Hummingbird Cupcakes and a Tale of Two Crows That Led the Way

hummingbird cupcakes 1Today is All Souls Day, a holy day in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches that honor the dead.  My friends, I have been saving this recipe for over a year now, having been inspired to make these cupcakes from an event that occurred at my grandmother’s burial in May 2014.  I am thinking today is the perfect time to share these Hummingbird Cupcakes with you as we remember and pray for those who have gone before us.

IMG_9038 sm

Jack Jones, my 4th great grandfather and grandson of the patriot Stephen Jones of St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

As I shared with you almost a year ago now in my post, Grilled Salmon Cakes – Saying Good-bye to Grandmaafter my grandmother passed in February of last year the final remnants of winter prevented us from laying her to rest until the weather warmed and the snows melted away.  That May I finally got to see where my grandmother’s family had lived since the late 1700s when American settler’s began pressing westward out of Virginia and North Carolina.  Having roots that deep in South-eastern Kentucky, of course we have a family cemetery filled with generations of my grandmother’s family.  It is out of this cemetery that the story inspiring these Hummingbird Cupcakes came about.

My grandmother’s constant companion for years was my very free-spirited cousin, Shelley.   Of course I was not surprised when my dad’s middle sister  checked in with my dad the evening we arrived in Kentucky and announced that Shelley had set up camp in the graveyard and would not be joining us for dinner. (That of course had my mother worried!)

hummingbird cupcakes 6The next morning after the family caravan wound through back-roads, passing house after house (and trailer after trailer) upon which I read  names familiar from my grandparents’ family trees, we found our way to where my grandfather was waiting for my grandmother under the eves of what  is now the Daniel Boone National Forest.  Shelley stood in front of a shelter  at the top of the dirt road waving at us, barefoot and smiling.  She had a story to share.

Her story began with two crows and ended in a place we thought was lost forever.

The previous evening, after my aunt had dropped her niece off, Shelley was communing with the silence , the trees, and the graves surrounding her when a pair of crows began cawing at her.  Shelley just drank her wine and eventually hummingbird cupcakes 7drifted off to sleep despite her noisy, uninvited companions.  In the morning, those two crows were still there and cawing at her when one suddenly spread it’s wings and flew away.  Shelley relayed that she had felt the need to follow it and so she did, chasing it down the dirt road and out of the cemetery. It came to rest at a small farm down the road where an astonished man was just coming out of his trailer when he saw Shelley come out of nowhere.

Turns out this man and the folks living in the neighboring trailers were distant cousins on my grandfather’s side…not completely surprising as we knew my grandfather’s parents had owned much of the surrounding land and had bequeathed it among a dozen sons and a daughter (never mind that my grandfather’s father was one of nearly 30 children).  Shelley was ecstatic. “Do you know about Barbecue Cliff???” she asked excitedly.

Hicks BBQ Cliff 3

Walking along a stone cropping along the path to Barbecue Cliff

Barbecue Cliff was a place our grandmother had spoken about often during the years of their companionship.  It was a huge gathering place for family shindigs (and I’m sure revivals as my grandmother was descended from generations of Baptist ministers).  Shelley had heard many stories about it from Grandma…but her mother, my dad, and my other aunt did not know its location. When Grandma passed, Shelley feared it was lost to our branch of the family forever.

Of course the man knew about Barbecue Cliff! He pointed over beyond the farm to the trees and hills behind and offered to show her.

“We can all go together and see it after we bury Grandma,” Shelley finished.  The woman who had owned the land previously had left a caveat in her will…no member of the entire clan could be denied access to the area.  We were all welcome.

Hawk Creek Exploring Stones

Exploring family history with my cousins.

I wanted to ask Shelly if she thought Grandma had sent the crows to show her the way…but I knew what her answer would have been.  “Of course!”

So now you know the story of the two crows.

Time for the cupcakes!

Now how did crows inspire these, you might ask.  Well they’re birds, right? LOL!  Anyway, besides the avian influence, I was also inspired by the fact that Hummingbird cake is a Southern favorite and my grandmother was a Kentuckian through and through.  Who would have thought  these pretty treats had started out with a pair of crows, huh?hummingbird cupcakes 2

Hummingbird Cupcakes

makes 2 dozen cupcakes
Ingredients
Dry Ingredients
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
Wet Ingredients
  • 3-4 large, very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, juices drained
  • 3/4 cup dried, shredded coconut, preferably unsweetened
  • 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) olive oil
  • 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting –

Garnish options: shredded dried coconut, shaved dried coconut, whole or half pecans

Directions
  1. Pre-heat overn to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Line two standard muffin tins with your desired liners and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.hummingbird cupcakes dry ingredients
  3. In a large bowl, add the sugar and vanilla.  With an electric mixer on medium, begin streaming the olive oil into the bowl.  Continue beating the oil, sugar, and vanilla until combined.
  4. Add eggs one at a time to the sugar mixture.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and beat mixture until it reaches a smooth, thin custard-like consistency.   Turn mixer off.hummingbird cupcakes oil sugar eggs
  5. Add the mashed bananas and crushed pineapple to the egg and sugar mixture. Turn the mixer on to medium-speed and beat until ingredients are combined.hummingbird cupcakes combining wet ingredients
  6. Turn mixer down to low speed and begin to gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Do not over-beat or the cupcakes will be tough.  If preferred, fold the flour in with a rubber spatula instead of using the mixer.hummingbird cupcakes adding dry ingredients
  7. Fold chopped pecans into the batter.hummingbird cupcakes fold pecans
  8. Divide batter evenly among the lined cups.  Begin with approximately 1/4 cup of batter in each.hummingbird cupcakes filling liners
  9. Place muffin tins in oven and bake 20-25 minutes.  When finished, cupcakes will be golden brown and a toothpick inserted into their center will come out clean.hummingbird cupcakes cooling
  10. Cool completely on wire racks before topping cupcakes off with Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting.hummingbird cupcakes icing
  11. Decorate as desired with shredded dried coconut, shaved dried coconut, whole or half pecans.

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2 responses to “Hummingbird Cupcakes and a Tale of Two Crows That Led the Way

  1. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed your post even if it was about the passing of your grandmother. I’m sure she is very proud of you and is smiling with your warm thoughts of her. The cupcakes sound wonderful.

    • Aw, thank-you, Karen! I was hoping I “still had it” in me to write a post (it’s been a long time!). I have a magazine clipping pinned on my collage board in my home-office with writing tips from Earnest Hemmingway. In one of them he says to write for yourself and for one other person…anyone…so I wrote this for my grandma 🙂 Good advice, huh?

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