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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

HUMMINGBIRDS ABOUND!

Little goodies for the children
Sugar Cookie Hummingbirds
The Hummingbird Cake
A Southern Favorite

I have a hummingbird theme going this week.  My sweet friend, Joni, at Paragraphs on Padre Blvd hosted a couple of book signing events on Tuesday for one of the authors of "Hummingbirds - Fact and Folklore From the Americas", Ms. Jeanette Larson.  I had in mind to take some of my hummingbird sugar cookies over to the children's event and Joni had hoped for a Hummingbird Cake for the afternoon event.  I felt up to both tasks so that's what I'm up to today (I'm writing this on Monday, although you will likely read this on Wednesday at the earliest).

The cakes have just come out of the oven...and I can tell already at least one of them is crooked...dang it. 

3 layers cooling on racks
I've never made a Hummingbird Cake before...and it is a really old fashioned type of cake...I remember friends making these when I worked at Shoal Creek back in the 1980s.  For many years, a Hummingbird was part of the logo for Shoal Creek Hospital - so anything with the name was a popular feature at employee events.  This cake was a pineapply, bananay, cinammony <OK - I know, not real words> cake...3 layers...with pecans.  The frosting is a delicious cream cheese frosting.  I remember the cake being quite scrumptious!  The ones that came to work, though, were always sheet cake style...now I know why!  The batter is so thick it was hard to get smoothed out...and either I did a bad job of that or I have an uneven spot in my oven.  This is the first time I've ever baked 3 layers in my oven.  I've baked plenty of cakes...but not layer cakes.  Oh well...I'll see what I can do.  It surely does smell good here right now.  I suspect it tastes just as good as I remember it.

The recipe I used is the one Joni sent over.  The printout says "The ultimate recipe for Hummingbird Cake.  It's the most requested recipe in Southern Living magazine history and frequents covered dish dinners all across the South, always receiving rave reviews.

I Googled a couple of recipes and this one had 5 stars and came up first on Google...so I went with Joni's recommendation.  I am also a big fan of Stephanie Jaworski's recipes on JoyofBaking.com.  She has one very similar but with a different frosting.  I might try it for my husband - he sounded disappointed that I was not going to be serving the Hummingbird Cake to him. :-)  Stephanie reports that the recipe first appeared in a 1978 Southern Living magazine...and the source of the name is unknown.  She speculates that perhaps the name comes from the sugary sweetness of the cake since hummingbirds are associated with loving sweet nectar.  I found a lot of speculation on the name...but nothing definitive.  The one thing most people agreed upon...it is a cake of the Southern United States culture.  I can certainly attest to that!

Here's the recipe I used with a few of my usual tweaks and comments in italics.

HUMMINGBIRD CAKE
from MyRecipes.com and further
credited to Southern Living, January 1999

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs, beaten (mine were room temperature)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (I used closer to 2 teaspoons)
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained (nowhere did it say whether it was with pineapple juice or heavy syrup...considering the age of the original recipe being 1970s...I elected the heavy syrup and the can was 8.25 ounces)
1 cup chopped pecans (I used the Texas pecans I bought at Coastal Mail and had stored in my freezer)
2 cups chopped bananas (this was two really large bananas - they were quite ripe but not mushy - I'd bet 3 or 4 regular smaller bananas would be needed for 2 cups)

One recipe of Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup chopped pecans for top of cake
(I also used pecan halves to trim the bottom of the cake)

METHOD:

DO NOT USE A STAND MIXER!  Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl (I whisked to combine thoroughly); add beaten eggs and oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. (Do not beat)  Stir in vanilla,  pineapple and juice, 1 cup chopped pecans, and bananas.

Pour batter into three greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. (I used Baker's Joy - a spray that has flour in it - and they slid right out - I also used a non-stick cake pan).  Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 to 30 minutes (mine took 28 minutes), or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.  It's important that the cake is cooled 100% or the cream cheese frosting will melt and it will be a mess!  I know from baking other layer cakes with cream cheese frosting.

Spread Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake; sprinkle 1/2 cup chopped pecans on top.  Store in refrigerator.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

INGREDIENTS:

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened (1 stick)
1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

METHOD:

Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.  Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until light and fluffy.  Scrape frequently.  Stir in vanilla.

Now that I have frosted this cake, I would recommend making more frosting from the get go.  I could barely get the sides frosted and actually did a ring of pecan halves along the bottom because there just wasn't enough frosting to go around.  I like a generously frosted cake. 

Needed more frosting - so I put pecans around the bottom
The photo they displayed on the Southern Living website certainly was not made with just this one recipe of frosting...I'd say 1 1/2 times the called for amount on all frosting ingredients.  THAT would have generously frosted this 3-layer cake.

When I put my cake together, I put the top layer on upside down. 

The bottom of the top layer - filled with yummy bananas and pineapple
That gave me a nice flat surface to frost...and it worked out well.  The only thing I messed up was I didn't get the cake centered on the cake round I am using...I thought I did... but I either was wrong or I moved it while I stacked.  I should have put a little dollop of frosting on the bottom so it wouldn't slide.  Oh well, hindsight and all that.


The Hummingbird Cake from the top
It's a wonderful cake and it wasn't troublesome to make.  I always taste the batter when I'm cleaning off my spoons before sticking in the dishwasher.  I must say, if it can be graded on the batter - it's going to be an A+ cake!  We'll see what the folks say after the book signing.  I'm always nervous to take my baked goods...what if it sucks or something???  YIKES, that would ...well, that would suck :-)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Well - it is now Tuesday evening.  The events are over.  Joni and Griff are excellent hosts, as always.  I attended part of the children's program as well.  I love to hear people read to children and watch their little faces.  It is magical.  Jeanette gave a great presentation despite it being quite the spread of childrens' ages.  You can tell she's a child specialist (what librarian isn't?)... she gave them something to hold onto, and brought that into play...it was just a penny, but it sure brought home her point.  Awesome.  I didn't stay to hand out the cookies - left that for Joni.  I hope everyone liked them.  Sounds like they did....or at least their parents did!

The evening event for the adults (where we had our cake) was different...the circle thing works so well at Paragraphs...people always share stories and it is just fascinating to hear the vast array of experiences the visitors and inhabitants of South Padre Island have to share.  I just soak up every story that is told.  I met some new folks today...  I continue to broaden my social circle thanks to the exceptionally fine events at Paragraphs on Padre Blvd

Paragraphs reminds me of the way BookPeople in Austin used to be... back in the day when it was on far South Lamar in Brodie Oaks Shopping Center next to Whole Foods...before they both became big time and moved up to South Lamar and 6th Street and became "big".  You used to walk into BookPeople and they greeted you as if you were old friends.  That's how it feels at Paragraphs.  It is cozy and welcoming.  Thanks Joni and Griff!

The piece of cake I brought home....it was really good IMHO! 
All my worries for nothing.

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!



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1 comment:

  1. The book event does sound like fun! That is the worst thing about making a cake for a function-you can't taste test. It does look delicious and glad you were well pleased-I am sure everyone else was too!

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