Worth the Price of Admission: Hummingbird Cake

I know that I own too many cookbooks and I really am trying to cut down on the number of new cookbooks that I acquire. I made some headway last summer when I donated a few boxes of cookbooks I never use to a church in our neighborhood for its annual rummage sale. But there was no way I wasn't going to buy a copy of Zingerman's Bakehouse when it came out last month. I have waxed poetic about Zingerman's before and even though I have only been to Ann Arbor once in my life, I consider myself a Zingerman's fan.

There are a lot of bread recipes in the cookbook but I decided to start with something easy: a one-bowl Hummingbird Cake. You can read a bit about the cake here on the website for Zingerman's teaching bakery; it's a banana-coconut-pineapple-pecan cake with cream cheese frosting that originates from Jamaica.

The recipe is straightforward and if you have a baking scale it's even easier because the cookbook provides metric weights for all of the ingredients. You combine sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; add eggs, vegetable oil, and mashed bananas; and mix in vanilla, coconut extract, sweetened coconut, crushed pineapple, and chopped toasted pecans. I poured the batter into a parchment-lined 9-inch by 13-inch pan and baked it for about 55 minutes. The top was very dark when I took it out of the oven but I wasn't too concerned since it would be covered by frosting.
The frosting is just a mixture of softened cream cheese, room temperature butter, vanilla, lemon juice, and powdered sugar. The recipe yielded enough frosting to cover the cake sufficiently, but if you are a cream cheese frosting fan -- and who isn't? -- I might recommend making a batch and a half of frosting, or even doubling the recipe. The frosting recipe calls for four ounces of cream cheese so even if you make twice as much frosting, you would still need only a single brick. Heck, just use up the whole brick of cream cheese and eat the extra frosting with a spoon.

I thought this looked like a good cake but not anything particularly special. So I was surprised when my tasters went nuts over this cake. Their enthusiasm level about the cake was sky high and several people asked me for the recipe. Banana was the primary flavor -- I personally couldn't taste the pineapple and didn't get much coconut flavor either (although the distinctive texture of the coconut shreds was hard to miss, and one of my favorite parts of the cake). I love banana cake with cream cheese frosting, so this cake was right up my alley.

I should point out that if you want to mail order a Hummingbird Cake from Zingerman's, you can have a frozen 6-inch diameter, two-layer cake delivered to your door -- for $100. So I recommend that if you aren't close to Ann Arbor and want to give Zingerman's Hummingbird Cake a try, just order the cookbook for a fraction of the price and make it yourself. I'm definitely looking forward to the other treasures I'm sure I'll discover as I continue to bake through my copy.

Recipe: "Hummingbird Cake" from Zingerman's Bakehouse by Amy Emberling and Frank Carollo.

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Sally said…
you have to make the hamantaschen! the cream cheese filling is amazing
That sounds amazing -- I'm adding it to my list! :)