As I mentioned before, my grandmother died recently. She loved to cook and bake, and one of her favorites was hummingbird cake. I wanted to bake one in her honor — though unfortunately I don’t know any Carmelite monks to give it to, like she would have done. Instead, I gave it to a bunch of Marines and sailors.
You need to know: this cake is AMAZING. And, as an added bonus, it is easy to make and only requires one bowl and a big spoon. Well, except for the frosting.
I don’t really know why this is called hummingbird cake. There are a couple of different stories on the Internet, but none of them really make sense. I recommend you make up your own.
You’re going to need a lot of mashed bananas for this. I tend to let my bananas get overripe (not necessarily on purpose) and then mash them up and freeze them. This bag had three bananas in it, and I mashed up an additional one. Five would probably be perfect.
Since this cake is full of pineapple, bananas and pecans, I think we should all consider it health food.
You don’t need parchment paper rounds for this. Just butter and flour three cake pans, then knock out the excess flour. You could also do it in a bundt pan, but I think a layer cake is better because then you get a better cake-frosting ratio.
The easiest way to get your cake layers the same size is to weigh the pans with a kitchen scale. Or you could just eyeball it. I doubt anyone will care if one layer is a bit smaller than the others.
You need to wait until the layers are cool to frost the cake, but you shouldn’t need to freeze them — the cake is reasonably firm, so the layers are pretty easy to handle.
I also want to try this as cupcakes, with coconut cream cheese frosting. I’ll let you know how that turns out.
I didn’t have time to refrigerate the cake with the crumb coat because I baked it the morning of the event we were attending. Either way, you are more likely to get smooth, crumb-free frosting if you do a thin coat of frosting and then finish up with the rest. For more detailed instructions on how to assemble and frost a cake, click here.
I also recommend refrigerating the cake for at least an hour to let the frosting set before transporting it. The top two layers of mine were sliding all over the place on our way to our friends’ house. I had to do some emergency cake repair when we arrived, but it ended up looking totally fine.
Hummingbird cake (by Barbara McLean)
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups oil
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 can crushed pineapple, undrained*
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4-5 mashed bananas (about 2 cups)
Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour three 9-inch cake pans.
Sift together flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Stir in sugar. Add oil and eggs, stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in pineapple with juice, pecans, vanilla and bananas.
Spoon or pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (the cake will be brown). Cool cake in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and place on cooling racks to cool completely before frosting.
*As I’m typing this recipe, it appears that it actually calls for an 8-ounce can of pineapple. I used a 20-ounce can and it was delicious. You may want to go with a smaller can if you’re not a huge pineapple person, but otherwise go for the 20-ounce can. I think that’s the most common size anyway.
Cream cheese frosting
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened (at or near room temperature)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at or near room temperature
1 pound powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
Cream together butter and cream cheese using an electric mixer. Add vanilla, then beat in sugar a cup at a time, until frosting is desired consistency. Frost layers and sides of cake. (Detailed frosting instructions here) Sprinkle with nuts. Serve immediately, or refrigerate to set before transporting. Let come to room temperature before serving, if possible.