Saturday, March 05, 2011

Hummingbird (Pineapple-Banana-Pecan) Cake

So, there's this really yummy cake you may not know about. For some reason it doesn't get much talk, which is a great shame for it is a gem. Some might consider it a distant cousin to banana bread, while slightly reminiscent of carrot cake, as well. In it you'll find, well, bananas. And they're mixed with a bit of crushed pineapple. And, those, stirred in with a few handfuls of toasted pecans (and all the other good cake stuff, of course). And, finally, the baked product is slathered with a delightful, not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting. It is, you guessed it, this hummingbird cake. Have you ever had it?? I would call this cake sweet southern comfort at its best. For some reason pecans make a dessert instantly southern in my mind (image: Paula Deen in the kitchen telling y'all how much she loves pe-cAns (spoken to rhyme with toucans, that is) with her butter.). This is a cake I would imagine is only sold at your quaint, rural meat & three, grandma's own beloved recipe served for 60+ years alongside chicken pot pie, squash casserole, and sweet tea. In fact, what influenced me to bake this was a request from a friend at work who adores this cake but can only find it at a certain 1950's drug store in a bitty Tennessee town miles from her home. She asked if I could make it to which I gave an emphatic "yes!" as I love recipe requests almost as much as the cake itself. So, here is the tasty product. Moist, nutty, creamy, homey, satisfying. I so enjoyed making it knowing she would be so thrilled to receive it (not to mention it's super easy to make: only 2 bowls and no mixer required for the batter!). Coworkers came from 3 floors up to snatch a slice, and we all decided the calories were well worth it (not that it has any). Hooray for success! I hope you try it and love it, as well. +]\
p.s. I have no idea why it's called "hummingbird" cake...

a Joy of Baking recipe
yields one 2-layer cake
serves 10-15

1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten at room temperature
3/4 cup canola oil
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 8-oz can crushed pineapple (undrained!)
2 cups mashed, very ripe bananas (about 5 large)
Pecan Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter two 9x2-in cake pans, lining the bottoms with a circle of parchment. Butter and flour pans, again, and set aside. 
2. To toast pecans, place on a baking sheet (go ahead and toast 1-1/2 cups. you'll need the extra 1/2 cup for the frosting later) and let cook in oven for about 5 minutes or so. Remove and finely chop. 
3. In large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon until well incorporated.
4. In another large bowl mix beaten eggs, oil, vanilla, pineapple (with juice), bananas, and 1 cup of your toasted and chopped pecans. 
5. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.
6. Pour half the batter into each prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the cake's center comes out clean. 
7. Remove cakes from oven and let cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert onto rack and let cool completely before frosting.
8. To assemble, place one cake, top side down, on serving plate. Spread top with a couple dollops of frosting. Carefully, place second cake, top side up, on top of frosting. Drop several more dollops of frosting across top of cake, gradually spreading across entire cake, adding more to the sides as you go. Garnish with halved pecans, as you wish! Refrigerate frosted cake for about an hour before serving. 

makes just enough to lightly frost a 2-layer 9-in round cake. 
double it if you like a lot of frosting! 
(i wished i had a little more)

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temp.
8 ounces cream cheese, room temp.
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted (add up to 2 cups more if you prefer a sweeter frosting)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped 
(chop them finer than mine look in the photo. i had trouble spreading the frosting because they were a bit too big!)
pecan halves as garnish, optional

*p.s. if you don't love pecans in it, skip them! you can use this frosting for anything!

1. With a mixer on low speed, beat the butter and cream cheese until completely smooth and without lumps (a couple minutes). 
2. Gradually stir in the sifted sugar, then beat it in with mixer until fully incorporated.
3. Scrape down sides of the bowl, as needed, beat in vanilla extract, and stir in chopped pecans until well combined. Spread on cake!

1 comment:

  1. Hummingbird cake is Amy's favorite. I learned to make it several years ago when she requested it. I had never made it before. So, the story goes that Hummingbird Cake is named such because of it's the sugar that Hummingbirds seek. Or so the story goes! I LOVE IT!! YUM! Your hospital is lucky to have you baking for them.