooth. Add remaining sugar and blend.
Add eggs, one add a time, until each addition is blended. Finally, add buttermilk and vanilla.
Transfer to a large bowl. Fold in the dry ingredients.
Bake 1 to 1½ hours, until a knife inserted in center comes out fairly clean (a few crumbs are okay). Transfer to a cooking rack. Let cool 5 minutes. Remove ring and let cool completely. Invert cake onto a plate, remove bottom, and peel off parchment paper.
Meanwhile, make filling. Remove rind from pineapple an cut pineapple into long pieces. Slice off a few pieces for decoration. Feed the rest of pineapple in a food processor with grating blade attached. (This mashes up the pineapple. If you want chunkier bits, you may prefer to use a box grater.)
Place the pineapple in a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl and let drain. Stir and press occasionally to get as much liquid out as possible.
(That’s a 20-ounce jar in the photo, and I filled it almost entirely.) Save the liquid for another recipe or drink (fresh pineapple juice is way better than anything purchased!). If the pineapple isn’t very sweet, you can blend in some agave nectar or other sweetener.
Split the cake in half and remove top half.
Spread pineapple on lower half and replace top.