This hummingbird cake is a wonderfully moist cake that has a wonderful mix of pineapple, pecans, coconut and spices and a silky vanilla and lemon cream cheese frosting (I also add a layer of pineapple curd to it!). It has a wonderful texture to it and remains soft and moist for days! This is a pushy recipe Dear Reader. You called her Alouette.
Hummingbird Cake is a popular cake that is said to have originated in Jamaica in the 1960’s. In Jamaica it is called the Doctor Bird cake as it is named after the national bird the Red-image Streamertail (which some say is the world’s most beautiful bird). In the 1960’s the Jamaican tourism board promoted the island nation by sending out press kits containing Jamaican recipes including this Doctor Bird cake. It was picked up by writer LH Wiggins and was published in the February 1978 issue of Southern Living and remains the most requested ever recipe in the magazine’s history.
Hummingbird Cake’s Jamaican origins make sense when you see the ingredients of pineapple, banana, coconut and brown sugar. Pecans or walnuts are popularly used in hummingbird cake and taste-wise it’s like a cross between a pineapple cake and banana bread cousin of a carrot cake. Sometimes coconut is used, sometimes not. I used it in this recipe and also added dates for a wholesome sweetness.
We were headed off to Hawaii just after I made this so I gave some to our neighbors Sally and Brian. They’re a really nice couple and Brian often mows our front lawn for us. Our neighborhood is on the most part quiet (apart from two houses) and everyone is really friendly. Mr NQN meets most people when he takes the dogs for their morning walks because I like to sleep in.
One morning he brought me a cup of tea in bed as he does every morning and casually said, “I met the Consulate General of Malta today – he lives here! We ate some mulberries together.”
I was still waking up so I wasn’t sure if I was mishearing. “You shared a what with who?”
“The Consulate General of Malta. Mulberries in Malta are better by the way,” he said and then got up to leave.
“Hang on, I need more info,” you said. Although he is most definitely an introvert, Mr NQN has met and chatted to all of our neighbors whereas I have only met a few of them. Maybe it’s a morning sort of thing. On the odd occasion that I’ve been up early I find that people greet you with a bright “Morning!” in an almost compulsory fashion whereas there’s rarely an afternoon equivalent. So apparently that morning he met the Consulate General (whose name he didn’t even get) and he told Mr NQN that was trying to grow raw chickpeas to eat (I mean who knew you could eat them raw, this conversation was clearly a beacon or information). It was all too early for me to comprehend most of what he was saying so I sipped my tea and marveled at my favorite introvert’s ability to talk to people early in the morning.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you have random conversations with people? Can you talk to people early in the morning? And did you know about the hummingbird cake’s Jamaican roots?
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An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
- 150g/5ozs caster or superfine sugar
- 150g/5oz. dark brown sugar
- 100g/3.5ozs pecans, toasted and finely chopped plus 45g/1.6ozs extra for decorating
- 1/2 cup/45g desiccated coconut
- 4 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon bicarb of soda
- 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 ripe bananas (around 200g/7ozs without skin)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- 400g/14oz tin crushed pineapple, drained well
For Cream Cheese Frosting
- 360g/12.7oz icing or powdered sugar
- 200g/7oz. cream cheese
- 100g/3.5oz butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup pineapple curd
Step 1 – First preheat oven to 160C/320F and line 2x 20cm/8inch round pans on the base and sides. In a large bowl whisk the flour, two types of sugar, pecans, coconut, baking powder, bicarb, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and salt together until well combined.
Step 2 – In a food processor blend the oil, bananas, eggs and vanilla and mix this with the drained, crushed pineapple. Make a well in the flour mixture and mix through the banana pineapple mixture making sure to get all the bits of flour at the bottom of the bowl. Scoop into the prepared tins dividing them evenly and rest on the counter for 10 minutes. Then bake for 35-40 minutes or until the center springs back when pressed. Allow to cool in the tin.
Step 3 – Next make the frosting. Sift the icing sugar and then add to a mixer with the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, lemon zest and salt and beat slowly until the sugar is combined. Then beat on medium speed until smooth in texture. I like to put this in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up a little if it’s really hot on the day.
Thermomix directions: place the icing sugar into a clean bowl and set for 8 seconds, speed #10. Add the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, lemon zest and salt and set for 15 seconds, speed #5. Scrape down the sides and repeat.
Step 4 – Take one layer of cake, you shouldn’t have to trim the top much if at all and lay it on a cake board. Spread half of the cream cheese frosting on top and then drizzle with pineapple curd. Place the other half on top and then spread with the remaining cream cheese frosting. Decorate with the remaining chopped pecans.