Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hummingbird Cupcakes

When Kate and I were little, our family had a bright red hummingbird feeder hanging outside the kitchen window. 

"Girls! Quick, come here! Shhhh.... look!" 

We'd stand there with Mama B or DaddyBob and marvel at these tiny, magical, beautiful birds, wings moving so fast you could hardly see them. They'd drink from the feeder, seemingly suspended in midair, and then, just as quickly as they arrived, they were gone.

Alas, half the time we missed it because we just weren't quick enough.


Which is kind of what happened when I brought these hummingbird cupcakes to work a couple of weeks ago. Here then gone? Um, yeah. Did Becky the baker and barer of tasty treats get one? Nope.
Which is why I saved three of them at home for myself. :-)
No one knows for sure how Hummingbird Cake got its name. Some say the recipe has roots in Jamaica, where the bird in question is a national symbol. Others claim the cake's sweetness draws folks to the table as sugar water draws birds to the feeder. Me? I'm with the crowd that calls this recipe the "Cake that Doesn't Last". Like witnessing the marvel of a hummingbird outside your kitchen window, you better act fast and grab some of this cake before it disappears.
I like this recipe because the tropical ingredients scream sunshine. It's simple to make, yet feels fancy - like banana bread all gussied up for a special occasion. Traditionally, it's made as a three-layer cake, which would be perfect to serve at an Easter or Mother's Day brunch (Happy Mama's Day, Mama B!)
The cupcake version that I share with you today makes the traditional transportable, which is key for subway-riding bakers like yours truly here in the Big Apple. So, whip 'em up, pack 'em up, and watch 'em fly away. And don't forget to save one for yourself. 

Hummingbird Cupcakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 24-30 cupcakes

For cupcakes:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 large)
1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped walnuts, or pecans
1 cup unsweetened coconut

For cream cheese frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
Approximately 1 pound confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans for garnishing
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, with rack in center. Line cupcake pan with paper liners; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.
  3. With an electric mixer, beat butter, vanilla, and sugar until combined, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each before adding the next. Beat at medium speed until mixture is pale yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together banana, pineapple, walnuts, and coconut. Add to egg mixture, mixing until combined. Stir in flour mixture.
  5. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes.
  6. Let cool one minute in pans, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. To make frosting, beat cream cheese and vanilla with electric mixer until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. With mixer on medium speed, gradually add butter, beating until incorporated.
  8. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add sugar until icing is smooth and reaches desired consistency.
  9. Frost cupcakes using an offset spatula. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. Serve cupcakes at room temperature, or store in refrigerator up to three days.

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