Cupcake Rampage: Hummingbird Cakes

I know what you’re thinking: Hummingbird cake? WTF? That’s okay, I’d never heard of it, either.

You could call this the third leg of a twisted Triple Crown of Southern-style baking, following the Kentucky Derby day mint julep cupcakes and the beloved red velvet ones before that. To carry the analogy further, if red velvet is Man o’ War, and mint juleps are Secretariat, then hummingbird cake would be Seabiscuit.

Get it? Of course you do.

Hummingbird cake is another creation peculiar to the Deep South with an even more convoluted and obscure history. Also called “granny cake” and “cake-that-doesn’t-last,” some sources claim the original recipe hails from Australia, where it’s also popular for some reason, while others say it started in Jamaica and was bastardized into its current incarnation along the way. The oldest recorded appearance of hummingbird cake is 1978, when it appeared as a reader-submitted recipe in Southern Living magazine. However, Jamaican newspapers have mentioned something called “Doctor bird cake” as early as a decade before that. The national bird of Jamaica is the red-billed streamertail hummingbird, also called the Doctor bird because its long tail feathers and top-hat-like crest makes it look…kind of, sort of, maybe if you squint and pretend it has a tiny birdie stethoscope around its neck…like the nappily-dressed Victorian doctors of old.

What all this has to do with a cake, no one seems to know. The Jamaica story is a stretch, at best. It could just be called what it is because this cake is so sweet, thanks to sugar from three separate ingredients, even a hummingbird would be attracted to it. However it came to be, the recipe is after the jump…

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