hummingbird cake

Last month I turned 22. To turn 22 is somewhat anticlimactic. The thrill of 21 is now a year-old memory, and you’ve officially entered that nebulous time of life called your twenty-somethings. I didn’t need a grand celebration this year, what with friends already beginning to spread out to start real life and with big changes of my own looming on the horizon. All I really needed was the excuse to make myself a cake. Being one to judge a book by its cover, and a recipe by its name, I chose to bake a hummingbird cake.

The first ever printed reference to hummingbird cake dates back to a 1978 issue of Southern Living Magazine. Instructions on how to create the dessert were submitted by a Mrs. L.H. Wiggin, and her cake quickly became the magazine’s most requested recipe. In 1990, readers voted it the best recipe ever, and it continues to win countless awards at county fairs across the Southern United States. You can see why I had to give this cake a try.

I will warn you that pecans play a leading role in this dessert, and while the pecan is a terrific nut, it can be expensive. But my thought was, Heck. You only enter twenty-something-hood once, right? Might as well splurge.

hummingbird cake
Adapted from Saveur

for the cake:

1 tablespoon butter, for greasing pans
2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
scant teaspoon baking soda
scant teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
approximately  6 ounces crushed pineapple
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

for the frosting:

1/2 cup butter, chilled and cut into cubes
2  8 ounce packages cream cheese, chilled and cut into cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup pecans, chopped

NOTE: The Saveur recipe yields a three layer cake, but because a) I only had two cake pans at my disposal, and b) I am too amateur a baker to attempt the three layer cake, I decided to scale back my measurements.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

First, let’s prepare our pans. You will need: parchment paper, a pencil, scissors, a bit of butter, and a dusting of flour.

Trace circles on the parchment paper to fit the cake pans. Cut out circles. Smear a bit of butter inside the pan then adhere the parchment paper to the bottom. Smear a little more butter onto the paper then dust with flour. Tap out excess flour and set aside. Ta da! Two perfectly prepared pans.

Next, chop those pecans.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the chopped pecans and set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the sugars and eggs, and beat with an electric mixture until smooth.

Now for the fruit. First, mash up your ripest bananas.

Add to the sugar and egg mixture the mashed banana, crushed pineapple, oil, and vanilla, and mix until combined. Add the pecan mixture and again mix until combined.

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 50 minutes. Transfer cakes to racks and let sit for 15 minutes. Finally, invert pans to release each cake; discard parchment paper. Let cool.

Frosting time. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat until creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar and continue mixing until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, fold the pecans into the frosting.

And now the fun part! Assemble your masterpiece. Place one cake layer on a flat plate or a cake stand. Using a butter knife, spread frosting evenly over the top. Place second cake layer atop the first and frost its top. Spread the remaining frosting over the sides of the assembled cake.

Definitely don’t skimp on the cream cheese frosting; use the whole batch. I even think the cake could have used a little more.

If you’re not serving this baby immediately, keep refrigerated. If you’re feeling spunky, top your cake with some leftover pecans.

This cake was everything I hoped it would be. Sweet, but not too sweet. Fruity yet nutty. Perfectly moist. You could describe it as an amped up banana bread. Plus you really can’t beat a name as charming as “hummingbird.”

Finally, it goes without saying that this treat must be served with a scoop or two of vanilla bean ice cream. Happy baking!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Alison Watt says:

    Oh gosh, this recipe reminds me of my “NORTHERN GIRL GOES TO COLLEGE IN THE SOUTH” days!!! Pecans were scattered through-out the experience! Well done Claire! Well done cake!

  2. Melissa Jerrell says:

    hey Claire, this sounds like a fun cake to celebrate Lauren’s return! i shall have to give it a go! Look out world, Melissa is in the kitchen

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