Hummingbird Cake

Who knows where the name of this cake comes from? Whatever its origins, this lovely dessert has been a staple at least since the '70s, when a recipe for it was printed in an edition of Southern Living Magazine. We've changed it to use self-rising flour, and (optional) rum-soaked pineapple pieces and coconut flakes.

We wavered about the coconut and extra pineapple, not knowing if they were traditional; but when a casual Twitter survey came up almost evenly divided between those who think coconut is necessary and those who think it's a sad mistake, we decided to go ahead and offer them as an option. We have confidence that our bakers, traditional and less traditional, will be pleased with whichever version of the cake they make.

We also don't usually call for a particular brand of canned fruit, but the cake was markedly better with Dole pineapple. Even though crushed, the pieces were bigger, stayed intact, and had more pineapple flavor.

Prep
20 mins
Bake
32 to 38 mins
Total
2 hrs 55 mins
Yield
one layer cake, 12 to 16 servings
Hummingbird Cake

Instructions

  1. If you're using dried pineapple, soak it in 1/4 cup rum or pineapple juice for a few hours. Or place it in a microwave-safe dish, toss with the rum or juice, cover the dish, microwave for a minute or so, and then leave covered to cool and absorb the liquid while assembling the remaining ingredients.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Sprinkle the chopped pecans on a baking sheet, and toast for about 5 to 7 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven to cool. Set aside about 1/2 cup nuts to decorate the cake. Grease and flour three 9" round pans for the cake.

  3. To make the cake: Beat the eggs and oil in a large mixing bowl until foamy, about 2 minutes at medium-high speed. Add the sugar, vanilla, and mashed bananas.

  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and spices. Add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring to make a smooth batter.

  5. Stir in the drained pineapple and 1 cup of the toasted pecans.

  6. Add the coconut and dried pineapple (with any remaining rum), if you're using them. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, spreading it to the edges.

  7. Bake the cakes for 32 to 38 minutes, until they're golden brown, and a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean.

  8. Remove the cakes from the oven, run a thin spatula around the edges of the pans, cool for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.

  9. To make the frosting: Combine the butter, cream cheese, and salt in a medium-sized bowl, and beat together until light and fluffy.

  10. If you're using the xanthan gum, sift it with the confectioners' sugar.

  11. Add the sugar/xanthan gum gradually, beating well.

  12. Beat in the pineapple juice a little at a time, until the frosting is the correct consistency for spreading. Use only a teaspoon or so if you're not using the xanthan gum; up to 2 tablespoons, if you are. Remember, it will firm a bit more when chilled.

  13. Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Use a heaping 1/2 cup frosting between each layer; frost the top and sides with the remainder. Sprinkle with toasted nuts, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Refrigerate any leftovers.

  14. Yield: one layer cake, 12 to 16 servings.