I feel kind of like Thomas Edison today. (Actually, nerd alert: I’ve been kind of obsessed with Thomas Edison ever since I was a kid, mainly because we share a birthday and — hello — he literally invented the light bulb, along with a thousand other things.) Thomas Edison was apparently relentless in pursuing his inventions, trying over and over again until he finally figured out the right fibers that would keep a light bulb burning bright.
Well, I, too, have been relentless. Relentless in my pursuit of the perfect apple hummingbird cupcake, which I proudly present to you after many, many failed attempts.
First of all, hummingbird cake is one of my favorite Southern desserts. It’s like a lighter, sweeter riff on carrot cake, with a blend of bananas, crushed pineapple, toasted pecans and cinnamon. The cake is topped off with a fluffy layer of cream cheese icing, which, honestly, is the best icing ever. There’s no comparison, really. If there’s another icing you can eat straight from the bowl with a spoon for comfort, then you let me know. Otherwise, it’s cream cheese icing, all the way.
It’s honestly taken me months to come up with a hummingbird cupcake recipe that I feel good about sharing, mainly because fruit baked into cakes is a little bit like throwing sand into the wind. Fruit can be finicky in cake — it can make the cake batter too wet, which means that when baked, the cake doesn’t rise or firm up enough. One time, I added chunked apples and the apples overcooked, meaning that I had these bland little blobs peppered throughout the cupcakes that also had this weird sticky texture. It was not good.
Happily, the brilliance of this apple hummingbird cupcake actually came because I ran out of overripe bananas. Hummingbird cake typically incorporates crushed pineapple and overripe bananas in its batter, and I didn’t have any. I scrambled around my pantry looking for an appropriate substitute before settling on 5 packs of apple banana GoGo Squeeze Apple Banana applesauce pouches. It was not my proudest culinary moment, but I figured what the heck? I could always chalk this up to yet another failed attempt. My kids will eat virtually any baked good I make anyway, so I figured I’d make these hummingbird cupcakes, serve them to my family, and never speak of them again.
I settled on 5 GoGo Squeeze applesauce pouches, not 6 or 4, because when I squeezed them into a measuring pitcher it most closely approximated 2 cups, which I figured was a nice rounded number should the recipe actually work and you might want to make these hummingbird cupcakes without the indignity of squeezing individual pouches of a children’s snack into your cake batter.
Apparently, GoGo Squeeze apple banana pouches are the filament to my light bulb, because — by God — these were the ticket to the moistest, tastiest hummingbird cupcakes I’ve ever made. The cake held together nicely, with bits of pineapple and crunchy toasted pecan woven throughout. I used paper cupcake liners inside of my silicone muffin pans (see my other essential baking tips here), and the cupcake liners peeled easily off of the cupcakes without leaving a sticky mess behind. These are delicious cupcakes that you can make, over and over again, and feel good about it.
And really, isn’t that what life is all about anyway?
- For the cake:
- 3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
- 1.5 cups caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1.5 cups canola oil
- 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup crushed pineapple, with juices
- 2 cups applesauce (I used 5 GoGo Squeeze apple banana applesauce pouches because #momlife)
- 1 cup toasted chopped pecans
- For the cream cheese frosting:
- 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- ¼ cup confectioners' (icing) sugar
- Optional: pecans or sprinkles, for decorating
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (170 degrees Celsius). Prepare 2 muffin pans (either flour and butter, or line with paper liners).
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add the beaten eggs and canola oil, stirring until the batter is just moistened. Add the vanilla, pineapple, applesauce and chopped pecans, stirring again until just combined.
- Divide the batter evenly between the muffin pans, filling each muffin hole so that it's about ¾ths full. Immediately slide the pans into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway. Test the cupcakes with a metal skewer or toothpick to make sure they're done -- the skewer should come out clean. If it doesn't, bake for another 5 minutes, checking again to make sure they're done.
- Remove the muffin pans from the oven and let cool for 5-7 minutes, then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack for cooling.
- While the cupcakes are cooling, make the cream cheese frosting. Pour the whipping cream and confectioners' (icing) sugar into a bowl and beat with a hand mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the cream cheese, using the hand mixer to whip the icing again if there are any lumps.
- When the cupcakes are completely cool, frost the cupcakes with the cream cheese icing. Decorate with more whole pecans or sprinkles.