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04/28/2017

~ Charmingly Southern: Hummingbird (Bundt) Cake ~

IMG_8493Best described by me as "an extremely moist, banana and pineapple, cinnamon 'n spice cake containing toasted pecans and topped with cream cheese frosting", this absolutely scrumptious cake concoction is impossible for me to resist.  It's simply irresistible.  If you're like me, when you hear "bananas and pineapple", you likely say to yourself "that sounds tropical, akin to Caribbean, more than it does Southern."  That's because it is.  Hummingbird cake was created on the island of Jamaica during the 1960's and is named after their national bird, where the cake is also known as Doctor Bird Cake ("doctor bird" being their affectionate name for the hummingbird).  

IMG_8478A Caribbean cake made famous by a Southern magazine.

After air Jamaica was formed in 1968 and chose the beloved doctor bird as their logo, shortly thereafter, the Jamaican Tourist Board included the recipe in press kits destined for the United States as part of a marketing campaign aimed at getting American consumers to vacation on their island.  As per the March 29, 1979 issue of the Kingston Daily Gleaner (Jamaica): "Press kits presented included a Jamaican menu modified for American kitchens, and featured recipes like the doctor bird cake."  The first known publication of the recipe in the US was in the February 1978 issue of Southern Living magazine (which is how I came upon it as a young foodie bride).  But, even before then, references to it appear in county-fair baking-competition reports across Southern America (sometimes under the names Paradise Cake, The Cake that Doesn't Last, and Tropical Treat Cake).  Post publication, some Southerners chose to call it Doctor Byrd Cake, a prominent Southern family name dating bake to early Virginia.  In 1990, it was selected as Southern Living's all-time favorite recipe as well as declared the most requested recipe in the history of the magazine.  Over the years, Southern Living has published several variations of their original recipe, which are all together in this article: Six Ways with Hummingbird Cake.  

Bcd8e05068a662ac5c6d487798917cd4< (Photo courtesy of Southern Living website).  Typically the cake has two or three layers, with lots of cream cheese frosting sandwiched in between the layers and slathered all around the sides and on the top.  It's an impressive, beautiful-to-look-at layer cake, but, for my taste, it's simply too much frosting.  Even the smallest, indulgent slice leaves me with a guilty feeling (akin to eating three scoops of ice cream when one would have been just as satisfying). For that reason, skipping the layers and going with a bundt or a sheet cake was a wise compromise.

"The most beautiful bird in Jamaica, and some say the most beautiful bird in the world, is the streamer-tail or doctor hummingbird." ~ The opening line of For Your Eyes Only by Ian Fleming

My version of the Southern Living Hummingbird Cake:

IMG_8346For the cake:

2 1/2  cups chopped pecans, lightly toasted (total throughout recipe, 2 cups for the cake, 1 cup for the topping)

3  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  cups sugar

2  teaspoons baking powder

1  teaspoon baking soda

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

2  teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/8  teaspoon ground cloves

1/16  teaspoon ground nutmeg

3  large eggs

1  3/4  cups mashed banana purée (from three very large, very ripe, peeled and sliced bananas)

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1  cup canned crushed pineapple, undrained (one half of a 20-ounce can)

3/4  cup canola, peanut or vegetable oil

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing bundt pan

IMG_8423For the cream cheese glaze & pecan topping:

4  ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, very soft

2  cups confectioners' sugar

2  teaspoons butter-rum flavoring

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2  tablespoons milk, plus 1-2 teaspoons more, if necessary

1/2  cup lightly-toasted ground pecans

IMG_8357 IMG_8359 IMG_8368 IMG_8369~Step 1.  Coarsely chop 2 1/2 cups pecans.  Place the nuts in a small, shallow baking pan.  Roast nuts on center rack of preheated 350° oven until fragrant and lightly-toasted, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.  While nuts are toasting, in a medium mixing bowl, on medium speed of hand-held electric mixer, purée the sliced bananas*. Measure 1 3/4 cups of the bananas, stir in the vanilla extract and set aside.  In a small bowl, using fork, whisk the eggs.

*Note:  Bananas don't need to be a smooth purée.  Small bits of fruit laced throughout is perfect.

IMG_8366 IMG_8373 IMG_8374 IMG_8377 IMG_8381~Step 2.  In a large bowl, using a large rubber spatula, place and stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.  Add the beaten eggs, banana purée and crushed pineapple, then, using the spatula fold the mixture together.

IMG_8387~ Step 3. Using a whisk or medium-speed of a hand-held electric mixer (I prefer the mixer to hand-whisking), thoroughly incorporate the oil.

IMG_8391 IMG_8392 IMG_8395 IMG_8400~Step 4.  Using the rubber spatula, fold in 2 cups of the lightly-toasted chopped pecans (set the remaining 1/2 cup aside).  Transfer/pour the batter into a 12-cup bundt pan that has been lightly sprayed with no-stick.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350° oven 55-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the thickest part of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from oven, place on a wire rack and cool, in pan, 15 minutes.  Invert cake onto wire rack to cool completely, 2-3 hours.

IMG_8404To prepare the cream cheese glaze and pecan topping:

IMG_8410 IMG_8412 IMG_8415 IMG_8420~Step 1.  To prepare the cream cheese glaze and pecan topping, if you have a small, "mini" food processor, now is the time to use it.  Place the remaining 1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans in the work bowl and using a series of 25-30 rapid on-off pulses, process them to small bits and pieces.

IMG_8431 IMG_8434 IMG_8441 IMG_8445~Step 2.  In a food processor fitted with steel blade, place confectioners' sugar, cream cheese, butter-rum flavoring, vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons milk.  Starting with 5-10 on-off pulses and then with motor running, process for 25-30 seconds until smooth and drizzly.  If necessary, through feed tube, add 1-2 teaspoons additional milk, until desired consistency is reached.

IMG_8456~ Step 3.  When cake has cooled and with the cake on the wire rack: holding your hand 4"-6" above the surface of the cake and moving it (your hand) back and forth, in a slow, steady stream, drizzle glaze over cake, while turning the wire rack about 1/4" with every back-and-forth drizzle, until all the glaze is gone. While glaze is still moist/sticky, sprinkle the nuts evenly over the top.  Allow glaze to dry a bit prior to slicing cake, about 1 hour.

Hummingbird cake.  Simply irresistible and...

IMG_8464... scrumptious from first bite to last:

IMG_8507Charmingly Southern:  Hummingbird (Bundt) Cake:  Recipe yields 12-16-20 servings, depending upon how thick or thin you slice it.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; small baking pan; hand-held electric mixer, large rubber spatula; 2-cup measuring container; 1-cup measuring container; fork; whisk; 12-cup bundt pan; wire cooling rack; cake tester; mini-food processor; food processor

IMG_9315 IMG_9306Cook's Note: For another "fruity" cake recipe with a fascinating history (this one containing pineapple with a coconut-macadamia topping), you can find my recipe for ~ Plantation Cake:  A Very Southern Vintage Cake ~ in Categories 6, 9, 10, 17, 19 or 26.  Perfect to take to a picnic, tailgate or a potluck.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

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