One of my very favorite things about growing up in a Southern family is watching the way women handle births and deaths. Southern women are at their very best under these high-pressure conditions. They have seemingly boundless energy, planning-prowess, soothing words and of course, a box of seasoned and grease-splattered recipes for just a time as this.
I’m talking soul-healing food like meatloaf and slow-cooked green beans and banana pudding and one of my very favorites, hummingbird cake.
My grandma, Charlene, and I made a hummingbird cake on my birthday the year we moved her from Tennessee to a house down the street from us. Even though she didn’t understand what “gluten” was or why I couldn’t eat it, she worked from memory with my box of gluten-free cake mix and the same things she’d always used like bananas, pecans and a can of crushed pineapple to make a treat that was so good, we ate it again for breakfast the next morning.
When we lost my huband’s beloved grandma, Dottie, last week, I knew just what needed to be done.
Yesterday morning, me, my momma and Ada worked together to make a cake to take to the funeral. As we worked, Ada talked about both of her great-grandmothers and stirred the ingredients while standing on a chair. What a beautiful gift it is that she knew them both so well; that she’ll likely remember running her fingers over Dottie wrinkled hands or dancing to “Blueberry Hill” with my grandma.
It’s funny, but so many of the things in my kitchen are hand-me-downs from these women. They are so much a part of my day just because I am surrounded by their spirit left behind in Pyrex mixing bowls and seasoned pans. We even found this photo of my grandma stuck back in a kitchen cabinet as we were looking for the bundt pan.
I love that we’re able to take those ordinary things and make them part of our story. I love that Ada will remember standing on a chair between me and my momma on a Sunday afternoon. I hope she remembers how special it was that she made my grandma’s cake to honor her daddy’s grandma and nourish his momma. It is all so simple but…everything.
Here’s the recipe in case you want to make it for your Easter celebrations next weekend, friends…
Gluten-free yellow cake mix
Vegetable oil according to package directions (I substituted oil with applesauce)
Small can of crushed pineapple
3-4 mashed bananas
1 cup of pecans plus more for topping
1 can of cream cheese icing
- Mix the cake batter according to package directions.
- Once the batter is mixed thoroughly, add the pineapple, bananas and pecans to the mixture. I also added a splash of real vanilla.
- Spray the bottom and sides of a bundt pan and pour the batter evenly into the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
- Prick the cake to make sure it is baked through. When it is, allow the cake to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
- When the pan is cool enough to touch, carefully flip it over on the wire rack. Microwave the icing in a glass bowl then drizzle it over the cake. Carefully move the cake to a plate and top with chopped pecans.