Paul’s Birthday Hummingbird Cake (September 2012)
When I was a teenager, there was a restaurant in Darlinghurst that my Mum, sister, and I visited for dinner quite frequently. For a long period of time, each weekly dinner there would finish with dessert at the cafe across the road.
This cafe was run by a small group of wonderfully flamboyant gay men, and their frequent customers, whom we came to know, included a transsexual also named Chanel (they dubbed me ‘The Real Chanel’; she didn’t mind), and many other colourful Kings Cross locals. Many laughs and great times were had on those nights, just by listening to their hilarious conversations. Not your traditional family dinner outing perhaps, but we loved it
Unfortunately I can’t remember the now-closed cafe name, but such is the power of food memories that those weekly visits left a lasting impact, for one particularly good reason. It was there that I discovered an unforgettable cake. It was at that cafe, during those frequent visits, that a true love was formed.
You see, it was there that I first met… the Hummingbird Cake.
Coconut. Banana. Cinnamon. Pineapple. Sometimes Walnuts. Sometimes Pecans! Cream Cheese Frosting. Oh my.
THIS is my ultimate cake. If I were on a cooking show and asked to cook the dish that best represents my tastes and love of food, the Hummingbird Cake would be it. It is tropical, sweet, lush, and as a bonus, it is very easy to make.
If you haven’t heard of, or tried Hummingbird Cake before (OMG), allow me to introduce you…
With its curious name, the reaction I normally get when I mention the Hummingbird is “er, hummingbird?? What’s in it??”.
The Hummingbird Cake was made popular in the Southern United States after the recipe was printed in Southern Living Magazine in 1978. There are many theories about where the name originated. Some say its intensely rich sweetness is said to be like the nectar that Hummingbirds feed on. Another theory is that it makes you hum with happiness when you eat it (true). Other sources say the recipe originated in Jamaica, and was named after the Jamaican National Bird – being the hummingbird.
Along with its many name origins, the recipe itself has many variations. Although it usually does contain pecans or walnuts, I personally prefer cakes without nuts.
The recipe below is one I have made several times, and it is incredibly easy. It is essentially a one-bowl cake – dry ingredients together, wet ingredients together, combine, then bake!
This cake uses extra light (in flavour) olive oil instead of butter, and the resulting texture is incredibly moist (sorry, there’s that word…). I know I’m gushing over this sweet, sweet, tropical cake with its incredibly addictive cream cheese frosting, but it really does rock my world.
This January called for me to bake two Hummingbird Cakes – a birthday cake for my friend Amanda, and a birthday cake for me! Yay!
Amanda & her birthday cake!
In the past I’ve only iced the top and sides of the cake, but there is always leftover frosting, which is a very bad thing as I may then eat it with a spoon out of a container from the fridge. Waste not, you know?
With the excess frosting I decided to spread a layer of it inside the cakes. After much googling, and a few YouTube videos showing how to remove a layer of cake once cut (they always seem to leave that most crucial part out of cake layering how-to!), I successfully sliced our cakes in half and gave them with another hit of cream cheese frosting.
I wish I had better photos of the finished cake, but when you’re all flustered having just finished icing said cake 5 minutes before ‘Cake Time!’, and then in the blink of an eye you’ve blown out your candles, and you’ve got family waiting for the cake to be served already… it’s all a bit rushed!
Now onto the recipe! I’ve never met a person who hasn’t liked this cake, and if I have I’ve clearly blocked those crazy people from my memory…
Do you like Hummingbird Cake??
My icing application is regrettably sloppy, but it’s delicious all the same!
Hummingbird Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe adapted from Good Taste Magazine via Taste.com.au
Preparation time: 20 – 30 minutes
Cooking time: 95 minutes
- Olive oil, to grease
- 265g (13/4 cups) self-raising flour, sifted
- 200g (1 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
- 45g (1/2 cup) desiccated coconut
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, sifted
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 x 440g can crushed pineapple in natural syrup or juice (do not drain)
- 3 small ripe bananas, peeled, mashed
- 185ml (3/4 cup) extra light tasting olive oil (I’ve used regular olive oil before)
- 2 eggs at room temperature, lightly whisked
Cream cheese frosting
- 1 x 250g pkt cream cheese, at room temperature
- 100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 450g (3 cups) icing sugar mixture
- 3 tsp milk
- 40g (2/3 cup) flaked or shredded coconut
Notable equipment required
- 22cm (base measurement) spring-form cake pan
- Non-stick baking paper
- Electric beaters
- Kitchen string
- Large serrated knife
- Tart tin base
- Toothpicks (optional)
- Toast the flaked or shredded coconut by any of the following methods: spread coconut over a baking tray, place in 160°C oven and bake for 5-8 minutes until golden, OR place coconut in a dry frying pan over medium heat and stir until golden, OR heat grill to medium and spread the flaked coconut over the foil lined grill tray, stir coconut during grilling. Allow toasted coconut to cool completely.
- Preheat oven to 160°C. Brush a round 22cm (base measurement) cake pan with olive oil to grease. Line the base and side with non-stick baking paper.
- Combine the flour, sugar, desiccated coconut, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add the pineapple, banana, extra light olive oil and egg, and stir until well combined.
- Pour into the prepared pan. Bake in oven, covering the cake with foil if it browns too quickly, for 1 hour 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (test with skewer after 1 hour 15 minutes).
- Set aside in the pan for 10 minutes to cool before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, to make the cream cheese frosting, use an electric beater to beat the cream cheese and butter in a bowl. Add the icing sugar and beat until well combined. Add milk and beat to combine. Keep frosting in the fridge until you’re ready to decorate the cake (but don’t leave it in there for too long, maybe 30 mins, as it will harden too much and will be difficult to spread over the cake).
Slicing & Icing!
- There will be enough icing to cover the top and sides of the cake, as well as a centre layer of frosting if you wish.
- For a centre layer of frosting, cut the cake in half horizontally. To do this, tie a piece of kitchen string around the cake, cross the ends and tighten until a mark is left on the cake. You can also insert toothpicks around the mark as a guide for your knife around the centre of the cake.
- Ensure the cake is completely cooled before cutting. Holding the top of the cake firmly, use a large, sharp serrated knife to cut through the centre of the cake using a sawing motion, turning the cake as you cut.
- To remove the top half of the cake, slide the thin base of a tart pan between the 2 layers then lift. Place the bottom half of the cake onto your serving plate.
- Spread a layer of cream cheese frosting over the top of the bottom half of the cake. Carefully slide the top half of cake off the tart base and onto the bottom cake. Cover the top and side of the cake with the remaining frosting, then place cake in fridge until coconut is toasted (this will allow the frosting to firm).
- Sprinkle the toasted coconut over the frosted cake. I like a lot of coconut so I double the amount stated in the original recipe (using 40g instead of 20g). Keep cake refrigerated until serving time.
- Enjoy, and hum appreciatively!
Dry ingredients (minus flour)
Pour into pan then bake (I place my cake pan on a baking tray)
My Birthday Cake!
11th April 2013 edit: two new photos added at the top of this post.