The Secret to Hummingbird Cake
May I introduce you to the ladies of my book club: Andrea, Donnell, Heidi, Jean, Kim, Laura, Lisa, Mary, Mary, Michele, Tracey, and Vicki. For the past 8 years, the core of this group has met almost every month under the premise of discussing literature. We have been accused of being a “wine club with a reading problem” but we do read, and we have a spreadsheet to prove it!
In 2008, on the bleachers of a baseball field somewhere in the midwest, a subset of these women started talking about who was reading what between games. The idea was conceived to form a book club, meeting once a month in our homes for discussion, food, fellowship and … of course, wine. Over the years we have grown to this core group of 13 friends.
We take turns hosting, with the hostess choosing the book and providing the discussion questions, food and drink. Occasionally, we will branch out to try new things like canvas painting, yoga, and cooking class. I think you can imagine how much fun a group of project managers, human resource directors, financial advisors and accountants can have while attempting to paint martini glasses, holding a downward-facing dog pose, or rolling and stuffing ravioli! We know each other well enough to celebrate our successes and laugh at our failures together.
Laughter is plentiful in this group. As are tears. We have supported each other through illnesses, relationship and job losses, concerns over our families, and a wide range of disappointment. Our experiences give us perspective on many of the books we read. We disagree and we agree to disagree. We forgive each other when one of us sticks our foot in our mouth (some of us need more forgiveness than others). I cannot remember a time when our time together has not ended in laughter and hugs.
But what does this have to do with Hummingbird Cake?
Last week, I hosted our July book club and chose the book The Secret to Hummingbird Cake by Celeste Fletcher McHale. This is a story about three devoted friends with distinctly different personalities who stick together through thick and thin. Any book that can make me laugh out loud, shed tears, and want to find a new recipe has my greatest praise.
I had never heard of Hummingbird Cake. I had the impression that is was a “southern” thing so I grabbed The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, checked the index under Cakes, and was rewarded with this recipe.
Imagine carrot cake.
Keep the pineapple, cinnamon and cream cheese frosting but instead of carrots, raisins and walnuts, you get bananas, and pecans.
Three layers of yum.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup chopped pecans, plus pecan halves for decorating
2 cups mashed bananas
Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below)
Combine first five ingredients in a large bowl; add eggs and oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened (do not beat). Stir in vanilla, pineapple, chopped pecans and bananas.
Pour batter into three greased-and-floured, 9-inch round cakepans. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and allow to cool completely on wire racks.
Spread cream cheese frosting between layers, on top and sides of cake. Decorate with pecan halves. Store in refrigerator.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 16-ounce package powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until light and fluffy.
NOTE: I make a double batch of cream cheese frosting because I like cream cheese frosting!
The secret? You have to read the book.
And, yes I did incorporate the secret ingredient in the cake I made for book club. These ladies deserve my very best. I hope they know how much I care about each of them. They have been my confidence-boosters, my advice-givers, and my perspective-changers. I am grateful, and I am blessed.
A toast to the ladies of The Red Dickey Posse!
Don’t ask. 😉