Try as I might over the years I've not been able to cultivate a 'hummingbird' garden. I've gotten the feeders, and then neglected to keep them filled. So I've planted all kinds of plants that are supposed to attract them, but with little success. Ocasionally I'll see one but it's rare.
If you know of a sure way to attract them, please let me know! So for now, I'll have to content myself with another kind of hummingbird. Unlike our feathered friends, this one is edible! It's the grand and glorious Hummingbird Cake!
From what I've read, the Hummingbird Cake has distinctly southern origins. The first known printed recipe was attributed to Southern Living, in its February 1978 issue. It was submitted by Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, NC. However, no explanation for the origin of the cake's name was included with her recipe.
It's entirely possible that this cake has gone by other names, according to FoodTimeLine.org. Citing a 1985 Arkansas Gazette article, the cake has also been called "Cake That Doesn't Last," "Never Ending Cake," "Granny's Best Cake," and "Cake that Won't Last." I prefer the name "Hummingbird Cake," though. It just sounds southern, don't you think?
Some people have speculated that the cake may have Jamaican roots, since the swallowtail hummingbird is the national bird of Jamaica. That sounds a little farfetched to me. I like the theory that it's named in reference to the way hummingbirds eat: they are attracted to very sweet food sources, they engage the food source quickly, and disperse just as quickly when full. When you read the recipe you may tend to agree!
HUMMINGBIRD CAKE RECIPE
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
2 cups chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, or hazelnuts, divided)
2 cups chopped bananas
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Combine 2 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese with 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, both at room temperature. Add 2 (16-ounce) boxes of powdered sugar, sifted; beat until light and fluffy. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 3 (9-inch) round cake pans with butter; dust the bottom and sides with flour. Set aside
Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl and stir until well blended. Add the eggs and oil, and stir until the dry ingredients are moistened, taking care not to beat them. Stir in the pineapple and juice, 1 cup of the nuts, the bananas and vanilla.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then turn them out onto racks to cool completely.
Today's quiz: how many calories are in one slice of hummingbird cake? Take your best guess, and no cheating!
Source: The Glory of Southern Cooking, by James Villas (John Wiley & Sons)