The Fruitful Inspiration For Jamaica's Hummingbird Cake

hummingbird cake topped with pineapple
hummingbird cake topped with pineapple - Linda Hughes Photography/Shutterstock

Hummingbird cake boasts a captivating history intertwined with the culinary traditions of the Caribbean, particularly Jamaica. The recipe for hummingbird cake incorporates a handful of ingredients indigenous to the island, including two cherished tropical fruits: bananas and pineapples. Ripe bananas lend the cake its naturally sweet crumb, while fresh (never canned!) pineapples add a vibrant zest and chewiness. Aromatic spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, staples of Caribbean cuisine, impart a soul-soothing warmth. Pecans or walnuts offer a delightful crunch to counterbalance the succulent batter. And to top it all off, cream cheese frosting provides a tangy element to each bite.

Hummingbird cake is widely believed to have its roots in a promotional campaign by the Jamaican Tourism Board in the late 1960s. As part of an effort to draw more tourists to the island, the tourism board sent press kits to the United States and other countries that included recipes showcasing local Jamaican flavors. One of these recipes was for doctor bird cake, a name inspired by the national bird of Jamaica, the doctor bird, also known as the red-billed streamertail. A type of hummingbird, the doctor bird is renowned for its glossy black and vibrant emerald plumage, red bill, and notably long tail feathers.

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Hummingbird Cake Became A Favorite In The South

slice of hummingbird cake
slice of hummingbird cake - Jack7_7/Shutterstock

Doctor bird cake was a smash hit. In addition to the marketing materials, one of the first documented appearances of the recipe in the United States was in a 1978 issue of Southern Living, a lifestyle publication dedicated to Southern hospitality and travel. According to the magazine, a woman named L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina, submitted the recipe for hummingbird cake, which introduced the confection to an even broader American audience. As hummingbird cake made its way into kitchens throughout the American South, it was warmly embraced at gatherings and celebrations. The tropical fruit-infused spice cake was recently among the foods that made a big comeback, giving many of today's dessert lovers a taste of the Jamaican classic. In fact, Reese Witherspoon, a proud New Orleanian, baked a hummingbird cake for her friend and fellow actress Jennifer Garner on her 50th birthday.

The allure of hummingbird cake lies in its simplicity and marvelous fusion of spices and fruits native to Jamaica with the comfort food sensibilities of the South. What truly sets this fragrant cake apart, though, is its ability to transcend cultural boundaries. The unique blend of Caribbean and American flavors is a testament to hummingbird cake's cultural impact and its power to bring people together — with a little help from bananas and pineapples, of course.

Read the original article on Mashed.