I read no further than the title of this recipe, The Best Hummingbird Cake, in the now defunct Country Home magazine before becoming completely smitten, tearing it out and stashing it in my ‘to make’ binder (the old school version of a Pinterest board). I added the ‘best’ to the title after playing around with the recipe landing squarely on a cake I feel sure you’ll love. Despite the sound of the magazine title, the magazine was cool. No gingham bonnets or cow milking tutorials. It played to the hip, young shabby chic loving crowd who liked distressed authentic finds, interesting current recipes with approachable charm, and who sought to bring a rural feeling vibe into their urbanized lives.
I had no imagination of what Hummingbird Cake would be like and I did not care. Nor did the girl at my neighborhood grocery store who gawked at the recipe title I had in hand at the check out counter and gasped ‘Hummingbird Cake! I don’t even know what that is but I want to make it….NOW!’ A kindred victim of good recipe titling.
I can now tell you Hummingbird Cake is a perfect marriage between Banana Bread and Carrot Cake. Lighter than carrot cake, almost crumbly (though still in a moist way) yet bearing the distinct (though not overpowering) flavor of banana. It has a Cream Cheese Pecan frosting which gives a nod toward the Carrot Cake family and the look of something you’d find in a fairy glen.
I set out to make the cake on a snowy day, seemingly perfect for baking. And one might expect an ethereal baking experience when making something like Hummingbird Cake; light, airy and magical. Though the recipe was easy I somehow was over or under caffeinated and it quickly turned into a daylong episode of the Marx Brothers. The oven door would not close leading me to believe the racks inside were from the other oven. Which then lead to me pulling them out from a fully heated oven, burning my hand only to learn the oven door just did not close all the way, period.
I then began to bake the batter which seemed a bit ‘wet’ only to realize I’d not put in the flour portion of the recipe. This I realized half way through the baking of the cake layers.
The second making of the cake was much quicker and fortunately did not end in me burning anything down which would have been completely understandable from Round 1. Once the three layers of cake came out of the oven everything slowed to veritable reenactment of normalcy and proceeded smoothly from there.
I love the look of this cake. It is earthy, rustic but charming at the same time. The recipe provides for enough frosting to lightly frost between the layers and though visually more might seem better, the flavors are perfectly balanced. To me it has the look and taste of a cool weather cake; light cinnamon, roasted bananas and the cream cheese frosting.
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My thanks to reader Lori for prompting me to shake off the reverie of my food crush on this cake long enough to look into its roots. It has been more popular in the southern U.S. with roots seeming to originate in Jamaica where the hummingbird is the national bird. To read more, click here!