Hummingbird Cake and Happy New Year!
Happy New Year! I hope you had a festive, fun, and safe evening last night and that you can kick back, relax, and enjoy the holiday before 2015 is in full swing tomorrow.
In celebration of the New Year, I did something I don’t do often. I baked a cake. I enjoy baking, but avoid it most of the time because I know that with only two of us in the house, we would eat every bite. I usually share a few pieces with neighbors and friends, so we’re not tempted to consume the entire baked good by ourselves, but I have to say with this cake, I’m not so inclined to share more than a slice or two. It’s that good.
I have lived in the South for the better part of my life and I have come across many versions of Hummingbird Cake, but have never eaten a single bite. For some reason, as with many cakes, I just wasn’t interested. Maybe it’s that I find most cakes are dry. Maybe it was the name of the cake that wasn’t appetizing or the thought of the mix of tropical fruits and nuts that wasn’t appealing to me. However, for whatever reason, a few days ago I became intrigued with this legendary Southern cake that is the most requested recipe at Southern Living magazine and I decided to bake my own Hummingbird Cake.
While the original recipe that was published in Southern Living in 1978 has been modified slightly (less oil and fewer nuts), it is essentially the same cake that was first introduced almost 37 years ago. The updated recipe also calls for less frosting (in the attempt to lighten it up), but, don’t go there. The new recipe calls for halving the frosting from the original, but it is not enough to frost the cake. Even though I skimped on the frosting between the layers, I still needed to send Mr. B to the grocery store for more cream cheese in the middle of frosting the outside of the cake. I should have trusted my instincts and made a double recipe of frosting, but didn’t. Next time, I will make the whole original recipe with some modifications (noted in the recipe below). For this cake, I made 1 1/2 times the newer frosting recipe. I had already stacked the layers and didn’t want to undo the cake to add more frosting in between, but a double recipe would have been perfect. Besides, if you’re committed to eating a slice of cake, why would you bother to cut back on one of the best parts? The cream cheese frosting is killer and it makes the cake.
Other than modifying the frosting, this cake is pretty much perfect. Chock full of fruit (crushed pineapple and chopped bananas), you could technically say it somewhat healthy (not). There are also chopped pecans that are good for you and I used organic canola oil in place of the vegetable oil, also a healthy choice. 😉 The oil in the cake keeps it wonderfully moist and there is a perfect balance of sweetness and texture with the chunks of fruit, chopped nuts, and slight tanginess from the cream cheese frosting. I also lightly toasted the pecans that are used to decorate the top of the cake to bring out their buttery and nutty flavor and add a little more crunch.
I’m not sure why I have missed trying this cake all of these years, but Hummingbird Cake will now be in my rotation of favorite dessert recipes when I need to bake a cake for guests, holidays, or dinner parties with friends. It was a perfect companion last evening with a glass of Proseco, so it’s a great choice for a festive and celebratory dessert.
We wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year and to making your dreams a reality in 2015!
I have modified the cream cheese frosting recipe slightly from the original version. The cake needs this much frosting, so I don't suggest following the newer recipe, which cuts the amount of frosting by half.
I only soften my cream cheese and butter slightly (not to room temperature, as suggested) as this will cause the frosting to be runny and not fluffy. When you combine the cream cheese and butter together with a hand mixture, they will soften more. Once they're thoroughly combined, add the sifted powdered sugar. Beat for just a short time until the frosting is smooth. You can add a little more powdered sugar after mixing in the vanilla (be sure it's sifted first), if you want a stiffer frosting, but I thought this texture of this was perfect.
* Note - If you make this full recipe, it will frost the cake as it's shown in the photos, but also allow for more frosting between the two layers.
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 or canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups chopped bananas
For Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 packages cream cheese, softened slightly
1 cup unsalted butter, softened slightly
5 cups sifted powdered sugar (sift and then measure)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line three 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper (on the bottoms). Grease the paper and then lightly flour the pans.
In a large bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients. Then add the eggs and oil, stirring by hand until just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, 1 cup pecans, and bananas and combine thoroughly. The batter will be thick.
Pour batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove and cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans, and cool completely on wire racks.
For Cream Cheese Frosting:
In a large bowl, add cream cheese and butter and blend together with a hand mixer, just until combined. Add powdered sugar and beat on low until sugar is blended in and the mixture is smooth and a spreading consistency. Add vanilla and combine again. If desired, you can add a little more sifted powdered sugar to make a stiffer frosting.
Spread Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake and then sprinkle the top of the cake with 1/2 cup chopped pecans. Store cake in the refrigerator.
Recipe is slightly modified from the version printed in Southern Living
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