My thoughts turned to spice cake. Specifically, pork and beans spice cake. Yes, you read it right. Pork and beans. In a spice cake. Now, don't get all oogly on me here. While this sounds like an unlikely combination, this is a delicious, heavy, but moist cake, with a subtle flavor of cinnamon. If I didn't tell you about the pork and beans, you'd never guess, and you'd like it, too. I think it's an overstatement to call this a spice cake, but what's in a name, right? And besides, what else are you going to do with a cup and half of leftover baked beans.
Before I share the recipe that I found on Recipezaar, I'd like to say that I deviated from the directions a bit. The directions say to mush up the baked beans and a can of crushed pineapple, leaving a somewhat chunky appearance. I cannot do that. I put mine into a blender and puree the two ingredients together until smooth. It's a textural thing. It's a visual thing. It's because of a book I read while I was in grade school.
When we were in grade school, we had to read a biography called Mrs. Mike written by Benedict and Nancy Freeman. The story is set in the early 1900's and is a love story that takes place in the Canadian wilderness, and details the hardships of a young Canadian Mounty and his young bride. One episode describes the young couple at a long table shared by other diners. The details escape me, but I think snow must have been boiled for water, and a tin cup of it was being passed around for everyone to take a swallow. When it was passed to Mrs. Mike, she looked into it and saw a single baked bean floating in it. She passed the mug to the next diner. After 45 years, I still cannot get that revolting imagine of the one baked bean floating in a shared tin cup of water. And I cannot have bits of baked beans bobbing about in my spice cake.
Pork and Beans Spice Cake
16 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) pork and beans
8 ounces crushed pineapple, undrained
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup oil
Cream Cheese Frosting8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick butter) at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1-pound box confectioners' sugar
1 16-ounce bag pecans, finely diced, reserving one half cup for decoration
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously grease and flour two cake pans. The original directions do not include the size; I used two 8 inch x 2 inch pans, but found the cooking time listed to be too short. A 9-inch cake pan would probably be better.
In a blender of food processor combine the baked beans and the undrained can of crushed pineapple. Process until it's a smooth puree. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add the eggs, sugar, and oil. Beat at medium speed for two minutes.
Add the bean-pineapple mixture and beat until combined.
Pour into prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (Because my pans were smaller than what was probably intended, I baked mine for an additional 15 minutes or so and had to cover the cakes with tinfoil to prevent overbrowning.)
Remove from pans and cool thoroughly on racks.
To make the frosting: For the smoothest frosting, make sure that your cream cheese and butter are at room temperature so that when you beat them there won't be any hard chunks. Put the cream cheese and butter in a medium sized bowl and beat with an electric mixer until well combined. Add the vanilla, beat to combine. Add the confectioners' sugar, stirring with a spoon to combine in the beginning to prevent the sugar from flying all over your workspace, and then using your mixer to thoroughly blend together. Add the chopped pecans (remembering to hold back one half cup).
When the cakes are cooled, level the tops of the cakes if you need to, and place the topside of the cake facing the bottom of the plate (bottomside is facing up towards you). Frost. Do the same with the second cake. Frost the top and the sides. With the one half cup of reserved pecans, liberally sprinkle the top.
Once again I deviated. I did not use an entire 16 ounce bag of pecans; I used walnuts because that's what I had. Also, because nuts are expensive and I'm the only one who enjoys them in baked goods, I eyeballed a generous amount and sprinkled them just between the layers and on the top.