Baking is a science. Unlike cooking which allows you to add a pinch of this and a tad of that to taste, baking recipes need to be followed to a tee. Otherwise, the result can be disastrous.
I, like many great bakers, borrow recipes and ideas from the pros. There are always certain things you can do to put your signature on a recipe and make it your own. Let’s take Hummingbird Cake for example…there are so many variations of this cake out there for you to try. My personal favorite is Paula Dean’s version of Hummingbird Cake. Her version is delicious as is, but I wanted to make this recipe my own and give it a personal twist.
As a guideline, I never mess with the amount or type of flour used in a recipe. The leavening agents are also something I stay spot on with. When it comes to sugar you can probably get away with adding a bit less, but I wouldn’t recommend changing the actual “type” of sugar. Brown sugar has more moisture than granulated sugar and some sweeteners such as Splenda or Equal don’t translate the same as granulated sugar. I must not forget to mention that calorie-free sweeteners can leave an unpleasant aftertaste in your baked goods as well as cause them not to rise up.
Changes should be subtle…adding a different kind of nut, chip or spice. Making a recipe your own can even be as simple as adding slightly more of one ingredient.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a cuckoo for coconut – it is one of my favorite ingredients to work with. Simply adding a ½ cup of sweetened flake coconut to this Hummingbird Cake created a whole new layer of flavor and a bit more texture.
The next twist I made on this Hummingbird Cake recipe was replacing the finely chopped pecans with more roughly chopped toasted pecans.
***Chefs Note on Toasting Pecans***
To toast pecans simply place them in a dry pan over medium heat. Be sure to keep an eye on them and stir often. Pecans have oil in them that left unattended can burn. And no one wants burnt nuts in their cake. You will know when they are done when they smell aromatic and are slightly browned
The last change I made to this Hummingbird Cake recipe was to kick up the cinnamon. To bump up the warmth cinnamon can add, I increased the amount of cinnamon to 1 ½ teaspoons.
I finished the cake with cream cheese icing, toasted coconut and whole toasted pecans.
I am still learning about the science behind cake baking. For more information on this topic check out these sites:
FOR THE CAKE
- Nonstick vegetable spray
- All-purpose flour, for pans
- 3 cups self-rising flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
- 2 very ripe large bananas, mashed
- 1 (8-ounce) crushed pineapple, with juice
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 large eggs, beaten
FOR THE FROSTING
- 1 pound (1 box) confectioners’ sugar, (for the frosting)
- 1 (8-ounces) cream cheese, room temperature (for the frosting)
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened (for the frosting)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, (for the frosting)
- 1 tablespoon milk, or more if needed (for the frosting)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, (for the frosting)
****(My changes to this recipe include…adding ½ cup sweetened flake coconut, larger toasted pecans and ½ teaspoon more cinnamon)
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray and flour three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans, tapping out excess flour; set aside.
2. Prepare the cake; in a large bowl, stir to combine self-rising flour, sugar, oil, pecans, bananas, pineapple, vanilla, cinnamon, and eggs.
3. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans, smoothing with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the tops spring back when gently pressed with your fingertips, 26 to 28 minutes.
4. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto wire rack. Re-invert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.
5. Prepare the frosting; in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar, cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon milk on medium speed until frosting is smooth. If needed, add more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to achieve the proper spreading consistency.
6. Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to make level. Place four strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy Susan. Place the first layer on the cake plate. Spread the top of the first layer with 1/4 of the frosting. Place the second layer on top and repeat process with another 1/4 of the frosting. Place the remaining layer on top of the second layer bottom side up. Spread entire cake with remaining frosting. Sprinkle the top with pecans. Remove parchment paper strips; refrigerate until ready to serve.