I love food that has a story and tells part of our story, don't you?
Ages ago in my past, past life...not just when I was a teacher but when I was a teacher living in LA, I first met the magic that is a hummingbird cake. I was invited to a pot luck baby shower for a colleague. I was one of the younger teachers so appearing a grown up mattered deeply to me and I was nervous about what to bring. My meals consisted of frozen burritos so but a grad school graduation gift of Martha Stewart Living meant I stumbled upon a hummingbird cake. It was the dried pineapple flowers that caught my eye and the cream cheese frosting that won my heart.
I'll admit. I baked it to impress. I felt young and inexperienced, which I was, and wanted to walk in hiding behind the cake til my confidence kicked in. The great thing about it is that for all the schmanc, it's insanely easy to make even in my understocked, early 20s kitchen. Dump a bunch of stuff in, mix it up, and ta freakin' da. A hummingbird cake has a most delicious history, too, and I like knowing that there are stories to food. Like me, it arrived in the South in the late 70s. Jamie Oliver does a bang up job exploring its roots, so give it a read to learn how pineapple and pecans and banana and cinnamon came together in this dense, wonderful mishmash of a dessert.
The cake has been hovering in my mind for a while now and this salon felt like a good chance to it again. Rather than rely on Martha's recipe, I turned to Southern Living, as this is the single most requested recipe in the magazine's history.
A few things: I overdid the frosting in the layers but realized that embracing the naked cake trend (though mine was a never-nude and had the thinnest layer) was kind of fantastic and rustic.
I used this dried pineapple flower recipe. My biggest tip for slices is that you do want them insanely thin but that is hard when a juicy pineapple is sliding all over your counter. I found cutting slices a bit thicker than I wanted and then using a small serated or paring knife to shave it down from the center out created the most beautiful flowers. (I vaguely remember cutting them into a butterfly-ish shapes way back when.)
For a cake made with oil I figured I could finesse an alternative for gluten sensitive and dairy free friends. And, lo, PaleOMG delivered. For as challenging as adapting recipes can be, this was silly easy. I used regular sugar rather than coconut sugar for ease. The full recipe she provides worked great in two mini bread loaves and topped with candied pineapple slices to keep our "What goes around, comes around" food theme intact.
For a good stretch of my youth, I called Lilburn, Georgia home. Citing Southern roots is not a point of pride for me and I tend to use it more as a disclaimer for my y'all tendency. There isn't much about me now, aside from those y'alls and a preference for Coke, that marks me as a Georgian. But wherever you're from, there is something to Southern food. It's unabashedly rich and big and comforting. This feels like a dessert made for the long, hot Georgia summer days I remember and it tasted as good as it did that summer day in LA.