Make a Classic Southern Dessert: Hummingbird Cake

If you're from the American South, then there's a 99 percent chance you have heard of Hummingbird Cake. To me, Hummingbird Cake is like a cross between Pineapple Upside Down Cake and banana bread. When you add the sliced bananas and pineapple chunks to the batter, its texture is much thicker than an ordinary vanilla cake, more like that of banana bread, and when baked, it is caramelized and sticky like a Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

But, why is it called Hummingbird Cake? Do hummingbirds eat bananas? Pineapples? Pecans? Cream cheese frosting? The only thing I have seen hummingbirds eat is the red sugar water my mom puts in their feeder.

Some suggest that it's name comes from the joyful humming heard from those eating the cake. Others say that it is as sweet as the nectar or sugar water that hummingbirds drink. There's also a belief that when people hover over the cake in anticipation of having a slice, it is like hummingbirds hovering over flowers. But, history aside, this cake tastes amazing and might be my new favorite flavor -- sorry, chocolate fudge.

Southern Living magazine debuted the first Hummingbird Cake recipe in 1978 as one way to "make the best of bananas." To this day it is the magazine's most requested recipe, and this is why I am sharing it with you.

No need to pull out your heavy stand mixer from the cabinet or pantry, because this recipe does not require you to beat the cake mix. Hallelujah! (You will need to use it for the cream cheese frosting, though, unless you decide to use canned cream cheese frosting, and there is no shame in that!)

The recipe begins with combining all of the dry ingredients. Sift 3 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 cups of granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon each of salt, baking soda and ground cinnamon into a large mixing bowl. Stir. Once everything is properly mixed, it's time to add the wet ingredients. Pour 3 large -- slightly beaten -- eggs into the dry ingredients, followed by 1 cup of vegetable oil.

As you mix these ingredients together you might grow worried, because the batter will congeal, like cookie dough. Don't worry. This is supposed to happen. You'll make the batter much thinner with the addition of the next set of ingredients.

Stir in 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract, one 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple (with the juice), 1 cup of chopped pecans and 2 cups of sliced bananas. Yes, sliced bananas. Don't mash them into a puree; you want the thin slices to bake into the cake so each bite is soft and smooth. I used about two and a half large bananas.

After all of the ingredients are combined, the batter will be much thinner and won't look like a dense ball of cookie dough. Pour the batter into three greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. At 25 minutes, insert a toothpick into the center of each cake; if it comes out clean the baking is complete.

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Molly Dunn
Contact: Molly Dunn