My Citizens, the always sweet and rarely sour paragon of culinary excellence – the impassioned TFD! – is a huge fan of all southern heirloom desserts. Few are as toothsomely satisfying as Hummingbird cake, and I will share now with you an almost completely lost version of it, known as Ruby-Throated Hummingbird cake, using red grapefruit to take the sweet edge off the cake!
This version does not include the banana of the classic, but I believe it is even better with the addition of strawberries, as the recipe uses these for the “ruby throat”. 🙂
The classic version of the Hummingbird cake is a banana-pineapple spice cake common in the Southern United States. Ingredients include flour, sugar, salt, vegetable oil, ripe banana, pineapple, cinnamon, pecans, vanilla extract, eggs, and leavening agent. It is often served with cream cheese frosting. The cake has been a tradition in Southern cuisine since the mid-19th century.
Created on the island of Jamaica, hummingbird cake was named after the island’s national bird, where it is also known as the Doctor Bird cake (Doctor Bird is another name for the island’s national bird).
In 1979, the Jamaica Tourist Board exported the recipe for hummingbird cake, along with other local Jamaican recipes, in media press kits sent to the USA. The marketing was aimed at American consumers to get them to come to the island.
As printed in the March 29, 1979 issue of the Kingston Daily Gleaner (Jamaica), “Press kits presented included Jamaican menu modified for American kitchens, and featured recipes like the doctor bird cake, made from bananas.”
One of the first known publications of the recipe in US print, as written by L.H. Wiggin, was in the February 1978 issue of Southern Living. The cake won the Favorite Cake Award later that same year at the Kentucky State Fair.
It was selected Southern Living’s favorite recipe in 1990 and was noted as the most requested recipe in the magazine’s history. The cake typically has two or three layers with pecans (or walnuts), mashed bananas, crushed pineapple and cream cheese frosting.
It is unknown who came up with the ruby-throated variant, but it appears to be sadly an almost lost version – there isn’t even a single picture of it on the Web (thus the reason for the classic Hummingbird cake image I was forced to use).
I hope you enjoy this lost heirloom recipe as much as I do, Citizens! 🙂 My one tweak to the classic recipe? I add some fresh vanilla bean seeds to the rum in the filling – I find it really adds something to the final dish!
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