A few years back my mom finally made it out to Chicago and we went to some pretty amazing restaurants. To celebrate her birthday we went to Art Smith’s (aka Oprah’s old chef) Table 52. This restaurant is renowned for their authentic soulful southern cooking. We were lucky enough to go on a Sunday when they make their famous fried chicken… to die for! The real take home dish for me though was dessert. Art Smith serves many delicious looking desserts, but the one that caught my heart was the hummingbird cake. I know what you’re thinking… why did I get to pick the dessert when it was my mom’s birthday? Well I eat the whole dessert; my mom usually just has a bite, so I get more say on what to order. Works out pretty well for me! Anyway, this was such a special cake not only because it was delicious but also because of the special symbolism behind the cake.

My mom loves hummingbirds. I have many fond memories as a child helping her fill all of the hummingbird feeders around our house. She would get so tickled whenever a hummingbird would stop by for a drink. For those of you who don’t know, my dad passed away a few years back and every time I see a butterfly, I know it is him checking in on me. Whenever I see a hummingbird, I feel like it’s my mom checking in on me too. Hummingbirds have great symbolism. According to Symbolism Wikia:

Hummingbirds are a symbol of love, joy, and beauty. The hummingbird is also able to fly backwards, teaching us that we can look back on our past. But, this bird also teaches that we must not dwell on our past; we need to move forward. When the hummingbird hovers over flowers while drinking nectar, we learn that we should savor each moment, and appreciate the things we love.

I feel like this symbolism works well for my relationship with my mom. What mom doesn’t want their child to savor life and learn from the past? I tend to get caught up in the small things in life, some might even go as far as saying I’m a worrier…but my mom is always by my side rooting me on, teaching me that as long as I don’t die that I can get through anything, and that friends and family will always be there for me. It’s a very reassuring thought, even if she has to remind me of that often! I’m lucky to have such an amazing friendship with my mom. She’s my best friend, and I love that the hummingbird cake will always have a special place in both of our hearts since we were able to experience for the first time together.

Ever since we had Art Smith’s hummingbird cake, I have been a changed girl. This cake was absolutely amazing. How had I never heard of it before!? Well I had to find a way to recreate this cake. It has the comforting homey taste of banana plus the surprisingly sweet taste of pineapple and it finishes with the crunch of pecans. Oh yeah, not to mention the too die for cream cheese frosting… I’m drooling just reminiscing about this cake! Well lucky for me, good ol’ Art posted the recipe for his hummingbird cake. I took a look at the recipe and was surprised at how simple it was to make. But I guess that’s southern cooking for you, fresh ingredients cooked with lots of love! Well I made a few adjustments to his recipe and came out with a cake that I enjoy even more because I leave the fruit a bit more chunky. It’s my nod to Art’s cake but one that both my mom and I prefer (sorry Art!). This cake is perfect for any occasion. It is simple to make, has so much flavor, and will have your guests begging for the recipe! Enjoy!

Art Smith’s Hummingbird Cake
Serves 12
Adapted by Me (anything in blue indicates my changes)

Ingredients for Cake:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chopped ripe bananas
  • 1 cup drained crushed pineapple *I don’t drain the pineapple*
  • 1 cup vegetable oil *I only use 1/2 cup*
  • *I add 1 cup of cinnamon chunky applesauce to the batter*
  • 2 large eggs , beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) finely chopped pecans

Icing:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese , at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter , at room temperature
  • 1 pound confectioners’ sugar (about 4 1/2 cups sifted)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • *I add 2 tablespoons of cinnamon*

Directions:

  1. To make the cake, position racks in the center and bottom third of the oven and preheat to 350°. Lightly butter two 9″ round cake pans, sprinkle evenly with flour and tap out the excess. (If you wish, butter the pans, line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper, then flour the pans and tap out the excess.) *I turn this cake into cupcakes, so I line 24 cupcake tins with liners. *
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, stir or whisk the bananas, pineapple, oil, applesauce, eggs and vanilla until combined. Do not use an electric mixer. Pour into the dry mixture and fold together with a large spatula just until smooth. Do not beat. Fold in the pecans. Spread evenly into the pans. *I fill my cupcakes tins with 2 heaping spoonfuls of batter*
  3. Bake until the cake springs back when pressed in the center, 30 to 35 minutes. *My cupcakes took about 20-23 minutes*. Transfer the cakes to wire racks and cool for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks (remove the parchment paper now if using). Turn right side up and cool completely.
  4. To make the icing: Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until combined. On low speed, gradually beat in the sugar, cinnamon, then the vanilla, to make a smooth icing.
  5. Place 1 cake layer, upside down on a serving platter. Spread with about 2/3 cup of the icing. Top with the second layer, right side up. Spread the reaming icing over the top and sides of the cake. The cake can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and stored, uncovered in the refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.
  6. You know how to frost a cupcake! Slather on the good stuff and enjoy one of the most tasty cupcake you’ll ever have!

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