Hummingbird Cake

Have I ever told you about my fear and hatred of birds? I flinch visibly anytime a bird flies remotely in my direction. I don’t remember much about how it all started, but somewhere around the beginning of high school I developed a bird phobia. Something about the sleekness of those heads and their jerky movements severely grosses me out. There are exceptions, of course – I like penguins, certain owls and parrots, and Big Bird. So basically, the only birds I like are ones that don’t look like traditional birds, or are fictitious.

Last December, I was sitting on a bench in Central Park, munching on a cookie from Petrossian and minding my own business, when a finch flew out of nowhere and tried to snatch my cookie. I screamed and ran several feet away from the bench, but I had the presence of mind to keep a grip on my cookie. I know what’s important.  That little thief was not going to get my afternoon snack.

More recently, I walked out of a spa appointment in Houston around dusk to find that the parking lot was literally covered in black birds twittering at the top of their lungs. According to my mom, these birds like to congregate in this particular parking lot at night for some reason. I ran to the car, feeling equal parts disgusted and terrified, keeping my head down and trying not to make eye contact with any of those feathered fiends. As soon as I was safe, I texted my friend Angela.

Me: I just had to walk through a parking lot full of birds. I kid you not, it was the scariest thing I’ve done in a while.

Angela: You should have screamed, “I am so sick of all these motherf***ing birds in the motherf***ing parking lot!”

Yes. Referencing Samuel L. Jackson movies is always the solution to any problem.

So, given my feelings towards birds, why on earth would I ever make something called a hummingbird cake? Because it’s delicious, that’s why. Rumor has it that the cake gets its name because it’s so sweet that hummingbirds can’t resist it.  Whatever the reason is, this is one good cake and a true Southern classic. Sort of like a cousin of carrot cake, it’s very moist, with small chunks of pineapples, bananas, and pecans suspended throughout a sweet, dense cake. Topped with a thick, sugary coat of cream cheese frosting and perhaps a slight sprinkling of more pecans, this cake is so good that I don’t mind it being named after a bird at all.

Hummingbird Cake

Adapted from Ezra Pound Cake

Makes one 3-layer 9-inch cake

Note: I halved this recipe and got 13 cupcakes. I cannot figure out for the life of me how that happened, because halving a recipe for a two-layer cake usually yields 12 cupcakes; thus, half of a three-layer cake should have yielded significantly more. I’m still scratching my head.

Also, this recipe calls for a lot of oil. The banana and crushed pineapple already bring a lot of moistness, so I decreased the amount of oil by 1/4 cup. Feel free to try adjusting further.

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs, beaten

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple with juices

1 cup chopped pecans, plus more for optional garnish

2 chopped bananas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour three 9-inch cake pans.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add eggs, oil, and vanilla. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in pineapple, chopped pecans, and bananas.

Divide batter amongst cake pans. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and finish cooling completely on wire racks.

Cream cheese frosting

2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

2 pounds powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Using an electric mixer, combined cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Gently beat in vanilla.


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