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Tropical Mini-Bundt Cakes feature the fresh taste of mangoes

Serving-size Tropical Mini-Bundt Cakes are drizzled with sweet and tart lemon glaze to create luscious treats. Photo by Sue Doeden1 / 2
Baked as cupcakes, they can be sliced and filled with lemon curd blended with whipped cream. Photo by Sue Doeden2 / 2

As much as I try to eat foods that are as local as possible, there are some edibles from faraway places that I just don't want to be without. Call me spoiled, and I will agree.

I savored my first taste of sweet, ripe and juicy mango during a trip to Jamaica when I was in college. I watched as the women in Ocho Rios walked the streets (this was way before it became a commercialized tourist attraction), balancing baskets of ruby-colored mangoes on their heads.

One day, my roommate and I bought one of those mysterious fruits and took it back to the place we were staying. A native who worked there prepared the chubby mango for us to eat. With a sharp knife, he cut two sides away from the fruit, revealing a long, flat, woody pit. Then, he told us how to eat it - straight out of the skin. Sweet, fragrant and full of tropical taste, that mango made me think I was in paradise as we sat outside in our swimsuits, mango juice dripping from my chin and running down my arms. I later learned that people in India call mangoes the fruit of the gods. I can see why.

Now, many years after my introduction to mangoes, I get as excited as a child in a candy store when I spy the first mangoes of the season in the grocery store in April. There are several varieties of mangoes that come from faraway places, each with its own color, texture and flavor. I've become very fond of the smaller, yellow and elongated Ataulfo mangoes from Mexico, also known as Champagne mangoes, with their velvety flesh and candied tropical flavor.

As with nearly all fruit, the most luscious flavor will come with full ripeness. When shopping for mangoes to eat as soon as you get home, give them a little squeeze. The most flavorful mangoes will feel soft, but not mushy or spongy. Ataulfo mangoes taste best when the thin outer cover becomes wrinkled, looking like human skin that's seen a little too much sun.

If you are buying mangoes to eat a few days later, choose the firm ones, take them home and put them in a brown paper bag to ripen on the kitchen counter.

I buy mangoes by the case this time of year. After all, their season doesn't last very long, peaking in May, so I need to eat them while they are here. Most times, even after stirring chopped mango into yogurt, scattering it over granola and tossing it into my favorite black bean salsa, the few last mangoes in the box will most often be very, very soft, best suited for a smoothie or pureed to add to Tropical Mini-Bundt Cakes.

These dainty little cakes are a wonderful addition to a spring or Easter brunch. Flavored with pureed sweet bananas and mangoes, along with a can of crushed pineapple, and spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and nutmeg, the individual serving-sized cakes are drizzled with sweet and tart lemon glaze. Add just a pinch of cardamom to the glaze if you like. Cardamom and lemon are natural go-togethers.

The cakes freeze well before they are glazed, so they can be baked up to a week before you are planning to serve them. Just thaw and glaze.

Tropical Mini-Bundt Cakes can be baked in traditional muffin tins. Tip them upside down and spoon glaze over the bottom of the little cake that becomes the top. Or slice the cupcakes through the middle and fill them with lemon curd blended with some whipped cream, forming a tiny layer cake. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

Tropical Mini-Bundt Cakes are a luscious sign from far away that Spring has arrived in the Midwest.

Tropical Mini-Bundt Cakes

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup butter, room temperature

1 1/4 cups brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained

1 cup pureed ripe banana (3 or 4 bananas, depending on size)

1 cup pureed ripe mango (about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of mangoes)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 12 mini-bundt pans or cupcake pans.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and nutmeg into a bowl. Set aside.

In large bowl, use electric mixer to cream butter until light and fluffy. Add sugars, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well between addition. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Add vanilla and crushed pineapple with juice and blend. Turn mixer to low speed and add sifted dry ingredients alternately with pureed banana and mango, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.

Put about 1/2 cup batter into each mini-bundt or fill cupcake pans halfway. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Tops of cakes will spring back when touched lightly with finger. Cool in pans for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

Spoon glaze over cakes and serve. Makes 12 to 18 cakes, depending on size.

Lemon Glaze

1 cup sifted powdered sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, optional

Whisk ingredients together until smooth. Spoon over cooled Tropical Mini-Bundt Cakes.

Tip from the cook

--The entire batter can be baked in a 12-cup Bundt pan to create one large cake. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until cake tests done with a wooden pick.