Hummingbird Cake, so sweet it’s said to attract the lovely little birds to feed on it. It is a Southern tradition…and really, I don’t find it horribly sweet at all. It’s like banana bread…as cake…with pineapple and cinnamon and nutmeg. All covered in cream cheese frosting, this version with cinnamon/nutmeg/pecan cream cheese… There was a gal in Nashville who baked cakes back in the 80’s and this was one of her signatures, along with a Plum Cake with Stand-up Caramel Frosting. Lord, help…both of them were so, so good!
I was recently reminded of this cake when I was experimenting with making a Zucchini Bread Cake…that being so similar to banana bread, brought it to mind.
This is one reference to the history of the cake I was able to find:
“But the sweetest import from below the Mason-Dixon line might be hummingbird cake, which has started popping up at popular baking spots around town with little fanfare – fine Southern upbringing indeed. To many Southerners living in New York, the concoction of mashed banana, pineapple, pecans, and cream cheese icing weighing more than your average one-year-old serves as a sweet, immediate reminder of home. The impressive looking three-layer treat seems like it would be tough to make, but is, in fact, quite easy; it can be whipped up in a little more than an hour. The exact origin of the cake remains a mystery.”
I couldn’t have said it better. The weight of the cake is in its sheer size, and not an indication of the denseness of the cake, however. It is really light, considering its ingredients.
Small slices, because of the frosting sweetness, are a necessity. Or, cut a big ol’ slab and dig in!
- FOR THE CAKE:
- 1½ cups butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 1½ teaspoons Cointreau (or, you can use orange extract)
- 3 large eggs
- 2¼ cups cake flour (you can substitute all-purpose flour, but the cake flour makes a much lighter finished cake)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 3 bananas, mashed
- 1-8½ ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
- 2 cups pecans, coarsely ground
- FOR THE FROSTING:
- 3-8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
- ¾ cup butter (1 1/12 sticks), softened
- 1 teaspoon Cointreau (or orange extract)
- 2 cups pecans, toasted and coarsely ground (reserve 1½ cups for the frosting and ½ cup for the top of the finished cake)
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 10 cups powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar)
- FOR THE CAKE:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Grease and flour three 9-inch cake pans.
- In the bowl of your electric mixer (with the paddle attachment), beat the butter, sugar and Cointreau (or orange extract) on medium speed until creamed and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating at medium speed, until each egg is incorporated before adding the next.
- Combine the dry ingredients (cake flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg) in a medium-sized bowl and stir until mixed.
- Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture, alternating adding buttermilk. Be sure to begin and end with the flour mixture.
- Stir in the mashed bananas, pineapple and pecans.
- Ladle the batter into the prepared pans (it is ordinarily 4 cups of batter per pan).
- Place the pans in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean of batter.
- Remove the pans from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
- Remove the cakes from the pans, allowing them to cool completely.
- FOR THE FROSTING:
- In the bowl of your electric mixer (with the paddle attachment), beat the cream cheese, butter and Cointreau until creamed and smooth.
- Add the pecans, cinnamon and nutmeg and beat until well mixed.
- Gradually add the powdered sugar, beating until smooth between each addition.
- Spread a spoonful of the frosting on a cake plate or platter.
- Place each layer, successively, on the cake plate, spreading frosting between each layer.
- Frost the top and sides of the cake.
- Sprinkle the reserved ½ cup of pecans on the top of the cake as a garnish.