Hummingbird Cake is a classic concotion quite common in Southern regions of the US. Today I share with you my Brazilian take on this classic, which I am calling Beija-Flor Cake. As you may have guessed, Beija-Flor is Portuguese for hummingbird. A three-layer cake very moist with banana, mango, and passion fruit, with a bit of texture given by Brazil nuts. Everyone loved it, including the resident critic, grandson and son of fantastic bakers, the man I married 19 years ago. He actually said (and I should have captured it in a video) that the frosting was as good as his Grandma’s. My heart missed 3 beats in a row. Obviously, I am very happy with this bake!
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by this recipe)
recipe is enough for 4 cakes, only 3 cake layers were used for the final dessert)
1 + 1/4 cup chopped Brazil nuts
3 cups (370g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons mixed spice (or use cinnamon plus a touch of cloves)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed banana
1 cup mango coarsely pureed
½ cup passionfruit pulp
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1 cup (200g) packed brown sugar
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla paste
Heat the oven to 300°F. Spread Brazil nuts onto a lined baking pan. Toast for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven. Turn oven up to 350°F, then grease and lightly flour four 6-inch cake pans.
Whisk the flour, baking soda, mixed spice and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk the rest of the cake ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk until completely combined. Fold in the nuts. Spread batter evenly between the 4 prepared cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove cakes from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. Once completely cooled, remove cakes from pan and level the tops off if necessary to make them completely flat.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
(adapted from Sweet Bake Shop)
2 cups (450 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup (110 g) cream cheese, softened
5½ cups (700 g) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 to 3 drops yellow and orange gel food dye
¾ cup yellow and orange sprinkles
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth.
With the mixer running on low-speed, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar. Add the vanilla, then turn the mixer up to medium speed and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then beat again on medium speed again for a few seconds. Use immediately or store in the fridge for a couple of days.
CAKE ASSEMBLY: Place 3/4 cup frosting in a small bowl and dye it yellow. Place 3/4 frosting in another small bowl and dye it orange. Prepare two small piping bags (with no icing tips) containing the two colors, each in one bag. Carefully cut the tips with scissors, and place them delicately in a larger piping bag fitted with a 1M tip or any other tip of your choice. Make sure the opening of both bags are at the same distance of the 1M tip. Test that both colors are coming out together. Reserve. Add sprinkles to the rest of the frosting that was not dyed.
Place the first cake on a board, cut side up. Add a layer of frosting with sprinkles. Add another cake on top, cut side up. Spread a bit more frosting, top with the final cake, cut side down (this makes sure that the top will be smooth and leveled). Add a thin layer of frosting and refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, or place in the freezer for about 10 minutes to set the frosting.
Frost the cake, top and sides, then use the two-color frosting to pipe decorative swirls on the bottom and top. Refrigerate and bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: Hummingbird Cake originated in Jamaica, containing banana and pineapple as the main flavors, plus pecans and spices such as cinnamon and cloves. It is normally covered with cream cheese frosting. I wanted to make a version with Brazilian flavors, so I used mangos and passionfruit. I kept the banana component since I imagined it would be important in the texture of the cake. Brazil nuts seemed a natural choice, and with that in mind, my “Beija-Flor Cake” was born. In the composite below, you can see that the cake is not as massive as it might seem. It is not a small cake, but definitely not humongous. See the little yogurt bottle next to it for perspective.
Traditionally, Hummingbird Cakes have a homey, rustic look which I find quite appealing, but I wanted to try something a bit different, and opted for a smooth frosting with yellow and orange sprinkles to reflect the fruits used in the cake. A small amount of sprinkle-free frosting was dyed in the same two colors and used for piping. The frosting is very easy to make and much more forgiving to spread than a classic buttercream, so if you are
absolutely paranoid about a bit afraid of frosting a cake, this is a very good starting point.
My apologies for not showing the picture of a slice. We cut one slice to “test-taste” it the evening before, but the first slice never cuts too well. We took the cake to the department next morning, and I completely forgot all about it. By the time I got to the mail room hoping to snap a picture, it was too late. It was a big hit with our colleagues and graduate students. I liked how moist and flavorful it turned out, but in my opinion the passionfruit flavor was not prominent enough. Next time I will skip the banana, and maybe stick with two fruits only, for instance mango and passionfruit. Those are the ideas floating in my mind for a new version. The frosting will stay exactly the same. A total winner, that will show up again in future bakings. You can count on that.
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