Friday, July 13, 2012

Hummingbird Cake

So Kelly's post about Sunshine Cake got me to thinking about another old-fashioned favorite, Hummingbird Cake. I first heard of Hummingbird Cake on a visit to my Aunt June's in Pikeville, TN in the late 70s. Of course, being all of about 14 years old, I was convinced she was making confections out of sweet, innocent little birds and was naturally horrified. Once she convinced me that wasn't the case I dug in to find a dense, moist cake flavored with bananas, pineapple and pecans and then slathered with thick cream cheese frosting - divine. Really cream cheese frosting on anything - right?

The cake first appeared in a 1978 issue of Southern Living magazine and has since become a southern staple. Here's a recipe from Art Smith - no actual hummingbirds were harmed in the making of this recipe.

Servings: Serves 12
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chopped ripe bananas
  • 1 cup drained crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs , beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) finely chopped pecans
  • 8 ounces cream cheese , at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter , at room temperature
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar (about 4 1/2 cups sifted)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To make the cake, position racks in the center and bottom third of the oven and preheat to 350°. Lightly butter two 9" round cake pans, sprinkle evenly with flour and tap out the excess. (If you wish, butter the pans, line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper, then flour the pans and tap out the excess.)

Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, stir or whisk the bananas, pineapple, oil, eggs and vanilla until combined. Do not use an electric mixer. Pour into the dry mixture and fold together with a large spatula just until smooth. Do not beat. Fold in the pecans. Spread evenly into the pans.

Bake until the cake springs back when pressed in the center, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the cakes to wire racks and cool for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks (remove the parchment paper now if using). Turn right side up and cool completely.

To make the icing: Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until combined. On low speed, gradually beat in the sugar, then the vanilla, to make a smooth icing.

Place 1 cake layer, upside down on a serving platter. Spread with about 2/3 cup of the icing. Top with the second layer, right side up. Spread the reaming icing over the top and sides of the cake. The cake can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and stored, uncovered in the refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sunshine Cake

by Kelly

It looks like the heat wave may be over! It's only supposed to be 83 degrees tomorrow. Brrr! That's almost twenty degrees cooler than Thursday.

So in honor of the extremely hot and sunny weather which has now come to an end, I thought I would put up a certain recipe. Not that long ago, I posted a review for Mary Meade's Kitchen Companion, a 1950's cookbook that recently came my way. In one of the chapters was a mysterious, off-hand reference to a 'sunshine cake'. Specifically what she said was, "The egg leavened cakes: This group includes angel food, sponge cake, 'sunshine cake', jelly rolls and others...they contain no fat or baking powder."

I couldn't help but wonder why this was called a sunshine cake. Was this just a fancy name for ordinary yellow cake? Was it lemon or orange flavored? Orange in color or usually frosted with orange icing? Something that could only be made in the summer because of ingredient availability? A cake to brighten a rainy day?

I have always been a lover of mysteries, and there was no listed recipe for this cake, so I began to search. Google presented me with a few possibilities, and many of them did involve oranges, pineapple, and lemons, and modern ingredients like Cool Whip. But I knew the recipe must pre-date 1955, when The Kitchen Companion was published, so I looked for very old cookbooks on Project Gutenberg, and began to browse through them online.

Surprise! I found 'Sunshine Cake' in a very old cookbook entilted 'Good Things to Eat as Suggested by Rufus'. So here it is, in all its glory. Oh, and why is it called 'Sunshine Cake'? Well, the answer to that question is in the recipe. Have a look and see if it jumps out at you.

Sunshine Cake -- Cream one cup of butter, add two cups of sugar and beat, add one cup of milk, the yolks of eleven eggs beaten until very light and smooth, and three cups of flour sifted with four teaspoons of baking powder three times to make it very light. Turn into a tube baking pan and bake three-quarters of an hour in a moderate oven.

No wonder this recipe didn't survive to the modern day! Eleven egg yolks for one cake would make any modern dietician choke on his decaf coffee.

For another version (without the baking powder, which Mary Meade suggested in her book) visit this link to my man's belly. Her recipe is from the 1900's, and there is a beautiful photo of the cake itself.

So what do you do with the remaining lonely egg of the dozen, after you make this cake? Well, if the weather is hot enough, you could try to fry it on a sidewalk and see what happens.
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