Monday, April 7, 2014

Hummingbird Cake and the Value of Tradition

I read an article recently about how the great Southern cakes of tradition were losing popularity, and more often than not, weren't included in new cookbook publications. This includes Southern Caramel Cake, which I made for Thanksgiving, and Hummingbird Cake, which I made this Sunday for my father's 67th birthday.

Why are they falling out of favor with modern day cooks? The article's author wasn't certain, but speculated that perhaps it was time. Preparing a cake from an old Southern recipe is not an act of haste. It's a morning, at least, and can be the better part of an entire day. It's a fine art, and can't be rushed. I learned this Thanksgiving Day, after almost an hour of slowly stirring icing into caramel perfection.


I love tradition, and though I am passionate about healthy eating, I'm also equally passionate about my own cultural food heritage. For a long time, I'd wanted to make the Hummingbird cake, but was intimidated by the amount of ingredients and multiple layers this cake involved. Still, I knew my father would love it! His birthday was a perfect time to try the recipe!


A key ingredient for Hummingbird Cake is pecans, which my family always has in abundance due to the multiple pecan trees on my parents' property. Some people substitute almonds for pecans, but to me, it's just not the same. Even the icing calls for pecans, finely chopped, and trust me, finely chopping pecans is a definite labour of love!!


Hummingbird Cake is three layers, rich icing in between each one. I made the icing between baking layers, with a little help from someone keen to sample it!


Of course, I don't complain...I sampled pecans plenty between the chopping! It's impossible not to!


Lunch preparations while the layers cooled...


         ...then, the icing, while the boy waited anxiously to enjoy the leftovers in the bowl! Do children ever tire of 'cleaning' icing bowls? I don't think so! 



And then, the Hummingbird Cake was done. A morning spent in joyous, fulfilling work, a tradition continued. A homemade cake is a gift in itself, but a traditional Southern homemade cake tends to get everyone excited. My father and family enjoyed it and there were plenty of leftovers, as these cakes tend to be quite large with multiple servings.

Tonight, I had a couple of friends stop by, and we enjoyed coffee and a few slices of leftover cake. And the boy, who has requested this be his birthday cake from now until infinity, was delighted to have the last slice!




Traditions are so important, to preserve and to pass on to the next generation, and food traditions are no exception. There is history, story, and life in the origin of a cake, the name of a recipe, or the memory of the first place you tried a certain dessert. It may be a simple thing to some, but the greatest joys of our days often lie in what seems like the simplest of things!

There are many Hummingbird Cake recipes to be found. Below is the link to the one I made:

2 comments:

Mari ❤ SaimaaLife said...

Yippee! I can get all the ingredients from Finland. I´ll try to bake my first Hummingbird cake next weekend. I´ll let you know then how did it go ;) Thank you so much Amy for sharing this tradition of yours in your blog!

Amy Alley said...

I can't wait to hear how it goes!!! :-)