This has to be the best name for a cake ever. Olive magazine recently included it in a feature on great American cakes, and I just had to try it. Just the thing for a bank holiday, I thought.
Apparently, the cake’s first documented mention was in the February 1978 issue of Southern Living magazine – the southern belle bible of gracious hostessing. It was submitted by Mrs L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina. To this day Southern Living claims the recipe is its most requested ever. From the South the cake made its way to the heady cosmopolitan sophistication of Manhattan’s booming celebrity cake industry, and from there is obviously well placed for world domination.
However, there is some evidence to suggest the cake actually originated in Jamaica - the hummingbird “Dr Bird” is Jamaica’s national bird, and there are intriguing references to something similar to the hummingbird cake being used by the PRs for the Jamaican national airways in the 1960s. So come on Jamaica, track down those printed references and make a claim to culinary history!
My oven almost derailed my attempt at this cake. Although it can roast chickens and ribs of beef without any trouble whatsoever, it consistently fails at baking cakes. Grrrrr. Olive said to bake for 30 minutes at 160C (fan oven) - well, it eventually took about 20 minutes mores. The crumb came out beautifully, but is cinnamony rather than anything else - banana and pineapple quite absent. I used just-ripe bananas from Sainsbury’s - it’s always better to use overripe splotchy brown bananas for cooking. There were heavenly pineapple smells in the baking process but clearly the pineapple itself was all baked away.
So, I would be interested to taste a professional attempt at this cake to taste the difference. I possibly may try again at some point - what I have is very nice, no doubt about it - but not up to all the hype. Still a major carrot cake fan here.
More picture of the cake and my process in making it are on my flickr stream.