Sweet Potato Hummingbird Cake from Poole's

The Fall Cookbook Cake Parade

The Cake That Makes Us Want to Bake With a Southern State of Mind

October  7, 2016

Tra-la-la, it's The Fall Cookbook Cake Parade: a new cake from a new cookbook every single day. Are your costumes cake pans ready?

This article is brought to you by Ten Speed Press. Head here to learn more about the recently released cookbook Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner by Ashley Christensen.

Hummingbird cake is a Southern classic, so it's no surprise that it shows up on Ashley Christensen's menu at Poole's, her Raleigh, North Carolina diner that serves up modern comfort food. In her newest cookbook, Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner, Ashley gives the reader a bit of history behind the historic dessert:

There’s a debate that rages in all corners of the dessert-eating universe: cake or pie? It’s of particular importance in the South, where both tall-as-the-sky layer cakes and blue-ribbon pies are matters of pride and heritage. Though Poole’s has pie in its blood, we could never get away with omitting cake from the lineup. This occasion-worthy cake is based on a classic hummingbird cake. First published in Southern Living magazine in 1978, the original version, created by Mrs. L. H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina, the city where I was born, had banana and pineapple in its batter. It has since become one of the most requested recipes in the magazine’s history.

And then goes on to give you all the details about why hers is just a little different, employing sweet potatoes, roasted bananas, and "green" peanuts:

Our version adds sweet potatoes to the mix and substitutes green peanuts for the traditional pecans. Green, or “raw,” peanuts aren’t roasted like the peanuts at a baseball game, and they have a tender, almost bean-like texture. They’re worth seeking out (they come into season in the late summer and fall), but if you can’t find them near you, feel free to use roasted peanuts or another nut of your choice. We roast the bananas before adding them to the cake batter for two reasons: it concentrates the flavors of the banana and it yields a particularly smooth puree, which is better for the texture of the cake. Roasted banana puree will keep in the freezer in a resealable plastic bag for up to 6 months.

The cake got us thinking about what makes a "Southern cake"—or dessert even. Ben Mims explained that they're:

“recipes that use humble ingredients—mostly just Americana that has become famous in the South. It has to do more with intense richness—it hits you over the head. Living in the South, you’re used to it, but [when you leave and] come back, you’re like, oh my God.

Which sounds just like what we want right now. If you'd like to bake your way through the South, too, here are a few more sweet recipes:

For more recipes like this one, check out Poole's: Recipes and Stories From A Modern Diner.

Shop the Story

This article is brought to you by Ten Speed Press. Head here to learn more about the recently released cookbook Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner by Ashley Christensen.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • dusty516
  • Samantha Weiss Hills
    Samantha Weiss Hills
I love oysters and unfussy sandwiches.


dusty516 October 7, 2016
This cake sounds fantastic; I love the addition of sweet potatoes and green peanuts--how very Southern.

One thing, though, and please forgive me for being overly pedantic, but this site is too polished and pretty for typos like her's.
Author Comment
Samantha W. October 10, 2016
Thanks for the eagle eye -- and the cake is fantastic!
dusty516 October 10, 2016
No problem at all! If Food52 ever needs or wants a "Resident Grammarian"/Eagle-Eyed Editor, I would be more than happy to take the job. :)