The origins of the Hummingbird Cake can be found in Jamaica’s “Doctor Bird Cake” — named after a variety of hummingbird found in the Caribbean — and it eventually became popularized in Southern Living magazine in the late 1970s.
Since then it has become a classic Southern recipe, and for good reason — its combination of tropical fruits and nuts makes it a perfect dessert all year long. There are many variations of the Hummingbird Cake; I’ve taken a fresh approach with my slightly modernized version, sandwiching sliced bananas between the layers and using a whipped mascarpone instead of a more traditional cream cheese frosting. I think it tastes just right on a warm summer evening, sitting on the front porch with friends while the kids chase fireflies in the moonlight.
- FOR THE CAKE
- 1 8- ounce can crushed pineapple in juice
- 1 ripe banana
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 stick (4 ounceunsalted butter softened
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- FOR FROSTING
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 12 ounces mascarpone chilled
- 1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 ripe bananas sliced into 1/4” rounds
Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease two 9” round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper, then set aside.
Put the crushed pineapple with juice and the banana into a food processor and pulse until blended together. Put the sugar and softened butter into a stand mixer and beat until creamy, about three or four minutes. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg, then add into the butter-sugar mixture while beating on medium speed, alternating with the eggs. Add the vanilla extract and beat until you have a creamy batter, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, about five minutes.
Divide the batter evenly into the two cake pans and bake in the center of the oven, about 35 minutes or until the cakes are risen, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for five minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling, melt the two tablespoons of butter in a nonstick sauté pan over medium heat, then pour in the chopped pecans and toss them in the butter and toast them for a few minutes until they just start to brown and become fragrant. Add the brown sugar and salt and toss well, then set aside to cool.
When the cakes are cool, put the mascarpone and confectioners’ sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high for about five minutes until light and fluffy.
To assemble the cake, put one layer, bottom side up, on a serving platter and spread half the frosting evenly across the top. Layer the banana slices over the icing, then top with the other cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting evenly over the top of the cake, then sprinkle the chopped pecans evenly over the entire top layer. Refrigerate for two hours to allow the frosting to set before serving. Will keep in the refrigerator for a week, or in the freezer for up to one month.
• If you haven’t used mascarpone before, it’s an Italian cheese that is similar to cream cheese, but with a lighter texture and milder flavor. It makes a really beautiful and light frosting — I love it for a summer dessert!
• You’ll often find the chopped pecans mixed into the batter of the Hummingbird Cake, which makes for a denser result, so I opted to just use pecans as a topping here. The slightly salty-sweet pecans on top of the cake give a nice crunch that contrasts with the light and fruity flavor of the cake layers.
• You can use 2 cups of self-rising flour if you prefer — just omit the all-purpose flour, baking powder, and baking soda.