Years ago, I was served a layered spice cake that had a lot of fruit in it and, though it was rather tasty, it was also incredibly sweet. I asked the hostess what kind of cake it was and she just smiled brightly, though we were all smiling at that point as our faces were locked in sugared grins. Next she sang out, “that right there is hummingbird cake!” One has to hope at this point that she didn’t mean the cake was made from actual hummingbirds and had simply been named this because it’s the solid equivalent of sugar water. The first known printing of the recipe was in a 1978 issue of Southern Living Magazine. But, why it’s actually called hummingbird cake is still rather debated. It could be the sweetness, but others say it’s because it makes you hum with happiness, and still others say its because it’s so good that people zoom in like hummingbirds to quickly devour it. Whatever the reason, it’s a cake with a large fan base that has won many awards at Southern county fairs. I haven’t had it in years, but the sweetness is unforgettable.
I have to admit that treats like these are way too sweet for me today, but it’s always fun to try new desserts that people bring to parties. When I was growing up, we always had our family favorites that each aunt would make for the occasion. It was never about choosing, you simply had a little slice of all of them, happily launching into a sugar coma afterwards. It was totally worth it. The thing that made these signature desserts truly wonderful was to see the pride in the creators’ faces as we dug into them. They had created a bit of edible art and were simply watching their audience. In some cases, I wasn’t entirely sure if they even enjoyed the requested dessert. It was enough to know that they had created something that made people happy. We didn’t have to actually tell them. They could hear it in the happy little moans that come from eating something delicious. Catching the eye of the baker, you’d only have to smile to show them just how much their creation was appreciated.
These desserts aren’t the kind you’re likely to find endorsed by those fancy pastry chefs. They’re simply kitchen experiments made by everyday people who had an idea to combine some ingredients in order to see what happened next. Their works of art didn’t come with a set of rules to follow. They just came from the heart. And because of this, they managed to find an audience of people ready to devour them. That’s why I approach my own art in the same way. I never worry too much about proper technique, I just like to toss together some ingredients. Each day, I keep trying things to see what comes out. I’m not a master painter. I’m just a guy who likes to doodlewash stuff. But, in the back of my head I always remember those delightful desserts that would show up at gatherings. They were once just an idea as well. So, who knows, if I keep on going, then maybe one day, I’ll make something that’s considered as amazing as hummingbird cake.
About the Doodlewash
Sennelier L’Aquarelle: Quinacridone Gold, Perylene Maroon, Phthalocyanine Blue, Burnt Sienna, and Payne’s Grey. Lamy Safari Al-Star Fountain Pen – Extra Fine, with Platinum Carbon black ink in an A6 Hahnemühle Watercolor Book.
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!