Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit
I love weird stuff – to a degree. In particular, I love midcentury modern weirdness, and I found this cake on Mid Century Menu, a blog about recipes and cocktails from the 1930s-1970s (sometimes beyond, but who’s counting?).
As a kid, my mama would make chocolate cake with leftover mashed potatoes. Did I care? Not a whit. And, I would not have known if she hadn’t told me. When I ran across this recipe, I knew I had to make it for a number of reasons, including:
- My love of cake, first and foremost;
- My love of pinto beans;
- My love of weird things, particularly cheap, fast and easy weird things; and
- I needed a dish for a church potluck.
Something that spoke to me about this recipe, besides being unusual, is its use of cheap, readily-available items almost everyone has in their cabinets. Pinto beans (and mashed potatoes, for that matter) sustained by family for generations, and we ate what was prepared until they were gone – no tossing anything out because we were tired of eating it. Essentially, the pinto beans in this cake serve as a filler so you don’t have to use as much flour for volume, and they are tasteless after the cake has baked, the same way the mashed potatoes are in my mother’s chocolate cake.
I like to think this recipe was born by someone who made too many beans, wanted to create some way of feeding them to her family one last time but had too few ingredients (or money with which to buy them), and made something actually delicious with what she had on hand. You can find the original recipe at MidCenturyMenu, but I simplified this even more to be as cheap, fast and easy as possible. My version is below, and the steps I took to make it are somewhat unorthodox, too.
The main thing to keep in mind with this cake is to use what you have on hand. Have some apples or pears about to go bad? Dice those up and toss 2 cups into the cake instead of the can of apple pie filling. Have leftover nuts from Christmas? Chop those and use in place of the walnuts. If you don’t have raisins, replace with canned pineapple or leave them out altogether.
If you use the cinnamon and sugar combination to prepare the bundt pan, you may notice your cake comes out dark. Rest assured, it’s not burned. You can use flour if you’d prefer, but I like to use the sugar and cinnamon to give the cake a little extra crunch and flavor.
And the original recipe called for cooked pinto beans that were fresh, dried or frozen. I used canned because it’s what I had available, they are already cooked, and I can’t taste any difference between canned and the other preparations.
As for how much time to bake the cake, I say start with 50 minutes and add or subtract time according to your oven. Everyone’s oven bakes differently so keep an eye on the cake after 50 minutes and check for doneness in 5-minute increments.
To ice or not to ice? I say a cake without icing is a great big muffin. You can make homemade frosting, dust the cooled cake with powdered sugar, ice with whipped cream or grab a cheap can of store-bought frosting, melt it to pourable consistency in the microwave and drizzle to your heart’s content. Whatever you do, this cake will stand up to it.
I hope you try this and are pleasantly surprised. If you’ll excuse me, I have cake to eat.
KD Reep is a writer, public relations practitioner and aspiring romance author in Little Rock. She owns Flywrite Communications Inc., a marketing communications agency in Mabelvale. She is a six-time recipient of the Public Relations Society of America’s Prism award and has been published statewide as well as in the Arkansas Times, Savvy Magazine, Bourbon & Boots, Arkansas Money & Politics, Delta Farm Press and Rice Farmer magazine, among others.