Gluten Free · Snacks · Vegan

Hummingbird Energy Balls

Two of my good friends have birthdays a day apart, so last year I decided to make them a large two-flavor cake with “Happy Birthay” written in big letters on top.

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No you did not read that wrong. Cake decorating makes me nervous, and I was so preoccupied with trying to make the writing look decent that I actually left out the ‘d’ in birthday. That’s not even the worst part. I didn’t even notice until one of the birthday girls blew out her candle, then laughed and said, “it’s missing the’d’!” What’s more, I had sent a picture of the finished cake to two of my most trusted confidants the day before, asking them if it looked alright. Neither of the noticed either!

And I like to think I have an eye for detail.

Regardless, the cake was majorly delicious, and despite the typo, looked pretty nice overall. This was early April, around the time I start wanting to make my yearly carrot cake. But I also kept eyeing a recipe for hummingbird cake. Unable to decide, I chose to do something I wouldn’t normally do, and made the bottom layer carrot and the top layer hummingbird. I figured they both pair perfectly with cream cheese frosting, so why not? I went the extra mile and tried my hand at dried pineapple flowers, which like most things are 10x harder to execute than they seem. Luckily I salvaged three decent flowers from that tropical mess to put on top of the cake.

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Everyone who ate it raved about how much they liked the combination of the two cakes, but they all wanted to know what the top layer was. “Hummingbird cake” I replied, to blank stares. Sometimes I forget most people don’t spend their free time reading foodie magazines and websites, skimming through cookbooks, and prowling restaurant menus. So I explained it’s a southern cake, made with bananas, pineapple, coconut, and pecans.

If you’ve never had hummingbird cake, you must. It may very well tie with carrot as my favorite type of cake. Before making it, I did as I always do and read a dozen different recipes beforehand. I was surprised to find there’s find very little variation out there when it comes to this southern treat, so I just went with Martha’s recipe as written. It’s incredible. Don’t fix what ain’t broke. Make it!

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Lately I’ve been into making sweets with a nutritional content respectable enough to be eaten as a snack. We’re talking fruit, nuts, and little else. (Okay maybe dark chocolate.) It started at the beginning of the year when I decided it was high time to break my snacking ritual. I made these bars, which as I predicted I’m eating every other day, and more recently, truffles. Perfect for taking on the go, and so much more economical than buying a packaged bar for $2 a piece. As of right now, I have a 9×13″ Rubbermaid container in my fridge filled with a stockpile of healthy grab-and-go snacks. Hey, at least I’m not eating the same thing every single day anymore.

While most of these treats admittedly contain chocolate, the newest addition to the mix does not. These Hummingbird Energy Balls are exactly what they sound like, wholesome little bites with all the flavors of my favorite cake. They could not be easier to make. Pecans, dried pineapple, dried bananas, coconut, and dates get broken up in a food processor with a little cinnamon and vanilla. That’s it!

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A few notes on the ingredients, however. First off, pecans. I’ve made these using both raw and toasted pecans. I love both ways. To toast pecans, simply arrange them on a baking sheet and place them in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Cool slightly before handling.

The dried fruit. Dates are pretty self-explanatory. You may use whatever variety for these balls, just make sure they are pitted. For the dried pineapple, it is very important you find a kind that is unsweetened. None of those crystallized pineapple rings. Trust me, those are what I used on my first go, and the balls came out sweeter than an actual hummingbird cake. We don’t want that here. As for the dried bananas, they may be the trickiest ingredient to find. I initially thought to try banana chips in this recipe, because I forgot chewy, dehydrated bananas exist. I accidentally bought plantain chips though, so that never happened. While picking up a bag of unsweetened dried pineapple at Trader Joe’s, I noticed a pale yellow bag of dried baby bananas. Perfect! I think it set me back $2-3 only, and they were ideal for using in this recipe. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby, I’ve included a link in the recipe notes where you can buy a bag online. For the coconut, you may use flakes or shreds, so long as they are unsweetened.

These Hummingbird Energy Balls probably aren’t made with ingredients you already have in your pantry, but the shopping is the hardest part of the recipe! Once you have everything you need, you’ll be about five minutes away from these delicious little treats. Think of it this way, you’d have to run to the store to get ingredients for making a cake, but it’d be hours before you finally got to eat the results.

Hummingbird Energy Balls are an easy, sweet treat for when you feel like life has you going at a hummingbird’s pace!

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Hummingbird Energy Balls
Yields 14-18 balls

All the flavors of the traditional southern hummingbird cake, in the form of healthy little bites made from pecans, coconut, and dried fruit. A sweet snack for whenever you need a boost of energy.

INGREDIENTS

  • 71g (2/3 cup) pecans*
  • 50g (1/2 cup) dried unsweetened pineapple
  • 50g (1/2 cup) dried bananas
  • 50g (3 large, or 4-5 small) pitted dates
  • 60g (1/2 cup) unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

INSTRUCTIONS

Place all the ingredients in a food processor or high-powered blender. Pulse until the mixture resembles very fine crumbs, and holds together when pinched. Use your hands to form 14-18 balls, depending on desired size. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least an hour before eating. Keep stored in the refrigerator.


*Raw pecans or toasted are both great. You may also use walnuts for a slightly more affordable alternative.

**Dried bananas are different from banana chips. They are chewy just like any other dried fruit. They are sold at Trader Joe’s, or can be bought online (for an unfortunately ridiculous price).

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