Excuse the name. It was between this and “Carrot Bird Cake” but that was a little too avian for my liking. If you’re confused, this cake is a mashup of two formerly separate entities; it is a marriage of cake (the best kind of marriage, in my opinion).
Carrot Cake has been a tried-and-true staple in my repertoire since forever but I am less familiar, though no less intrigued, by the Hummingbird Cake. I had heard the song of its praises many times without ever really questioning its composition. I knew it was traditionally Southern and that it contained pineapple but that’s about it. Needing to know more, as is my nature, I dug a little deeper.
I always like a good origin story. This cake migrated from Jamaica in the late ’70s in what was essentially a PR move. In an attempt to boost tourism, some savvy board members decided to send modified island recipes to the United States including this particular confection, brimming with tropical flavors of banana and pineapple. The cake, originally coined “Doctor Bird Cake” after Jamaica’s national bird, was a huge hit and its 1978 publication in Southern Living cemented its success for years to come (albeit under a different name). Thank you, Wikipedia.
In post-research delirium, it occurred to me the many similarities between this storied cake and my beloved carrot incarnation. Both contain nuts, are sweetened with produce, optionally contain pineapple, and are blanketed in cream cheese frosting. They’re kind of like long-lost cousins that I became desperate to reunite for the sake of all that is good.
And it is good. The Humming Carrot Cake has a lot of ingredients but once everything is chopped, grated, smashed, and measured, it comes together very easily. It also makes a pretty massive cake so it’s particularly great for special occasions. I whipped up a little brown butter cream cheese frosting and decided that I want to be buried with a bowl of it. On my tombstone they will write: Here lies the creator of the Humming Carrot Cake, God Bless Her.
Humming Carrot Cake
For the Cake
- 3 cups flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 eggs, divided
- 1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1-8 oz. can crushed pineapple, undrained
- 1 cup banana, mashed
- 1 cup grated carrots
- 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup rum
Grease and flour 3-9 inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper on the bottoms. Preheat oven to 350°. In a small saucepan, combine raisins and rum and heat over low heat on stove until the raisins have absorbed all of the rum. Set aside and let cool. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the 3 egg whites until firm. Transfer the whipped whites to a different bowl. In the same mixing bowl as you whipped the whites (you don’t have to clean it out), whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add the remaining 3 egg yolks, vegetable oil and vanilla and combine at a low speed until mixture is uniform. Add in crushed pineapple, banana, carrots, pecans, and rum raisins at a low speed. Manually fold in the egg whites until the mixture is completely uniform. Divide the batter equally among the 3 pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each one comes out clean (be aware that the pans may cook differently depending on oven position so it is important to test each one for doneness). Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, then slide a knife around the edge of the pans and transfer cakes to a baking rack to finish cooling completely.
Browned-Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2-8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup brown butter*, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
*To make brown butter: Melt 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. The butter will get foamy, then it will start to darken in color and you will see little browned bits of milk solids on the bottom of the pan. Stir butter frequently during this process and monitor it closely. It is done when it is brown in color and extremely fragrant. Transfer to the fridge so that it re solidifies, then treat it like normal butter for frosting (i.e. soften at room temperature).
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese and brown butter. Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat until smooth and uniform. Slowly add in the powdered sugar until frosting is smooth and uniform.
Basic Buttercream (for Mum flowers)
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream or half + half
- 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, vanilla, and cream until smooth and fluffy. Slowly add in the powdered sugar until frosting is smooth and uniform.
Piping Tips and Color
I used Wilton Gel dyes (leaves-“moss green”, yellow mums-“golden yellow” w/ a touch of “brown”, purple mums- “violet” and “burgundy”, rust mums- “copper” and “burgundy”).
I used tip #81 for the mum petals and tip #352 for the leaves.