'Hummingbird' cake hits the spot for bingo players Luscious slices laden with pineapple win raves and help worthy cause GLEN BURNIE

November 11, 1992|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

They come to get a slice of this legendary cake as much as they come to win at bingo.

As people file past the kitchen toward bingo tables, they call to Ruth Nevin, "You know what I want," or "I'll have my usual." They're eyeing the high Bundt cake Mrs. Nevin is poised to cut into 12 or more hefty slices.

This is Mrs. Nevin's hummingbird cake, a cake so rich, so loaded with bananas, pineapples and pecans, that it weighs a good 6 to 7 pounds. At Thursday night bingo, a slice goes for 50 cents, and the slices go fast.

So fast that Mrs. Nevin, president of the Glen Burnie Volunteer Fire Company Auxiliary, just started baking two cakes each week for the fire company's charity bingo. For five years she had been baking just one a week, but the cake almost always sold out before the first number was called, leaving people disappointed even before they started playing.

One cake is lathered with cream cheese frosting, the other left plain.

"A lot of people don't care for icing while they're playing bingo. It's messy," says Mrs. Nevin, as she licks frosting off her fingers after slicing the cake.

On a recent rainy Thursday night, wrapped slices neatly lined a red tray, sharing space with pineapple upside-down cake and brownies. It's unusual for so many homemade donated sweets to turn up, says Mrs. Nevin, who is thrilled that people want to donate their efforts to the volunteers. Her son, Tom, is the chief of the 79-member company.

The canteen, which will go through 5 pounds of hot dogs, a dozen tuna sandwiches, half a crock pot of barbecue, 34 bags of chips and pretzels and countless hot and cold drinks before the night is over, opens an hour before bingo starts.

"You know, my usual," waves Amelia Picha as she walks by.

Mrs. Nevin collects five pieces of uniced cake for the elderly woman. Ms. Picha says she'd take more, but her doctor has warned her about her cholesterol. She and Sylvia Kackel, with whom she shares a residence, will nibble on the cake until next Thursday. She's been doing this since Mrs. Nevin's been bringing in her hummingbird.

"When it's so good, why should I buy in a store?" Ms. Picha asks.

But there's no bingo, and therefore no hummingbird cake, during the summer. What do they do? "We go like this," says Ms. Kackel, and she stuffs her fingernails in her mouth and pretends to chew them.

Joan Chenoweth takes two uniced pieces, one for herself. Because she doesn't bake at home, Mrs. Nevin's cake is quite a treat. At a lull in the bingo action, she returns for a slice with frosting.

Slice by slice, the hummingbird goes. There's a lot of mumbling about "Ruth's cake."

"When I worked for the school system, a co-worker made it," Mrs. Nevin says. "And I said, 'Oh, this is very good.' And I said give me the recipe, and I've been making it ever since."

Once she began baking it for bingo, she stopped baking it at home.

She shops on Wednesday, hoping bananas are on sale, and tries to bake Wednesday night. Each hummingbird has about $5 worth of ingredients.

Mrs. Nevin's daughter, Pat Hagedorn, takes three pieces, two of which will delight her co-workers at the Anne Arundel County Employees Credit Union Friday morning.

When the canteen closes, two pieces of hummingbird remain in the tray with other baked sweets.

"I don't remember ever having hummingbird left," Mrs. Hagedorn says. Mrs. Nevin doesn't recall when so much other cake was donated.

It goes in the freezer for next week.

The canteen's profit is $79, a good night.

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