Mattie’s chef Ethan Holmes has been running around the grounds of Green Pastures since he was a kid. His mother was friends with Ken Koock, who took over the restaurant from his mother, Mary Faulk Koock, in the 1960s.
By the time Holmes was turning 11, he already knew that he wanted to be a chef, so his mom coordinated a special "chef for a day" experience for him at the iconic South Austin restaurant.
Fast forward several decades, and Holmes is now the executive chef at the restaurant, which was renovated several years ago and is now called Mattie’s, named after Mary Koock’s mother.
The menu features a number of Southern classics, including hummingbird cake, a staple of church potlucks, bake sales and weddings from Texas to Georgia. Holmes’ grandmother, Blanche, taught him how to make the pineapple-and-banana cake when he was young, but to modernize it for the restaurant, pastry chef Kasey Fitzpatrick added a pineapple gelée made with gelatin, pineapple juice and ginger beer.
Hummingbird Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Pineapple Gelée
To get the icing right, let the cream cheese fully come to room temperature and sift the powdered sugar. Then, be sure to slowly incorporate the sifted powdered sugar. Your icing will be smoother and come together much faster, Holmes says.
For the cake:
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
2 bananas, peeled and chopped
1 cup cashews, toasted and chopped
For the cream cheese frosting:
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature and cubed
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 to 2 teaspoons spiced rum
For the pineapple gelée:
1 3/4 cup pineapple juice
2/3 cup ginger beer
2 teaspoons lemon juice
4 (1/4-ounce) envelopes powdered gelatin
For the hummingbird cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment to mix together the sugar and oil for 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Add vanilla extract and mix until combined.
Add the flour, salt, baking powder and spices. Mix until combined. Add the pineapple, bananas and cashews. Mix until combined.
Divide evenly among three 9-inch cake pans that have been sprayed and lined with parchment. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool cakes before removing from pans.
For the cream cheese frosting: Using a stand mixer, paddle room temperature butter and several cubes of the room temperature cream cheese until smooth.
Slowly add more cream cheese, scraping down bowl occasionally. Once all the cream cheese has been added, add in the powdered sugar. Scrape down the bowl and add liquid ingredients. Mix until smooth. Once the cakes have cooled, layer with cream cheese frosting and frost the outside.
To make the pineapple gelée: In a small bowl, add powdered gelatin to cold ginger beer and allow to start setting up. Bring pineapple juice and lemon to a boil in a small saucepan. Whisk slowly into the ginger beer mixture.
Pour the gelée mixture into a 9-inch cake pan that has been sprayed and lined with plastic wrap. Freeze until set up. Unmold and place on top of frosted cake. Makes one three-layer cake.
— From Mattie’s executive chef Ethan Holmes and pastry chef Kasey Fitzpatrick