We’re planning a wedding at my house and our conversations are full of flowers and ceremonies, dresses and food. Which lead my thoughts to making a Hummingbird Cake. Hummingbird Cake is a Southern tradition. Filled with ripe bananas, sweet pineapple, vanilla, pecans and cream cheese, its sweetness and light texture goes well with the hearts and flowers of a wedding.
I started with the original 1978 recipe from Southern Living (contributed to the magazine by Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina). This cake calls for ripe bananas and canned pineapple. Being the purist I am, I opted to use fresh pineapple but it will work equally well with the canned variety.
My mother used to roast her bananas before using them in her banana bread and I decided to use this trick for my Hummingbird Cake. Ripe bananas cooked in the oven for 15-20 minutes will soften and caramelize which, I think, gives a richer flavor to the cake. If you don’t have time or would rather skip this step your cake will still turn out fine!
To use fresh pineapple, cut off the outer peel and core the pineapple. Finely chop about half of it until you have one cup of pineapple then either mash it down or use a potato ricer to crush the chopped pineapple, reserving the juice.
To make the cake layers I mixed the flour, spices and raising agent together. Then in a large bowl I mixed together some brown and white sugar before stirring in the eggs until the mixture was smooth. In goes vanilla and oil and stir it again until it is smooth. Add the flour and fold it in until almost mixed. Add the crushed pineapple and the reserved juice, then the bananas and the pecans. Stir just until it is mixed together. You don’t want to over mix it.
Bake it in three layers then let it cool completely.
Once it’s cool, make a simple cream cheese icing by putting cream cheese, butter, icing sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer
and beating the heck out of it until it turns white and smooth.
Stir in some coconut (entirely optional) and some more pecans. Then ice the cake with filling between the layers. The icing is rich so don’t make the filling layers too thick. You can scrape a knife around the outer edge for a “naked cake” look or ice it to hide the cake entirely.
Thin slices are supposed to be all that are needed as it is rich, but who listens?
For the cake
- 3 c. flour
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 c. brown sugar packed
- 1 c. white sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup canola oil
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 c. crushed pineapple
- 2 c. mashed banana
- 1 c. chopped pecans
For the icing
- 2 sticks butter room temperature
- 8 oz. cream cheese room temperature
- 3 c. powdered sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 c. chopped pecans
- 1 c. coconut
To make the cake
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
- Grease three 9” cake pans and line the bottoms with waxed paper.
Roast the bananas by placing four whole, unpeeled bananas on a foil lined cookie sheet and cooking at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until the bananas are blackened and juice is bubbling out. Let them cool and then mash them until smooth.
- Peel and core a pineapple. Finely chop about ½ of the pineapple meat until you have one cup. Crush the pineapple with a potato masher or ricer and reserve the juices.
- Mix the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
- In a another large bowl stir together the two sugars. Add the eggs and stir until well combined. Whisk in the oil and vanilla until the mixture is smooth.
- Add the flour mixture to the sugar and eggs. Fold together by hand until almost incorporated.
- Add the crushed pineapple, the pineapple juice, the chopped pecans and the mashed banana and fold lightly until just combined.
- Divide the batter equally into the three prepared cake pans.
- Bake in a 350 degree oven until the cakes are done, about 30-35 minutes. The tops should spring back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.
- Cool the cakes in the tins for 10 minutes then turn them out onto cooling rack to cool completely. Remove the waxed paper from the bottoms of the layers.
To make the icing
- Put all of the icing ingredients except for the coconut and pecans in the bowl of a standing mixer. Mix together on low for 30 seconds until mixed together then increase the speed to medium high and beat for 3-5 minutes until the icing has lightened in color and is a smooth, spreadable consistency. Stir in the pecans and coconut (if using(.
- Spread about 2/3 cup between each of the layers, making a thin filling and then finish the top and sides as desired with the remaining icing.
Notes: If you don’t want to roast the banana, mash four over-ripe bananas until smooth and proceed as directed. One 8 oz. can of crushed pineapple can be used instead of the fresh pineapple. Be sure to include the juices.