Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hummingbird Cake


I've been hesitating over whether to post this cake for months. Because it's sort of delicious and sort of disgusting at the same time.

When the holiday season descends, some people rewatch It's a Wonderful Life, some people read The Night Before Christmas aloud en famille. And some of us--a very special sorority, to be sure--flip through the recipe boxes of their ancestors.

For some reason, I was struck this year by the fact that my granny's recipe box, a flimsy tin number painted with orange flowers, contains about a million recipes involving a can of crushed pineapple. There must have been a craze for the stuff that coincided with my granny's most prolific young-wifely recipe clipping phase.

This mad assemblage of spice cake, banana, and canned pineapple under a blanket (really more like a duvet, actually) of cream cheese frosting could not be ignored. It was ridiculously fun for the ToastWomen to make. Truly, you have not lived until you have poured one and a half cups of "salad oil" into a bowl of cake batter. Even now, an image of the Pyrex measuring cup, overflowing with oil, looms golden and horrifying in my mind's eye.

The result was headachingly sweet. One thin slice could send the vulnerable into diabetic coma. To my mind, it actually tasted retro. This one is, I think, for dedicated nostalgic cooks only. And yet...the taste sticks with you. It's "different," with all that the use of the term implies, good and bad. In fact, I wouldn't mind having a slice right now.


***
Hummingbird Cake
from my granny's recipe box, with granny-style directions preserved

For the cake:
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups salad oil
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 can 8 oz crushed pineapple, unstrained
2 cups chopped pecans, divided
2 cups chopped bananas

Combine dry ingredients in large mixing bow, add eggs and oil, stir
until moistened. DO NOT BEAT. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, 1 cup nuts and
bananas. Spoon batter into 3 9" greased pans/ Bake at 350 degrees for
25-30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes.

For the frosting:
2 8 oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 cups butter, softened
2 package 16 oz each of powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine cream cheese and butter until smooth, add powdered sugar slowly
and beat until fluffy. Stir in vanilla, put nuts on top (I didn't, as you can see, because I'm not a fan of nuts in dessert).

[ToastPoint notes: Obviously, you should frost the cake, using the usual layer cake method, before putting the nuts on top. Serve on a vintage-y cake plate. Store in refrigerator, or the bananas continue to ripen in a scary way.]

37 comments:

Ulla said...

oh, i love the idea of the bananas and pecans in there! i love the retro part too!

Anonymous said...

Ah, but you forgot to mention in your discussion that the pecans were left out of the cake (because someone doesn't like them) and without them it was so sickeningly sweet as to be, in my opinion, inedible.

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