Hummingbird Cake: Easy to Make and Take

     I have had Hummingbird Cake in the back of my mind ever since reading Clare Schapiro’s article, “Take the cake” in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on April 27, 2011.  After offering to make a cake for the confirmation brunch that I described in yesterday’s Perfect Brunch Beverage:  Delta Mint Tea, I consulted with the honoree about his cake choice.  Something white and vanilla was the response, but when I described the ingredients for Hummingbird Cake, he agreed. 

     Then I was stuck.  I had to make this cake that I had previously enjoyed but never before attempted.  Isn’t there a rule about that?  (wink)

     I needn’t have fretted.  The cake itself is as easy as making a quick bread.  I make a lot of those, and as I got into the recipe, I couldn’t get over the similarities.  There was no separating of eggs or interminable beating of room temperature butter with sugar or alternatingly adding dry and wet ingredients.  All that I had to do was mix the dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients and stir just until moistened, then mix in the fruits and nuts.  That was the hardest part as the base mixture was rather thick.

     I was concerned that something was wrong when I divided the batter into the three cake pans, and I was barely able to cover the bottoms.  Again, no need to worry.  The layers cooked up beautifully and were very easy to handle coming out of the pans after they had cooled.  The cream cheese frosting is the perfect complement to this fruit-filled confection.  Smoothing it on was the most time-consuming part of the whole undertaking.

     Southern Living claims that Hummingbird Cake is its most requested recipe since the magazine first published it in 1978.  I followed the original recipe by Mrs. L.H. Wiggin.

Hummingbird Cake

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 cups chopped bananas
  • Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; add eggs and oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. (Do not beat.) Stir in vanilla, pineapple, 1 cup pecans, and bananas.

Pour batter into three greased and floured 9-inch round cakepans. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.

Spread Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake; sprinkle 1/2 cup chopped pecans on top. Store in refrigerator.

 Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla.

Serves 16 (at least)

     Recipe modifications abound on the internet.  One blogger baker reduces the amount of oil by adding buttermilk.  My favorite improvement is suggested in an article by Saveur about the famous Southern cook, Edna Lewis, and her Watershed restaurant in Atlanta.  Ms. Lewis kept her Hummingbird Cake beautiful by sifting the chopped pecans through a wire sieve over the sink to remove the dust created in the chopping.  I would also recommend using ripe bananas.

     No one seems to know how this cake got its name, but it doesn’t matter.  Once you make it then taste it, you won’t forget it.  I was so grateful for its ease of execution and that the confirmand and his family enjoyed it.  No wonder Hummingbird Cake has such an avad following.

Photos by Avad Fan.


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