There are lots of things to forget about the 70s—disco hair, bell bottoms, shag carpet—but there are a number of recipes from the era worth keeping. One of them is the so-called Hummingbird Cake or Dr. Bird Cake. It’s a little unclear how the name originated. Some say it was a tourism promotion of the island of Jamaica, whose national symbol is the swallow-tailed hummingbird or doctor bird.
Since coming ashore, the recipe has shown up in cookbooks, at family picnics, and in cake contests, winning blue ribbons at state fairs all across the south. It’s usually shown as a three-layer pineapple, banana, pecan cake with a cream cheese and nut icing. The fruit is left in pieces rather than mashed and the ingredients are hand mixed to maintain the chunkiness.
According to a local newspaper of the time, if you didn’t want to go to the trouble of baking the cake, you could buy one from Miss Hulling’s cafeteria for $2.85. Today you probably have the recipe in some old church cookbook. You’re sure to find a handwritten recipe for the popular cake in the card file of one of your elderly relatives.
Just in case you can’t put your hands on the recipe, but are nostalgic for a taste of the 70s, here it is.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
- 2 cups chopped, ripe bananas
- 1 cup chopped pecans
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
- 2 (16-oz.) package powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°. Whisk together flour and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl; add eggs and oil, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, bananas, and 1 cup chopped toasted pecans. Spoon batter into 3 well-greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.
- Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes our clean. Cool cake layers in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 1 hour).
- For icing, beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add sugar, beating at low speed until blended. Stir in vanilla. Increase speed to medium-high, and beat a few minutes or until fluffy
- To ice, spread 1 cup Cream Cheese Frosting over cake layer. Top with second layer, and frost. Top with third cake layer, and spread top and sides of cake with remaining frosting. Arrange chopped pecan over top of cake. (From Southern Living, January, 1999)