Monday, February 22, 2010

Hummingbird Cake

Hummingbird Cake
Home Cooking

For no reason besides slackness in updating, this post is actually outdated by about 3 weeks. I baked a hummingbird cake for my parent's Chinese New Years family feast. For me, an excuse for baking a full-sized cake is always appreciated and half the fun is choosing what I want to make.

To cater for my then-urgent banana bread cravings, I pushed aside all thought of creating anything chocolate, coffee or cream cheese-based in favor of a fruity cake. To avoid baking an actual banana cake/bread (which would provide no sense of accomplishment whatsoever since banana bread, after scones, are my most-baked items), I searched around for something a bit more 'dressed up'.

I found this recipe for hummingbird cake from Joy of Baking. Hummingbird cake is one of those things at the back of my mind that I've always wanted to try. My imaginary version had always involved honey but upon inspecting the recipe, I realized that it's basically a banana cake beefed up with pecans and crushed pineapple. Sounds simple enough but the combination has an attractive tropical vibe and the cream cheese frosting won me over.

I tried to follow the original recipe exactly but when I baked my cake, I poured the batter all into one tin rather than dividing it amongst 2 tins. As a result, I panicked throughout the whole baking process and modified the temperature/times to prevent the outside from burning before the inside set. It turned out well but the recipe I'm posting below is the original so you are supposed to use 2 tins.

Hummingbird Cake
Makes 1 x 22cm diameter cake

  • 1 cup of pecans, toasted and finely chopped
  • 3 cups of plain flour
  • 2 cups of white sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup neutral-flavored vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 225g can crushed pineapple (do not drain)
  • 2 cups mashed ripe bananas (the more brown and speckled they are, the better)
  • Whole toasted pecans and shredded coconut for garnish (optional)
For the pecan cream cheese frosting:
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 227g cream cheese, room temperature
  • 450g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped

For the cake...

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Butter two 23cm diameter round cake pans and line the bottoms of the pans with a circle of parchment paper.
2. Place the pecans on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 8 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Let cool and then chop finely. Set aside.3. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon. Set aside.4. In another large bowl, mix together the eggs, oil, vanilla extract, pineapple, mashed bananas, and finely chopped pecans.5. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir until combined.
6. Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean (remember I stuffed up and baked using just the one pan so my photos aren't representative of the proper procedure. I then cut my cake in 1/2 horizontally to create 2).7. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. After about 10 minutes invert the cakes onto the wire rack, remove the pans and parchment paper, and then cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting...

1. Beat the butter and cream cheese, on low speed, until very smooth with no lumps.
2. Gradually add the sifted powdered sugar and beat, on low speed, until fully incorporated and smooth.
3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract and then stir in the finely chopped pecans.
To assemble the cake...

1. Place one cake, top side down, onto your serving platter. Spread with about a third of the frosting.2. Gently place the other cake layer, top of cake facing up, onto the frosting, and spread the rest of the frosting over the top and sides of the cake.3. I then coated the sides with shredded coconut and decorated the top with whole pecans.4. Refrigerate the cake for about one hour so the frosting has time to set.

I had reservations whilst making this cake but at the end, everything pulled together nicely. The cream cheese frosting didn't let me down and complimented the tropical flavors of the cake. Not only that, it kept everything nice and moist.

The only critique I have is that the frosting and cake together was a bit too sweet for me. Next time, I would reduce the amount of sugar in the batter.

Silly bite shot since the portion in my hand is tiny

Otherwise, this is a visually impressive cake and it's very easy to make. You don't even need a mixer for the batter - can just fold the wet and dry ingredients together by hand.

My family tend not to be impressed by fruit-based cakes but I had a lot of positive feedback for this one.

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