Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook Review

I am carrying on testing my cookbook collection, this time trying out my Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook which I've had for quite a while. I love to look through it and swoon over the cakes at regular intervals but I've always been afraid of making anything from it! I really like cupcakes, as previous posts have shown, but I'm not the best at baking - especially not at making buttercream/frosting. I'm a big fan of the Hummingbird Bakery's cakes when I'm on holiday in London. It's probably a good thing I don't live anywhere near one of their shops! The red velvet is the ultimate cupcake, alas I have not tried making them from this book yet - would they really compare to the ones you can buy in store? The book itself is nicely presented and would catch the eye of anyone with a love of those pretty little cakes. It's not just cupcakes though, there are also recipes for brownies, pies, muffins, biscuits, cheesecakes and full-size cakes. There are full-page photos of each of the recipes which is always useful, especially when making cupcakes. I want to see what the frosting should look like and what they use as toppings to make them look extra pretty. The amount of recipes you get is great, 15 for cupcakes alone. Everything looks delicious, can you put on weight just by reading a book? I hope not! And the cakes are truly the ones that they sell in their shops, not just quickly invented to sell a cookbook. Does that mean the recipes are foolproof though?

I do find the quantites a little too much. I don't want to make 12 cupcakes if I'm only baking for 2 people, but with the recipe only needing 1 egg you're trying to split an it equally. Tricky!

My first trial was for Banana Loaf. I'm sure this is something a lot of people make regularly but I've never had a go before. The recipe was easy to follow and didn't take too long to whip up. The oven was a little too hot so the top coloured before the rest of the loaf cooked all the way through, however it didn't taste at all burnt!! Phew!!

The mashed banana did sink a little as you can see in the photo, the outside slices were certainly nicer than towards the middle but the flavour was really lovely, especially with the addition of cinnamon and ginger. It's a comforting snack which was great to take to work for morning break. I'd probably make a smaller quanitity next time so it cooks properly all the way through, plus I end up getting a bit bored with something if I have too much of it. Mostly happy with this first recipe.
Then, my nemesis. The cupcake. Argh - frosting! It's such a simple recipe but it goes wrong for me everytime! I've fancied making (eating) the Marshmallow Cupcakes since I bought the book so thought that's the recipe I'd choose to make. The cake was easy to make, I did halve the recipe so made 6 instead of 12. My cases were of an average size, I think I bought the Tinkerbell design from a New York baking suppliers. The mixture made a good 5 and then the 6th cake was a fair bit smaller. Not too bad. They didn't rise a huge amount but they were very flavourful, they weren't so great the next day though as the sponge had gone a little soggy.

But the frosting, oh dear. I still haven't cracked it! Icing sugar, butter, a little milk and some vanilla extract. What could go wrong? It was looking way too dry, then for a few seconds it looked brilliant, then I think I put a smidge too much milk and it was lost!! It was also a lot more yellow than in the book as I went a little vanilla mad! Not a complete fail but no-where near as beautiful as it should have been. It did harden overnight but it was a choice - soggy cake but better frosting or yummy cake but liquid frosting?! Liquid frosting methinks. Such a shame. It did taste nice and the marshmallows were lovely but yet again I can't make frosting. What is wrong with me?! Maybe I didn't mix the frosting for long enough or I just added too much milk. Do I blame the recipe? Boo, will try again when I'm feeling braver! But for now I'll keep cupcakes as an item to buy rather than to make!

So all in all it's hard to know whether to recommend this book or not. It'd be great to hear some opinions on whether the recipes have worked for you or not. Could be I'm just meant to stick to savoury. But for £4.99 from The Book People I think it's worth buying just to salivate over!


  1. I've made chocolate brownies from the book that worked really well (although I have other recipes I prefer), and my mother has made a few things that have turned out fine, so I think you can recommend it. Are you using a stand or electric mixer for your icing? If not, life will be much simpler. You need to have your butter really soft, if necessary soften it for a few seconds (10-15) on a low setting in the microwave - bear in mind that butter melts from the inside out, so keep an eye on it and keep prodding it. Sift your icing sugar before adding - I almost never sift anything, but this is a must-do. Mixes better and you don't have any lumps. Now beat the hell out of it. You should never have to add more than 2-3 teaspoons of milk, if the butter is at the right consistency to begin with. I like a generous dollop of vanilla, about a capful, but this shouldn't make a difference to the texture. If your butter is a bit hard, you just need to keep beating until it softens, don't add liquid to compensate. Hope that helps. Peggy

  2. I too look longingly at the pictures in the book. I've only ever cooked something form it once (the bog standard vanilla cupcakes) and was terrified as I knew I couldn't get them to look as good as the picture no matter how hard I tried! I know what you mean about the quanities, 12 cupcakes is far to much when there's only two of you!

  3. Hi Natalie, I too gaze longingly at the recipes in this book - I used to be a bit of a regular customer a couple of years ago. I think your cupcakes look great! I have made a couple of things from the book, with some success, but it's not the same as going there! As Peggy says above, a mixer makes the frosting a breeze. You must try the chocolate cream cheese icing, it's divine!

  4. My sister-in-law has offered to buy me a Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. I'm just not sure whether to get the general one or Cake Days. I have heard mixed reviews about the quantities used in recipes (some say they are incorrect) while others simply rave about them from start to finish. How do I decide what to do?

  5. I screwed up every single recipe I tried (muffins - tasted like cake with fruits sinking to the bottom), brownies tasting like cake (not bad, but just not brownies), just the apple pie turned out ok. So I don't recommend this book at all... (possibly I am just a very bad baker though)