Anyone who has read Rebel Belle knows that a big deal is made out of something called Hummingbird Cake. The cake plays an integral part in two major plot points in the book, with Harper and her mother actually baking the cake during one scene. So Hummingbird Cake--with maybe a side of sweet tea--is basically the perfect treat to eat while you kick back and enjoy Rebel Belle.
Now that the recipe has been around for a while, there are several versions floating around on the internet, with many people claiming to have the best. I'm inclined to think that, as traditionalists, Harper and her mother used the 1978 original recipe during their baking session.
So, that's where I started. Originally, I expected to serve this cake at my two year old's birthday party because I wrongly assumed that a pineapple-banana spice cake would be a healthier option for children. Unfortunately, I discovered the original 1978 recipe is basically a heart attack on a cake stand . With 1 1/2 cups of oil, 3 eggs, and 2 cups of sugar (not to mention the cream cheese frosting), there was no way I was giving that to my two year old. But, I really, really didn't want to make two cakes this week, so I improvised.
In place of some of the oil, I added a lot (and I do mean a lot) of cinnamon apple sauce. I also added at least 3 additional mashed bananas to compensate for the fact that I reduced the eggs down to 2. Finally, what with the additional fruit, I was able to cut the sugar down by almost half.
As for the cream cheese frosting, well, it was still full of fats and sugars. But I did compensate slightly by not icing the sides of my cake. I was also able to cut some of the butter and cream cheese by adding in a carton of Cool Whip.
Side note: I also didn't include pecans in my actual cake because I didn't think my son would appreciate the occasional crunch. So I made him a mini-cake with no pecans, and only put pecans on top of the adult version. (It didn't matter at all though, because he predictably only ate the deliciously fatty frosting.)
Lightened Hummingbird Cake
- 2 3/4 cups cake flour
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cinnamon applesauce
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups mashed banana
- 3/4 cup thinly diced banana
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 can crushed pineapple, undrained
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional
- Preheat over to 350 degrees. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Sprinkle flour onto pans and shake to coat entire pan.
- Combine 2 3/4 cups cake flour and the rest of your dry ingredients (sugar, slat, baking soda, sugar, cinnamon) in a large bowl. Whisk to ensure the dry ingredients are well mixed.
- In separate medium-sized bowl, stir together eggs, applesauce, and vegtable oil. Stir just until moistened.
- Fold in mashed banana, chopped banana, vanilla, and crushed pinapple.
- Pour batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes. (If you use three 9 inch round pans like a traditional Hummingbird Cake, lower the cooking time to 20-25 minutes. But who has three 9-inch round pans?)
- Cool layers in pan for ten minutes. Loosen sides with a knife and then removing layers on to wire cooling rack. Cool completely before topping with cream cheese frosting (recipe below). Spread frosting on the first layer, being careful not to get any on the sides. Place top layer on frosting, and spread frosting on top, again being careful not to get any on the sides. Sprinkle with chopped pecans.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
- 1 package of cream cheese (8 oz)
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 cups powdered sugar (may need to adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 package of Cool Whip
- Beat butter, cream, and cream cheese in a stand mixer until smooth.
- Slowly add the powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Taste to make sure frosting hits your desired sweetness levels.
- When finished, add vanilla extract and Cool Whip. If frosting seems too thick, add heavy cream, 1 tablespoon at a time.
I know. It isn't exactly like a Hummingbird Cake. But, it is delicious. And I'm pretty sure your heart will thank me later.