One Bowl Hummingbird Cake Bars ~ these little bars have all the bells and whistles of the classic Southern hummingbird layer cake, but in a snack-able bar form.
Who could resist something called a hummingbird cake? I think it conjures up lazy Southern afternoons, porch swings, and sweet tea. It sounds like something that’s been around since the rebel yell, but in truth, it was a reader’s recipe that debuted in a 1978 issue of Southern Living. The fact that it’s become a household word since then is a testament to how wonderful it is.
The cake is rich with crushed pineapple, ripe bananas, and walnuts. And a killer cream cheese frosting. Mine has a couple of secret ingredients thrown into the mix, but we’ll get to them later.
I’ve been in the mood for Hummingbird cake for a while now but I’m not a big layer cake kind of gal. That’s how you usually see it, sometimes with 3 or 4 layers. These little bars suit me much better, and as a bonus we can take these on the plane with us today. We’re heading out to Massachusetts for Molly’s graduation. I’m full of conflicting emotions, and I’m not a happy flyer, so I’ll need to distract myself on the plane. A crisp new copy of Bon Appetit, my spa socks, and a couple of these luscious bars in tupperware and I’ll feel more relaxed. Maybe we’ll even have an empty seat next to us… I can dream, can’t I?
I don’t know what I love most about these…the moist banana cake, the pineapple…the walnuts. Who am I kidding, I love the frosting best. Nothing beats cream cheese frosting. And what’s nice about these bars is that the frosting and the cake get equal billing. That means that although these bars are small, they pack a wallop. But you’re probably wondering about those secret ingredients…ok, I added coconut, and a little shot of Bourbon. I tinkered with the original 1978 recipe, which you can see here.
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp Bourbon
- 1/2 cup crushed pineapple, don't drain
- 1 ripe banana, well mashed
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts (plus more for garnish)
- 1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 5 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
- squeeze of lemon
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Set oven to 350F
- Put the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of a stand mixer and toss to combine. (You can do this by hand, too.) Mix in the egg, oil,and Bourbon.
- Blend in the pineapple, mashed banana, coconut,and nuts. Mix just enough to combine all the ingredients thoroughly.
- Spread the batter in a 71/2 x 11 1/2 greased brownie pan and bake for about 18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out without wet batter clinging to it. (Moist crumbs are ok.)
- Cool the cake before frosting.
- To make frosting, mix the butter with the cream cheese and then gradually beat in the sugar until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. Blend in the lemon juice and vanilla. Add more sugar if the frosting is too thin.
- Spread on the cooled cake, and top with more finely chopped walnuts. Store in the refrigerator.
Speaking of hummingbirds, my sister has had a nest on a spindly bougainvillaea branch right outside her bedroom window for the past few weeks. She watched the mother build it bit by bit, wiggling her little butt around to form the hollow as she went, carving out the perfect customized shape. She laid her first egg on Mother’s Day. No kidding. And the second one came soon after, and now the babies are getting too big to fit in the miniscule nest. They have to take turns sitting on the edge. She did some research and found out that mother hummingbirds are so diligent that they sometimes have two nests going at one time, and they shuttle back and forth between them. Eventually the babies get too big for the nest and the biggest one basically falls out and is forced to fly, and that’s his coming of age. The other one gets a few more days of luxury and then, that’s it, he disappears. We’ve both been glued to the window watching the whole thing. My sister has her oldest son going off to college later this summer, and my youngest is graduating. Pretty heavy symbolism, I know.
I’m glad I have these bars to take my mind off it all.