Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hummingbird Cake

I make Hummingbird Cake once a year.

I'd never heard of it until I was asked to make it for a colleague's birthday about a year after I moved to Atlanta. I'm a very visual person, so as soon as I heard "hummingbird cake" I instantly pictured hummingbirds being captured and baked into a cake. I was a little embarrassed to admit that I had no idea what the cake was (I was after all a baking and pastry student!).

Apparently its quite the Southern treat originating in North Carolina in the 70's and become wildly popular after a spot in Southern Living magazine in 1978. Imagine banana bread turned cake studded with pineapple and pecans. Then top that image with tangy cream cheese frosting. Yup, it is that good.

Funnily enough this cake typifies Tamie* in the best ways. It's roots aren't Southern, but it is in every way. It is unassuming but brilliant. Not too sweet and sassy enough to make a permeant impression.

My recipe is an adaptation of the cunning and stunning Nancie McDermott, who, herself typifies the Southern woman. I've added a bit of brown sugar in place of the white, merely because I like the flavor it lends to both the bananas and pineapple. And I like to leave the pecans out of the frosting.

Happy Birthday Tamie! *said colleague, who only asks me to make it once a year, for her birthday!

Humming Bird Cake

adapted from Southern Cakes from Nancy McDermott

Serves 10

3 cups all purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, juice and all

2 cups mashed banana (it took me about 4 whole bananas)

1 cup chopped pecans

Heat the oven to 350˚F. Line 2 nine-inch cake pans with parchment and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine the flour, sugars, cinnamon, soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a medium bowl combine the eggs, oil, pineapple and bananas. Add the wet mixture to the dry fold in the pecans.

Divide between the prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire cooling rack for 10 minutes before de-panning. Cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature

16 ounces powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Beat the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about a minute. Add the powdered sugar in 1/2 cup intervals, mixing on medium speed between each addition. Stop every other addition or so and scrap the sides of the bowls to avoid any clumpy business. Add the vanilla and salt at the very end, mixing to fully incorporate.

Put a dab of frosting on your favorite cake plate or a cardboard cake circle. Set one cake layer right side up on top of said cake layer. Dollop about 1/3 of the frosting in the center of that cake. Use an offset spatula to spread into an even layer. Top with the second cake layer, this time upside down. Cover the top and side of the cake with the remaining frosting and refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

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