Sometimes it’s nice to choose a theme for a dinner party. It makes it easier to pick an appetizer, a side dish, an entree and a dessert. At last week’s dinner party, the theme was The South (we had three Southerners in attendance) and I served up Rachel Wharton’s Pimento Cheese as an appetizer, the fried chicken from yesterday’s post, a homemade coleslaw on the side and then, for dessert, this here Hummingbird Cake.
What is a Hummingbird Cake? It’s sort of like a banana cake (five bananas go in it) made a bit more tropical with the addition of crushed pineapple and then made a bit crunchy with lots and lots of chopped pecans. Even the frosting–made with cream cheese and butter–has pecans folded into it.
The recipe comes from Saveur Magazine via Watershed Restaurant in Atlanta (one of my favorites). It’s actually pretty simple to put together. You start by spraying three cake pans, lining them with parchment (use Michael Ruhlman’s trick), spraying them again and dusting them with flour.
In a large bowl, you sift the dry ingredients (there’s a healthy kick of cinnamon in there):
Once sifted, you stir chopped pecans into the dry ingredients:
Then you cream some eggs and brown sugar:
You mash up five bananas (my bananas weren’t fully ripe but I think that was ok here; the cake’s already super sweet to begin with):
Add them to the mix along with a can of crushed pineapple:
Finally, you add the dry ingredients into the wet:
And pour the batter evenly into the three pans:
Into the oven it goes and you bake until the cakes are cooked all the way through (use a knife or a toothpick or a dry piece of spaghetti to determine):
Let the cakes cool for 15 minutes, then flip them over on to a cooling rack, pull off the parchment and let them cool COMPLETELY. That’s really important: if you try to ice warm cakes, you’ll have some big problems.
When the cakes are totally cool, make the frosting. Usually a frosting recipe asks you to use butter and cream cheese at room temperature, but this recipe says to use them cold. I’m not sure why.
Once you cream the butter and then add the cream cheese and cream that, you sift in the powdered sugar:
Separately, sift some chopped pecans to get rid of any dusty particles, and fold that into your frosting. Now you’re ready to ice your cake.
Lay the bottom layer (choose the flattest cake you have) on a cake stand lined with strips of parchment paper. You want to be able to yank these strips out later, so keep that in mind as you place them down:
Add your first big dollop of frosting:
And with an offset spatula, spread that all around:
Add the next layer:
If you notice it’s a bit lopsided (as mine was) use a serrated knife to even it out:
Next addition of frosting, please:
Final layer of cake:
Final addition of frosting:
Well that amount only covered the top. You’ve got to cover the sides too, using your offset spatula to spread it all around. Don’t worry if it winds up messy….
That’s what those parchment strips are for. Yank those away and voila!
You’ve got yourself a pretty cake. Your dinner guests will be dazzled:
And why shouldn’t they be? You made them a Hummingbird Cake. Now that’s the way to end a Southern-themed dinner party, y’all.
Recipe: Hummingbird Cake
Summary: A Southern dessert from Saveur Magazine (and Watershed restaurant in Atlanta).
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 cups flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, juice reserved
- 2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 5 bananas)
- 1 cup canola oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1″ cubes, chilled
- 3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, cut into 1″ cubes, chilled
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
- Make the cake: Heat the oven to 350 F. Line the bottoms of three 9″ round cake pans with parchment paper. Grease each pan with 1 tablespoon butter (I used Pam) and dust with a little flour; shake pans so that flour evenly coats them. (I like to pour 1/4 cup of flour into the first pan, shake it all around into the second pan and so on into the third pan.) Invert pans and tap out excess flour; set pans aside.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; stir in the pecans and set aside. Using a handheld mixer (I used a KitchenAid mixer) set on high speed, beat the sugar, brown sugar, and eggs in a large mixing bowl until smooth, 1 minute. Add the crushed pineapples and their juice, bananas, oil, and vanilla and mix until combined. Add the pecan mixture and mix on low speed until evenly combined.
- Divide the batter evenly between the 3 prepared cake pans, smoothing the tops with a rubber spatula. Bake cakes, rotating occasionally, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer cakes to racks and let sit for 15 minutes; invert pans and unmold each cake; discard parchment paper. Let cakes cool.
- Make the frosting: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat until creamy, 1 – 2 minutes more. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix on low speed until incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and continue mixing until the frosting is light and fluffy, 2 – 3 minutes. Remove any dust from the pecans by shaking them in a wide-mesh sieve over the sink; using a rubber spatula, fold the pecans into the frosting.
- Assemble the cake: Place 1 cake layer on a cake stand lined with strips of parchment. Using a butter knife (or an offset spatula) spread 2/3 cup frosting evenly over the top. Place the second cake layer atop first one and frost top of it with another 2/3 cup frosting. Repeat with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over the sides of the assembled cake and yank away the parchment to reveal a pretty cake. Serve immediately or wrap loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Preparation time: 30 minute(s)
Cooking time: 50 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12
Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)