Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hummingbird Cake-- A Classic Southern Treat

I love bananas. They're one of my favorite "power snacks", sliced and mounded atop non-fat cottage cheese, with a few raisins sprinkled in. That might sound a little weird to some people, but it's my mid-morning snack at the office-- and, certainly, a lot healthier than a doughnut!

I am a bit fussy about my bananas, though.

When they start looking like this, I don't want to eat them anymore. They are usually peeled and frozen for future fruit smoothies. I'm not the biggest fan of banana bread-- with the exception of some freshly baked banana bread that I had on the road to Hana, Maui. That's not to say that I don't like banana bread, but  I find it to be a bit unexciting.

The April/May 2014 issue of "Cook's Country Magazine" featured a classic Southern cake called  "Hummingbird Cake" recipe. I eyed the very ripe bananas sitting in the fruit bowl, and I decided I would see what the fuss is about this cake.  Cook's Country is in the same family as "Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen", and they strive to improve recipes.  I did a little internet research and the common ingredients are pineapple, pecans (or walnuts), and very ripe bananas. Yes, oil and eggs were found in every heirloom recipe that I found.  Cook's Country said "...Reducing the oil was the first logical step, and tweaking the leavener finished the job. Mashing the bananas proved a better approach than simply stirring in chunks, and toasting the pecans went far in improving flavor. To amp up wan pineapple flavor, we more than doubled the amount of fruit, boiling down the juices to concentrate flavor and prevent leaden layers."

The first thing I noticed, is that I didn't need a cake mixer. Sweet! So, I began by draining a can of pineapple and reducing the syrup to about 1/3 cup.  

The dry ingredients were sifted, the pecans toasted...

I like to use my potato ricer to mash bananas. Nifty, eh?

In a large bowl, I've whisked the eggs, added the oil,  and vanilla. In goes the pineapple. banana and pecans, and the reduced pineapple syrup. Last, the dry ingredients are stirred until combined.

The batter was evenly divided into two parchment lined 9-inch cake pans. The baking time was listed as 50-55 minutes, but mine was ready at the 45 minute mark.


Oh, yeah. The frosting! 

Cream cheese. Definitely. I can't imagine using any other type of frosting with this cake.  No matter how much cheaper "generic brands" are-- I'm sticking with Philadelphia Cream Cheese. The best.

The frosting recipes lists 20 ounces of unsalted butter and 20 ounces of cream cheese. Whoa! I stuck to two sticks of butter and two packages of cream cheese. That's still a lot...


...and I used four cups of confectioners sugar, instead of five. Once the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla are creamed together, the cream cheese is slowly added.

Day-um!  That's a lot of frosting-- and I might add-- it's so good! I have to wait at least two hours before frosting the cake. Tick, tock, tick, tock...

I love frosting, but I won't lie-- I had almost two cups of leftover frosting.  It didn't go to waste. It's in the freezer, and I'll use it for cupcakes, in the future.  Waiting an hour for the frosting to set was torture, because the cinnamon aroma got my taste buds going!

 Yep, there's a LOT of frosting on top! 


So, now, I get to taste the cake...

TASTING NOTES:  The cake-- very moist. Definitely. It doesn't taste like oil, thank goodness. Yes, the banana taste is there, but the pineapple marries well with it. I love pecans, so I'm glad I went with that. The frosting is very sweet, indeed.   I do like carrot cake, and this is very similar. Obviously, no carrots. My son wasn't too excited about a cake with bananas and pineapple. That is, until he could smell the aroma while it was baking. I saved him a slice for when he got home from work. He liked it!  My husband, who is super finicky, loved this cake.  I quickly sliced up the cake and gave it away. It's gone, thank goodness.  White cake still holds the #1 spot in my heart, as cakes. But Humming Cake has earned my respect. It's a delicious ode to ripe bananas. 

As always, a printable recipe card is at the end of the post.
 




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10 comments:

From the Kitchen said...

I'm a classic southern girl who loves this treat!!

Best,
Bonnie

Joanne said...

I brought a coconut cake into work today and someone asked if it was hummingbird...my response was NO but I wish it was! So glad you posted this!

Sue/the view from great island said...

Oh man, Debby, I would have gladly taken that extra cake off your hands, this looks out of this world.

Anonymous said...

I so appreciate the time you took to share this with us. The excerpt from the magazine PLUS your tips are very helpful. I have a bunch of bananas on my counter and have always wanted to try this type of cake - going to do so now!!! Thank You!!!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I've heard of hummingbird cake but never knew what it was. I know I'd be eating half the cake if I had that in the house. It looks beautiful and sounds delicious.

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

I have always heard of hummingbird cake but have never had one…it sounds great.

Christine said...

Love carrot cake so I bet this would be just as delicious. I like that you shared your thoughts on the ingredients and frosting. Very helpful!

Cathy at Wives with Knives said...

No doubt I will love this cake, Debby. Pineapple and bananas are a combination I haven't tried before. And cream cheese frosting is my fav. This sounds like the perfect Easter dessert.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I have seen hummingbird cakes quite often over the years, but never tried one. I'm not sure why not. I love bananas and pineapple. I might see a cake that looks like this one, mistake it for a carrot cake, and not touch it, so that might be part of the avoidance.

I hate too-ripe bananas too, but they are great to have around for cakes and bread and muffins and smoothies.

Catherine said...

Such a beautiful cake. Blessings dear. Catherine