As the creator of the Ageless Diet, I’ve learned through my own experiences, anecdotal evidence, and hard science, that it’s much easier to give up sugar all together than try a diet of moderation. In fact, the “all things in moderation” diet of most Americans is killing them. I know too much about sugar to want to eat it. That stuff will kill you. It’s scary, and I’m scared of it. Sugar is candy for cancer, among other things. And I have a serious sweet tooth. So, like any addict, I can’t indulge my addiction. I spent over two decades indulging my sweet tooth daily, sometimes hourly, and felt kind of bad all the time.
Now that I’ve been off sugar since 2010, and on the Ageless Diet for the past year and a half, I’m leaner, fitter, stronger and healthier than ever. I don’t want to go back. So… what does this have to do with a hummingbird cake? And why would I post this recipe? Well, I’ll tell you why.
I’ve mentioned I’m a great baker – not bragging, just facts – and I used to bake a couple of times a week. Brownies, cookies, cakes, pies, banana breads, more cookies… But I quit after 2010. It wasn’t serving me or my nearest and dearest. We were getting plump on the stuff. And I didn’t want to use my (baking) powers for evil. But, very rarely I bring out my super-baking alter ego. Because, what about very special occasions? Like a birthday? Well, even I, Ageless Diet™ proponent and advocate, relax my standards once a year. I didn’t eat cake for my birthday. (As I mentioned, I’m too addicted to sugar – one of the most addictive substances around – and once I start, it’s very painful to stop.) But I did make the cake for Scott’s birthday.
Last week was Scott’s birthday. And he wanted a cake. The hummingbird cake, which is one of the best cakes EVER. I’m not a big fan of this “treat yourself” mentality that means rewarding yourself with toxic food because you’ve been good or had a hard day and need cheering up. However, treating yourself to a slice of cake on your birthday, when you never eat the stuff, that’s allowed. It’s a special day, and you deserve cake. Or at least, Scott did. He’s lost about 40 pounds on the Ageless Diet. And he eats so well 99% of the time that I wanted to bake him a cake.
Here’s my Ageless Diet cake-eating philosophy: eat it once a year, make sure it’s a very special occasion, share it with everyone in your neighborhood, and then the next day go back to eating for an Ageless You. With this cake-eating philosphy in mind, I thought I’d share with you my recipe for the best damn cake ever. Enjoy! It’s a once in a lifetime cake, or at least a once in a year cake.
Recipe: Hummingbird Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated white sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup safflower or canola oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 8 ounce can crushed pineapple, do not drain
- 2 medium sized bananas, mashed
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, optional
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 1/2 cup organic unsalted butter, room temperature
- Two – 8 ounces of organic cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 pound bag of confectioners or powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 big splash of bourbon or rum, optional
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, optional
- Pecan halves for garnish, optional
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees, place the rack in the center of the oven. Butter two – 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottoms of the pans with a circle of parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper too.
- Place the pecans on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 8 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Let cool and then chop finely.
- In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon.
- In another large bowl, mix together the eggs, oil, vanilla extract, pineapple, mashed bananas, and finely chopped pecans, and, if you want, the coconut. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir until combined. Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. After about 10 minutes invert the cakes onto the wire rack, remove the pans and parchment paper, and then cool completely before frosting. I often make the cakes the day before and allow to cool, in their pans, overnight. You want the cakes totally cool before frosting.
- Once the cakes are cool, use a large serrated knife and cut each cake in half horizontally, so that you have 4 layers of cake.
- In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and cream cheese, on low speed, until very smooth with no lumps. Gradually add the sifted powdered sugar and beat, on low speed, until fully incorporated and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract and the booze, if you’re using whiskey or rum. (I like a good bourbon in this.) Add a tablespoon of lemon juice for a little brightness – this is optional, but I like it because it cuts the sweetness a little. And I love citrus, in almost everything.
- To assemble, place one cake, top side down, onto your serving platter. Spread with about a fifth of the frosting. Gently place the other cake layer, top of cake facing up, onto the frosting, and spread an equal amount of frosting on that layer, do the same with next layer of cake. Put the last and fourth layer of cake – top of the cake facing up – on top, and do a crumb coat – a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Don’t worry if your frosting has crumbs in it. That’s the point of the crumb coat. With a clean frosting knife or spatula, spread the rest of the frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Be generous. You want a lush, tall looking cake. You can garnish the top with pecan halves. I usually skip the garnish because I like the look of a tall white cake. Refrigerate the cake for at least one hour so the frosting has time to set. Enjoy!
About the Author: Tania Van Pelt is the creator of Happiness Series. She is a writer and content creator, working in film, tv, and online. She wrote the popular lifestyle book "Ageless Diet," published in late 2015. And she is currently working on her next book. She also developed a sitcom pilot set in the restaurant business called "Employees Only TV" and is developing another web series comedy about Denver.