Every weekday morning almost always starts the same: my husband wakes me up, I ask him what time it is, and I fall back asleep, knowing that 5 minutes later my little snooze alarm will tiptoe up to my side of the bed and say, "Hi Mommy. I'm going to brush my teeth and then I'll see you downstairs, okay?"
It wasn't always like this. There was a long stretch of time when my alarm clock really was an alarm clock, purposely placed far away from my bed so that I wouldn't use the snooze button. Then came a time when my alarm clock was the crying of an infant, wanting to be fed or changed or cuddled ... and then the cooing of a wide-eyed baby at the colourful mobile floating above his crib ... and then the smiling face of a little monkey of a toddler who couldn't wait to start his day and had hoisted himself over the rails of his crib. (Actually, that last version was a tad too effective as a wake up call, and definitely not the way I would recommend discovering that your child is ready for a bed!)
I've always thrived on routine, and being a parent has presented me with the constant challenge of finding routine in a life that is changing all the time.
I should have said, then, that every weekday morning almost always starts the same, for now. I find my way downstairs, in the dark. It's still winter, but already I feel that spring must be right around the corner. When I looked outside the kitchen window today, I could see the outline of the trees and bushes in our backyard. A few weeks ago I would look out the kitchen window and see darkness, with very little besides: only faint patches of light from kitchen windows of other houses, mostly those with school-age children dwelling within ... in the stillness of the early morning, the neighbouring lit windows prompting a fleeting quiet thought that all over the world so many of us start our days tending to our little ones.
Then it begins. Breakfast is laid out for the second grader: always a glass of milk and some fresh fruit, and then, often plain yogurt, sometimes toast, other times cheese. He eats while I pack lunches, each of us keeping the other company until we are both finally fully awake.
Some nights ago, before going to bed, he told me that they had reached a milestone in school: 100 days of school, done! And to that he added, "That means that I went 100 days without eating a school lunch. You've made 100 lunches for me this year." The next morning, he found a slice of pineapple cake waiting for him for breakfast: a treat. A hundred days of school for him, a hundred days of routine for me. It was time for something a little - just a little - different.
Fresh Pineapple Cake
Adapted from Baking for All Occasions
The original recipe is actually "Fresh Pineapple Crumble Cake" - basically the cake pictured above, but with bigger chunks of pineapple, and topped with streusel. I skip the streusel, and we love the cake anyway. Without the streusel, the crust that forms on top is slightly thick, similar to the crust you would encounter in banana bread or pound cake, and the cake itself is slightly sweet and nutty, not at all dry, with little bursts of juicy pineapple that have become just a tiny bit chewy from the heat of the oven. (The batter is thick so the fruit doesn't all sink to the bottom, although it may seem that way from the pictures).
This recipe first caught my eye because it calls for a cup and a half of pineapple - most pineapple cake recipes use just a quarter cup, or a half cup of the fruit, and I find it's hardly worth calling a cake "pineapple cake" if there is barely any pineapple in it. This one, on the other hand, does have a good amount in it - definitely enough to merit its name!
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter, flour, and line a 9"x2" round cake pan.
Cut into chunks, and then set on paper towels to absorb some of the juice:
9.5 ounces fresh pineapple
(to yield 1½ cups, or 38 medium-sized chunks, or many ½" chunks)
3 ounces (½ cup + 2 Tbsp) whole hazelnuts
(to yield 1 cup finely ground hazelnuts)
6.75 ounces (1½ cups) all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
Add the ground hazelnuts to the flour mixture.
In another bowl, beat on medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy:
8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter
While beating, add in a slow, steady stream and continue to beat until fluffy (2-3 minutes):
7 ounces (1 cup) granulated sugar
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, lightly beat with a fork:
3 large eggs
Slowly add the lightly beaten eggs into the butter, about 3 tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition.
1 tsp vanilla extract
Adjust the mixer speed to the lowest setting and gradually add the flour/nut mixture, beating until just incorporated.
At this point, I fold in the small pineapple chunks, using a rubber spatula, and then I scoop the batter into the cake pan. (The original recipe does it differently - place half the batter in the pan, scatter half the pineapple chunks over it, spoon the remaining batter over the pineapple, and press the remaining half of the pineapple chunks over that.)
Bake the cake until it is golden on top, springs back when gently pressed in the centre, and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. The recipe indicates a baking time of 43-45 minutes; in my oven in takes around 55 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and place directly on wire rack to cool completely.
This cake freezes well. Let it come to room temperature before serving.