My Canadian aunt recently tagged me in a Southern Living recipe video on Facebook which demonstrated how to make a hummingbird cake and I have been tempted to bake it ever since. (You’ll find the video at the bottom of this post.) A few days ago I went down to my Mum’s house for breakfast and we had been talking about how her summer plants were starting to die back, with only a few bedding plants still alive here and there, so I decided to steal some of the remaining blooms to decorate a cake in celebration of her garden this summer. (*For a list of edible British flowers see below.) The cake I eventually decided to grace with the thoughtfully-picked flowers was the hummingbird cake.
I find that a lot of American recipes fail to work well for me and I attribute this to the fact that instead of using precise measurements they only work on the cup system. That’s fine, but good baking is dependent upon a chemical reaction taking place within the mixture as it cooks and, like any chemistry, if your quantities are inaccurate then you won’t be able to produce the correct result.
I made the hummingbird cake exactly as the recipe stipulated and everyone who tasted it (about eight people) really enjoyed it. However, I must admit that I personally found it a bit heavy. The frosting’s to die for, it tastes exactly like really good vanilla ice-cream, but the cake itself was just a bit too dense for my tastes. Although, that ratio works out at 8 who enjoyed it to 1 who didn’t, so maybe it’s my taste buds which are wrong.
If I were to make it again I would put less fruit in to try to make it lighter or I’d keep the fruit but add a more generous amount of baking powder. Don’t get me wrong, this recipe makes a beautifully moist hummingbird cake which tastes like a really good banana and pecan loaf, but give it a go yourself and see what you think. After all, eight people can’t be wrong.
For the cake:
120g of crushed fresh pineapple
2 cups of chopped firm bananas
100g of chopped pecans
3 cups of gluten-free self-raising flour (I use Dove’s Farm G/F flour because it’s made with low FODMAP ingredients whereas many other gluten-free flours are made with high FODMAP options.)
1 ½ cups of vegetable oil
2 cups of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
1 ½ tsps. vanilla extract
For the icing:
225g (8oz) lactose-free soft cream cheese (or a non-dairy version)
1 cup of soft butter (or non-dairy)
450g (16oz) of icing sugar
2 tsps. vanilla extract
Edible flower heads you’ve shamelessly plundered from your Mum’s garden. (*For a list of edible British flowers see below.)
This is one of those ‘chuck all the ingredients into a bowl and whisk it all together’ cakes. (I love those ones, don’t you?)
Preheat your oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/350°F/gas mark 4.
This recipe makes quite a big cake so you’ll need to line three baking tins with greaseproof paper. (You could just use two large tins if you don’t have three that are the same size, but you’ll need to cook the cakes for longer.)
Prepare your ingredients as directed.
Put all of your wet ingredients into a large mixing bowl, including the fruit.
Add your dry ingredients and whisk together.
Pour into the baking tins and put in the oven.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a skewer pushed into the middle of the cakes comes out clean.
Leave to cool completely on a cooling rack.
While they are cooling make your icing by putting all of the icing ingredients together in a big bowl and whisking together until it’s light and fluffy.
Once your cakes are cool sandwich them together with some of the icing and then use the rest to ice the top and (if you’ve enough left over) the sides.
Decorate the cake with whole pecans or flowers*.
(*Here is a list of edible British flowers. I only used my flowers to decorate the cake, I picked them off afterwards and we ate the cake without them. If you choose to consume these plants and their flowers you do so entirely at your own risk, so unless you’re absolutely sure about what you’re picking then don’t eat them. You can find a very good list of edible flowers and instructions on what parts of the plants you can eat from Thompson and Morgan here.
Edible flowers: Alpine pinks; Apple blossom; Basil flowers; Begonia; Bergamot; Borage flowers; Broccoli flowers; Busy Lizzie; Carnation, Dianthus and Pinks; Catmint; Chicory; Chive blossoms; Clover; Coriander flowers; Cornflower; Courgette or Marrow flowers; Daisy; Dill flowers; Elderflower; Evening Primrose; Fennel flowers; Fuchsia; Scented Geraniums; Gladiolus; Hibiscus; Hollyhock; Hyssop; Kale flowers; Lavender; Lemon Balm flowers; Lilac; Mint leaves and flowers; Nasturtium; Marigold; Oregano flowers; Garden Vegetable Pea flowers, but not sweet pea flowers because they are toxic; Primrose, Cowslip and Primula; Rose; Rosemary flowers; Runner Bean; Pansies; Pumpkin and Squash flowers; Rocket flowers; Roses; Sage flowers; Strawberry flowers; Sunflower; Sweet violet; Tulips; Viola.)