I discovered Hummingbird Cake while visiting friends in the Deep South during Easter a few years ago. They told me it got its name because each bite is so good that it makes a person hum with satisfaction! Once I tried a piece, I had to agree that it was aptly-named…
This cake became famous after it was submitted to the February 1978 issue of ‘Southern Living Magazine’ by one Mrs L.H. Wiggins of North Carolina. It has since been claimed as a Deep South recipe thanks to its quintessentially Southern ingredient, the pecan nut! The Southerners I know like to serve it over Easter but once I got home, armed with the recipe, I began to make use of it all year round.
Hummingbird Cake is like a cross between banana bread and carrot cake, except the cream cheese icing is richer due to the chopped pecans. Traditionally, it usually has three or more layers, but I stick to two because too many layers of icing can make it over sweet for my taste. It’s an easy cake to bake once you’ve all the ingredients in ‒ toasting the pecans is the only fiddly part of the recipe.
390g plain flour, sifted
400g white sugar
3-4 medium-sized ripe bananas, mashed
227g can crushed pineapple ‒ don’t drain the juice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs, beaten
180ml sunflower oil
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
60g unsalted butter at room temperature
227g cream cheese at room temperature
450g icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
55g finely chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease two 9 x 2 inch round cake tins and then line the bottom of the tins with a circle of baking paper.
Line a baking tray with more paper and then place the pecans on a baking tray. Bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Let them cool and then chop finely.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
In another large bowl, mix together the eggs, oil, vanilla extract, pineapple, mashed bananas and finely chopped pecans.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir and mix thoroughly together.
Divide the batter evenly between the two tins and tap the side of each tin to level out each layer.
Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Remove the tins from oven. After about 10 minutes turn the tins onto a wire rack and let the layers cool completely before icing them. Remove the baking paper from each layer.
For the Icing, beat the butter and cream cheese with an electric whisk on low-speed until smooth.
Gradually add the sifted icing sugar and blend until smooth.
Mix in the vanilla extract.
Finally, stir in the finely chopped pecans.
To assemble, place one layer, top side down, onto your serving plate. Spread with about a third of the icing.
Place the other layer, top of cake facing up, onto the icing.
Spread the rest of the icing over the top and sides of the cake.
Garnish with pecan halves.
Refrigerate the cake for about an hour to give the icing time to set.
Regina de Búrca hails from the West of Ireland. She has been a Liverpool FC fan since the age of four. She writes books for teenagers and has a MA in writing for Young People from Bath Spa University. She currently lives in Dublin. Twitter: @Regina_dB