Checking things off…with birthday cake


At the close of 2015, I posted a list I found that challenged readers to take on a weekly activity that would cause them to step outside of their routine.

The magic of article sharing on Facebook helps me find excellent recipes to try out. Many are hit or miss, but occasionally I find the occasional jewel of a recipe, the type of recipe that you know is going to be an essential part of gatherings and celebrations.

One such recipe came directly from Southern Living Magazine. According to the publication, the Hummingbird Cake, a banana-pineapple spice cake recipe that originally ran in 1978, was the “most requested recipe in Southern Living Magazine.”

Chef Jamie Oliver includes a brief history lesson about the cake on his website, as copied below:

“The giveaway to the Hummingbird cake’s birthplace, however, is in the key ingredients – bananas and pineapple. Hopefully you’re already thinking of the Caribbean, and it’s thought to have been invented in Jamaica, probably in the late ‘60s.

Originally, it was called the “Doctor bird cake”, a nickname for a Jamaican variety of hummingbird called the Red-billed Streamertail. The name came from the way the bird’s long beak probes flowers, like a doctor inspecting a patient. So what does that have to do with a pineapple and banana cake? Some say the cake was named after the bird because it was sweet enough to attract hummingbirds (who eat only nectar), while others say the yellow streaks of banana was reminiscent of the bird’s plumage. Either way, the Doctor bird was about to take flight.

In 1968, the Jamaican tourist board decided to try attracting tourists by sending out press kits to the US. In the packs were a few recipes from the island, including one for the Doctor bird cake. Over the next few years, similar recipes started to crop up in local papers and community cookbooks across the South under various different names, including the prophetic “Cake that doesn’t last”.

Most food historians agree the first printed recipe for Hummingbird cake was by one Mrs L H Wiggin. She supplied the recipe to Southern Living magazine in February 1978, but even before then there are countless references to the cake in county fair reports and baking competitions across southern America.”

The Hummingbird Cake reminds me very much of an Italian creme cake.  The spices and the added flavors of the pineapple and bananas resulted in a moist,  flavorful, delectable cake that led to rave reviews from my office colleagues.  When asked about alternative cakes to experiment with for upcoming birthdays, I was told me that this was the only cake I was allowed to bring.


Did I mention that this cake is easy to make? If you take your time, ensure that you have the tools and ingredients measured and on hand, you will have a perfect cake in less than two and a half hours.

Here’s the recipe, originally found here:

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Ingredients

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

Cream Cheese Frosting Instructions

Beat cream cheese and butter at medium-low speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add sugar, beating at low speed until blended. Stir in vanilla. Increasing speed to medium-high beat the frosting until fluffy – about 1 to 2 minutes.

Hummingbird Cake Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
One teaspoon salt
One teaspoon baking soda
One teaspoon ground cinnamon
Three large eggs, beaten
11/2 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
2 cups chopped bananas
1 cup chopped pecans
Shortening (to grease baking pans)

Hummingbird Cake Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°. Whisk together flour and next four ingredients in a large bowl; add eggs and oil, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, bananas, and 1 cup chopped toasted pecans. Spoon batter into three well-greased (with shortening) and floured 9-inch round cake pans.

Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes our clean. Cool cake layers in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 1 hour).

Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Spread 1 cup Cream Cheese Frosting over cake layer. Top with the second layer, and spread 1 cup frosting over cake layer. Top with third cake layer, and spread top and sides of cake with remaining frosting. Arrange toasted pecan halves in a circular pattern over top the of cake.

1/2 cup chopped pecans sprinkled over the top of the cake or Pecan Halves arranged in a circular pattern over the top of the cake.



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