Artist’s Hummingbird Cake

June 2nd, 2011 / Comments 3

Once a month, I meet with a group of fellow artists.

Fiske trillium Artists Hummingbird Cake

Trillium and Bloodroot Kathy Fiske

Bartlet tea Artists Hummingbird Cake

Tea Art by Barbara Bartlett

Our group is Art Wise Women and you can see more by clicking on this link or by going to www.ArtWiseWomen.blogspot.com.

After we have caught up with tales of travel, news of children and grandchildren, wild animal sightings and gardens, we talk about new projects, successes and failures in our studios and upcoming shows;  we move on to more philosophical topics like ‘dealing with isolation as an artist’, ‘where to find inspiration’, ‘what does it mean to be an artist’.

At our last meeting, I realized that one of my favorite creative activities takes place in my kitchen rather than in my studio. Baking a cake for a dinner party is filled with artistic decisions: What will it look like? What will it taste like? How will I decorate it? The process ends with a plate, empty except for a few sweet crumbs and the anticipation of the next gathering when I will happily offer to bring dessert.

Recently, I wanted to make a cake that would welcome our friends who had returned to Vermont after spending five months in Australia. A hummingbird cake sounded just right. I assumed that since there were lots of hummingbirds in Australia that a hummingbird cake had to be Australian. My research quickly revealed three facts:

  • There are no recorded sightings of hummingbirds in Australia;
  • Hummingbird cakes are a specialty of the American south; and,
  • It’s called a hummingbird cake because each bite makes one hum with delight.

Undaunted by these facts, I made my version of a Vermont hummingbird cake for the party. Here’s how I did it:

Hummingbird Cake

I preheated the oven to 350º, buttered two nine-inch round cake pans, lined the bottoms of the pans with waxed paper, buttered the paper and dusted the pans with flour. I tapped out the excess flour and set the pans aside.

I sifted together three cups of all-purpose flour, one teaspoon of baking soda, one teaspoon of ground cinnamon, one teaspoon of ground ginger and half a teaspoon of kosher salt into a medium bowl. I used a stand mixer to combine one cup of canola oil, two teaspoons of vanilla extract and two cups of sugar. After beating the oil/sugar mixture for two minutes, I added three eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition and then beat the mixture at medium speed until it was pale and fluffy. It took about three minutes.

I used a wooden spoon to combine three cups of mashed banana, an eight-ounce can of crushed pineapple, drained, one cup of chopped pecans and one cup of unsweetened, shredded coconut and then stirred the fruit/nut mixture it into the oil/sugar/egg mixture and then stirred in the flour/ spice mixture. I divided the cake batter between the two prepared pans and baked the cakes until they were golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake came out clean. It took about forty minutes in my oven. I cooled the cakes in the pans, on a rack for fifteen minutes and then used a knife to loosen the edges of the cakes them before I tipped them out onto racks to cool completely. While the cakes cooled, I made creamy, cream-cheese frosting.

Creamy Cream Cheese Frosting

I used an electric mixer to combine eight-ounces of room-temperature cream cheese, two tablespoons of light brown sugar and one teaspoon of vanilla extract. When the cream cheese mixture was fluffy, I added one pint of heavy cream and continued beating until the mixture formed stiff peaks.

I put one layer of the cake on my favorite party-cake platter and used a spatula to spread a quarter inch layer of frosting on to the cake. I topped the frosting with the second layer and frosted the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. I used white woodruff blossoms and purple violas to decorate the frosted cake.

When I presented the cake to our friends as “Flowers in the Snow, Proof that Spring and Friends Do Return,” I didn’t share what I had learned about Australia and humming birds – but now they know. Since that party, I have found recipes for kangaroo cakes, opera house cakes and platypus cakes. I wonder if any of them will be as yummy as the hummingbird cake?

Download and print Hummingbird Cake recipe with an ingredients list here. 

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Artist’s Hummingbird Cake at Vermont food from a country kitchen – Carol Egbert.com

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