Haiti Benefit Cakes

Here are, finally, some impressions from my stall at the Haiti Benefit at the Foundry! I sold clothes, DVDs, CDs etc and, of course, food! I wanted to have at least some of the food to have some connection to Haiti, to remind people why we are having the sale & to represent the culture of that country. As I am completely unfamiliar with Haitian cuisine, and did not want to ask any Haitians for recipes at the moment, knowing they would have more important things on their mind than people’s theme cake sales, I went on the global recipe oracle – the internet. I found quite a selection of Haitian cakes, from pistachio upside down-ers on flickr to  gi-normous wedding cakes. Due to my current and rather severe restrictions of funds at the moment, I had to go for recipes for which I already had quite a few ingredients – or where I could obtain the ingredients from the market. The cakes I decided on were what seemed like a pretty traditional Sweet Potato Pudding Cake and an Upside Down Pineapple & Pecan Cake with Rum, a recipe from a Haitian ‘Rhum’ company.

For the sweet potato cake, I bought some white sweet potatoes, a coconut & ginger from the very helpful local Caribbean grocer’s. The remaining ingredients I had in the house. The main challenge of this recipe seemed to be the opening of the coconut. Thankfully, the global oracle is also helpful with such mundane things and, thanks to youtube, the coconut was split in an unfathomably elegant way, despite the lack of a meat cleaver… I’ve actually wanted a cleaver for ages after seeing it in action at my volunteer job, but no one has dared to buy me one as a present yet!

The flesh also removed itself rather elegantly without much effort from my part…

I could then shave off the brown skin on the flesh (used a peeler) and grate the ‘white stuff’ along with the sweet potatoes and the ginger. The in-between stages of the cake look actually pretty gross, but exude a deliciously sweet smell.

Particularly the cooking stage after the coconut milk/cream mixture goes in (you can also use evaporated/canned milk) looked a bit grim…

After the cake ‘dough’ had been cooked for quite a while, it went into the oven until it set and became a tasty flat brown lump. According to one of the ‘tasters’, it was the best cake they’d ever had – and they probably did not have to eat anything for the rest of the day either… so what more do you want? 😀

The pineapple cake was quite a bit more aesthetically pleasing. This cake went first at the benefit.

This is the dough and the ‘bottom’ of the cake which is later the top. They had such delicious pineapples on the market that day that I nearly ate all of the pineapple before it could make it into the cake! It was also handy to have friends abandoning pecan cereals in your home…

Here is the cake when it just came out of the oven (should have turned it upside down a bit earlier, before the sugar lost its heat):

… and after I had decorated it and done a ‘quality assurance test’ as I like to call it…

The end result was kind of presented like this, although the pudding cake was put onto a ‘silver plate’, later, too. Both cakes tasted delicious with cream. Unfortunately, I could only offer cream from the ‘hairspray’ tin, but at least people enjoyed the toy aspect of putting cream on their cake this way…  The tiny bottle of rum stands next to the cakes, because I offered people the choice to have the pineapple cake with or without rum.

I also made some more of my hot turnip pickles, which all sold out.

A close-up of my beauties… 😉 The beetroot was my latest experiment, and I kept it for ‘research purposes’…

The event was quite a success – we raised over £1000 for the Foundry’s Haiti Fund & have planned a few more events, such as an auction and a raffle, for the future. Unfortunately, the future of the Foundry, as it exists now, will be very uncertain, as Hackney Council has just given permission to have it removed & replaced by a five star ‘art’otel’… (just come back from the planning meeting). The Guardian and the Evening Standard have written articles about it. Let’s hope there will be a new space soon with more such amazing activities!

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