Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hummingbird Layer Cake with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

        Hummingbird Cake - What's a hummingbird cake? That is the one question I was faced with when I took this lovely cake into work on Thursday. I couldn't quite give anyone a straight answer other than that the name was what attracted me to it and that it was a cake that was made of banana, pineapple and pecans - very lovely and tropical sounding. I've never really seen this cake around anywhere and have come across the recipe for it in a few of my cookbooks. It was something that I wanted to make for a while now, and I wanted to taste what it was like.
        Some of the reactions I got were 'is there a hummingbird in it or something?' - love the people I work with =D. Google doesn't really give me much of an answer to it's name except that it's a very old traditional cake originating in the Southern states of America. And the reason why this post is done so soon after I made the cake instead of my ever growing backlog is that I have already received a request for the recipe.
        This is the reason that prompted me to make my cake. I came home from work earlier in the week to Mum announcing to me that she had a whole lot of ripe bananas. Rejects from my Uncle and Aunty's grocery shop, which she knows would usually always come in handy at home. Generally it's been sugar bananas before but this time it was just the plain old regular ones. 'Can you use them to make cake or something?'. Of course I can Mum! Home made banana bread was a given as it's so popular with my family but I also wanted to see if I could do something different too. Last time I had a bananathon I had made steamed banana cake, banana bread and choc banana souffles.
        I flicked through all my dessert/baking books, even browsed online, and I happened to come across the hummingbird cake recipe when looking in the index for 'banana' in the The complete Magnolia Bakery cookbook. Why not? Now I can tick another item off my cooking wishlist. I've made some minor adaptions as I went along and thought I almost had a disaster on my hands when I realised I had misread one of the instructions but my little so called mishap is exactly what made the cake ultra moist - which is what everyone commented on. Also, it's an American recipe so the pounds and ounces were doing my head in.

        Ingredients (Adapted from The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)

        Hummingbird Cake (makes enough for a two layer 9-10 inch wide, approximately 4-5 inch high cake) :
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ginger powder (optional - I added this in as I thought it would compliment the fruits however was only 1/2 a tsp which wasn't quite enough to come through).
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups oil
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar (original called for 2)
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large ripe bananas, mashed (recipe says 2 cups mashed and I can't even remember how I got to 3 bananas but that's what I used)
  • 1 cup canned crushed pineapple in natural juices (recipe said to lightly drain but I hadn't read that part carefully and left all the juices in, worked out beautifully for me though)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
        Sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and set aside (flour, cinnamon, bicarb soda, ginger powder, and salt)

        Beat the oil with the sugar on another bowl until smooth (3 minutes?) This wasn't too bad with my little hand mixer but ohhh how I dream of a nice big shiny mixer.
        Add the eggs one at a time and beat until light (about 1 - 2 minutes?).

        Now with the next steps the book says to add (beat) the vanilla, then the bananas and then the pineapple into the egg mixture. I combined all of this in a bowl with the mashed banana first before adding to the egg mixture. Either way is fine. Maybe just don't add the nuts in just yet here as you don't want nuts flying everywhere while the cake mixture is still being beaten.

        I so underestimated the capacity of our bowls, this is all the wet ingredients before I even get a chance to add all the dry ingredients. When I read 2 layer 9 inch cake I guess I hadn't quite pictured how much batter that would be.
        Thank goodness for Mum and her big plastic tubs (that also come with strainer baskets). The recipe does say to beat the dry ingrediets into the wet ingredients but I ended up just folding it all in by hand - a third at a time until smooth. Now it was at about this stage that I went back to the cookbook and realised that it said to drain the pineapple - whoops! I was wondering why it was a little more liquidy than my usual cake batters, I don't think it was that much extra liquid anyway and I think the batter is meant to be quite wet.
        Divide the batter into two 9-10 inch round cake tins and bake in the oven at 170 degrees celcius for about 50 - 60 minutes (or until nice and golden).

        Deciding to go home after work to bake a whole cake with frosting to take into work the next day was a BAD IDEA! By the time my cakes were anywhere cool enough to start frosting it was already 10:30pm! I wanted to go to bed already.
        I also forgot to say that I also had a loaf of banana bread in the oven baking at the same time as this cake. Baking is tiring work. My other idea was a nice baked banana pudding with caramel sauce but I liked the sound of the hummingbird cake so much more and was determined to make it, frost it, and take it to work the day after.
        So while you wait for your cakes to cool you can start on the cream cheese frosting.

  • 500gr cream cheese, softened and cut into small pieces (Kraft does the twin pack of Phili cheese which is awesome for this, I bought it during lunch and left it out until I got home, was still a little hard to work with though - damn this too cool Spring weather)
  • 100gr unsalted butter softened and cut into small pieces (I had a 100gr piece already cut so added all of this to the mix, recipe calls for 6 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (original calls for 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extra but I thought the substitution might give the frosting a bit of an edge)
  • 2 cups pure icing sugar sifted (recipe says 5, I was tired of beating after 2 and thought it tasted pretty good already)
        All you do is beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth, and then gradually beat in the icing sugar a cup at a time. It says to beat in the vanilla before the sugar but I did it after all the sugar was combined.

        When your cakes are cool enough, sandwich them together with some cream cheese frosting and then proceed to frost the whole cake. Or, if you're not after a huge ass layer cake you can frost them individually and have two small cakes. It had been a while since I've made a layer cake so I kind of forgot how big they end up.

        Decorate as you wish and there you go, one very pretty hummingbird cake. It's become a little bit of a ritual for the office area I work in (I can't really call it a department as mostly HR, half of Engineering (my guys) and also a Quality Control Leader are in the mix). Someone would bake something and bring it in and then they would call either a morning or afternoon tea break - sending out Outlook invitations to everyone, and we would all gather around this little alcove of desks in the HR area.
        Sometimes if I've baked cookies or something small I just leave them on one of the desks and email everyone to let them know they are there. I've been bringing in a fair few of my baking projects recently so everyone gets quite excited to see/taste what I've done. And they disappear very quickly too.

        As it was such a large cake I invited the other two PA's to join us, they know about my blog and have sampled some of my goodies but generally miss out on a lot because taking anything down to them in the other side of the building just opens up a whole can of difficult worms. Just to make things simple I usually keep it to the immediate area I work in with the occasional cookie or slice of something making it's way down to someone down the other end.
        I ended up sending back with them a slice each for our Director and one of my other managers. One of the PA's asked for an extra slice to split up between the finance guys too - and one of the girls emailed me for the recipe, hence trying to get this blog post up so fast.

        This is pretty much what was left of my cake after morning tea, and it shrinks a bit more in the afternoon as one of my manager's missed out so I had to cut him a piece. Extremely positive feedback all around. It was not overly sweet and was very very moist. My direct manager came back for a second serve! Our Director and his PA think I'm good enough to take on Alvin (he works for our company in the other division). The Director then went on to say that we could have a whole company wide promotion for it - Haha thanks for the compliments guys but I am no where near good and experienced enough for any competitition.
        I managed to save a bit for Ryan to have a taste and he said that it's the best cake I've made ever - and he's one who will give me constructive criticism where it is due, if it needs improvement he make sure he doesn't just butter me up about it. This cake definately calls for an encore, there's many people who are yet to benefit from it!


Sara @ Belly Rumbles said...

Angie that just looks delicious. So moist and I really do think think you would give Alvin a run for his money.

Richard Elliot said...

Looks great. I love making Hummingbird cakes, the moistness and combination of pineapple and banana works really well. I'm always too lazy to ice my cake though!

penny aka jeroxie said...

That is a nice looking cake! I actually give my baked goods to mister to bring it to work. Nothing ever comes back. Good thing!

Maria @ Scandi Foodie said...

That is one huge cake! Glad you found a way to use some of the bananas though ;-)

mademoiselle délicieuse said...

That is one seriously tall cake! And I've always wondered about the Hummingbird name too...along with Lumberjack cake =p

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Yum this looks so delicious. Cream cheese icing is my favourite! Love the generous slather in the middle :)

OohLookBel said...

Your cake looks amazing, especially since it's 2 layers. I'd love to have so many ripe bananas - I have to buy mine ahead of time so they'll ripen before I make the cake (and then usually I don't feel like making it anymore!).

Ladybird said...

oh yum, Angie! Hummingbird has an enagmatic quality about it, doesn't it! It is so good with cream cheese frosting :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I love hummingbird cake-it's so delicious and moist and I'm a sucker for that cream cheese icing!

Anonymous said...

Yo didn't leave a slice for me! I love hummingbird cake. Must make it soon.

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

Hi Sara: Thanks =)

Hi Richard: Hehe yeah I do to but I find that when the icing is done well it just completes a cake =)

Hi Penny: Thanks! =) Hehe I always take my baked goodies to the boys house, always come home with an empty container too hehe

Hi Maria: Hehe yes, ended up freezing the rest in the end... couldn't use them all!

Hi Rita: Ohhh lumberjack cake, next on the to bake list me thinks!

Hi Helen: Thanks =) Hehe I always do too little frosting so this time made sure there was a generous covering on all layers.

Hi Bel: Thanks! I guess I should count myself lucky when it comes to sourcing readily ripe bananas =)

Hi Ladybird: Thanks you! =) Ohh it was soooooo good!

Hi Lorraine: Mmm cream cheese icing rocks - when it's done well =)

Hi Ellie: Aww I did save you some... but the boy ate it =p

Forager @ The Gourmet Forager said...

Mm - does sound gloriously tropical & summery! Yum!

foodwink said...

Sounds like my kind of cake! I wish my colleagues can make cakes like this (because I don't think I can) :-)

Olivia said...

This cake always reminded me of my uni days in OZ... My room mate used to make it over the weekends.. Brought back so much good and fond memories.. thansk for sharing the recipe

Emma.Louise said...

Gahh this looks simply divine! I adore the look of Hummingbird cakes but funnily enough have always resisted the temptation to try a slice, as delicious as they seem. HOWEVER, seeing this has inspired me to bake one so I can guiltily consume it in the privacy of my own home :P...Might toast some shredded coconut and sprinkle it over the icing just for kicks.

Lovely blog,
Emma @ TheFoodRookie

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

Hi Forager: Thanks! =)

Hi foodwink: Oh cakes are not hard to bake, you just gotta start simple =)

Hi Olivia: Aww I'm glad I was able to remind you of good memories =)

Hi Emma Louise: Thank you! Ohh shredded coconut sounds like a lovely addition! Adds to the whole tropical combination =)