When the middle of April rolls around, I start anticipating the annual return of hummingbirds to our house. And, by early May the Ruby Throated males begin to arrive to claim their feeding territories. It’s always exciting to spot the first one scouting out his familiar “fueling station” by our kitchen window.
Throughout the spring and summer I enjoy preparing sweet nectar for our feeders and watching the awesome flying antics of these diminutive creatures. Sporting plumage that literally shimmers in the sunlight and weighing one-eighth ounce, on average, their heart beats around 1,200 times a minute while they are feeding.
I’ve read that they are the only birds that can actually hover — amazingly beating their wee little wings up to 220 times a second. Often referred to as “God’s tiny miracle,” they can fly backwards, straight up and down or even side-to-side at 30 miles per hour. (They’ve been clocked at up to 63 miles an hour when in flight!)
Recently, while paging through the diocesan Centennial Cookbook, published in 1989, I came across a recipe for Hummingbird Cake, submitted by Clara Scheierl, a member of St. Louis Parish in Paynesville. I was intrigued by the recipe’s name and could tell by the ingredient list — including pineapple, bananas, cinnamon and nuts — that it is scrumptious. Learning it is topped off with cream cheese frosting left no doubt in my mind!
It was interesting to trace the cake’s origin and engaging moniker to Jamaica, where it was named after the Red-billed Streamertail, a hummingbird indigenous to the island.
Clara is mother to Father LeRoy Scheierl, pastor of St. Peter and St. Paul parishes in St. Cloud, and Deacon Richard Scheierl, deacon at St. Augustine Church and St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud. She and her late husband, William, had four other sons and two daughters.
Their daughter, Debra Schreifels, remembers her mom always having something sweet waiting for her and her siblings when they got off the bus after a day at school. Her mom was a great baker and, over the years, made a multitude of cookies, cakes, pies and bread — generally fitting seven loaves in the oven at once.
Of course there are many variations of this cake, but after Debra’s endorsement of her mother’s expertise, Clara’s recipe seems a delicious place to start.
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
8 oz. can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
2 cups diced very ripe bananas
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 13 X 9 X 2-inch pan (or three 9 X 1 1/2-inch round cake pans).
Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the eggs, oil and vanilla. Gently stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened. (Do not beat.) Fold in pineapple, nuts and bananas.
Pour into prepared pan/s and bake until set in the center and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean — 45-60 minutes for 13 X 9 X 2-inch pan or 25-30 minutes for round pans. (Don’t overbake. The cake should be moist.)
Ice with cream cheese frosting, when cool.