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

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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.

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Sweet Potato Hummingbird Cake
Sweet Potato Hummingbird Cake

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:

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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.

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Sweet Potato Hummingbird Cake

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Makes 9-inch cake

For the cake:

  • 4 bananas
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 cups neutral vegetable oil
  • 3 cups diced pineapple
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dried black currants
  • 2 cups green peanuts (or roasted peanuts)
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled (about 3 medium)

For the icing:

  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups roasted peanuts, roughly chopped, for garnish
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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:

A Vintage Southern Cake, Made Tender with—Wait for It—Jam

A Vintage Southern Cake, Made Tender with—Wait for It—Jam by Posie Harwood

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Benne Wafers: A (Cookie) Gift from South Carolina

Benne Wafers: A (Cookie) Gift from South Carolina by Food52

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How to Make Moon Pies

How to Make Moon Pies by Lindsey S. Love | Dolly and...

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A New Holiday Tradition: Spiced Pear and Gorgonzola Pie

A New Holiday Tradition: Spiced Pear and Gorgonzola Pie by Beth Kirby | {local milk}

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Honey Pumpkin Biscuits

Honey Pumpkin Biscuits by Beth Kirby | {local milk}

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The Easiest Cake You'll Make All Year: Brown Butter Waffle Cake with Sorghum Buttercream

The Easiest Cake You'll Make All Year: Brown Butter Waffl... by Beth Kirby | {local milk}

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

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 more of our Fall Cookbook Cake Parade

Tags: ten speed publishing, poole's, ashley christensen