Monday, October 31, 2011

I Hear the Hummingbirds Calling

As I'm writing this post, I'm listening to the gentle sound of raindrops falling on the roof. It had been a hot and humid day. Just when you think there is no stopping the heat, rainfall gave a pleasant relief on a Monday evening. Tonight is the eve of Halloween. Following the trend driven by the U.S. media,  I saw some children dressed in costumes trick-or-treating yesterday at the mall. But tradition in my country is a bit more than just dressing up and collecting candies. We celebrate All Souls' Day and All Saints' Day by remembering and honoring our dead loved ones. Instead of costumes, people are busy buying candles, flowers and food. Evening news feature paranormal and supernatural events, meant to give you some goosebumps and scare. Days before Nov. 1 and 2, airports, ships and buses will be packed as people rush to go back to their hometowns. Most of the streets are also quiet and rather empty. There is only one place where you can find most of the people at: the cemetery. Traffic going in and out of the cemeteries and the nearby streets is tight. Prayers are offered to souls, candles lighted and flowers are left in front of the tombs and occasionally, as odd as it is, even food for the dead. The pecularities do not end there. There is a "fun" side to our Halloween celebration too. It is a time for families to reunite and spend time together. Tents, chairs and tables are set up in front of the tombs to provide shelter from the heat or rain where families will mingle and chit-chat. Some people even spend the night at the graveyard. There is plenty of food and drinks going around with food stalls and vendors lined up just outside the cemeteries. People bring music and games for entertainment. It really is becoming more of an odd, big cemetery-style picnic. I feel that the whole essence of the celebration seems to be lost gradually over time.

I've missed the past couple of years celebrating All Souls' Day like everyone else and this year is not going to be any different. The heat, the overwhelming crowd and chaos are sometimes a little too much for me. I much prefer to stay at home and offer my prayers quietly. That also gives me more time to do what I enjoy the most, baking and food gawking online.  :)  Ah, I savor and relish my 4-day weekend.

I have made these Hummingbird cupcakes over a year ago. Hummingbird is such a pretty little name for a sweet cake with incredibly moist layers full of pineapple, chopped bananas and nuts. Some theories suggest a connection between its curious name with the eating habits of the Hummingbirds. It seems that these little birds are attracted to intensely sweet food, like the people who are attracted to this cake and consume it quickly. Whatever the reason is, I like this cake because it is packed full of fruits and you can eat more of it, with less guilt (though not completely guilt-free!) 

recipe adapted from Oprah by Art Smith at Table Fifty-Two Restaurant

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups chopped ripe bananas
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat to 350°. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Set aside.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, stir the bananas, pineapple, oil, eggs and vanilla together until combined. Do not use an electric mixer. Pour into the dry mixture and fold together with a large spatula just until smooth. Do not beat. Fold in the pecans. Divide evenly among the cupcake liners, filling until about 2/3 full. 

Bake for 25 to 27 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the cupcakes to wire racks and cool completely. Frost the tops of the cupcakes with cream cheese icing using a spatula (or spoon as I do). Sprinkle with dessicated coconut. Top cupcakes with a cherry.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese , room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter , room temperature
4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted 
1 tsp vanilla

Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until combined. On low speed, gradually beat in the sugar, then the vanilla, to make a smooth icing.