Hummingbird Cake

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Photography Credit: Steve-Anna Stephens

Please welcome my dear friend, guest author Steve-Anna Stephens as she shares a Southern classic! ~Elise

Do you have a sweet tooth? Truth be told—I do not. At all. Pass me a second helping of beef tenderloin at dinner, thank you very much, and you can have my dessert.

So, the Hummingbird Cake perplexes me, because, well, I can’t stop eating it.

Maybe it’s the pecans that lure me in, or the way the taste fools me into thinking I might just be eating a fancy piece of banana bread with a little cream cheese. Good for you, right?

This has to be the one of the sweetest, most scrumptious cakes around. Given their love for sugary nectar, one has to imagine hummingbirds would love to feast on this cake. But tough luck, hummingbirds! No one’s leaving this cake outside unattended.

Hummingbird Cake

Since the original recipe for Hummingbird Cake first appeared in 1978 in Southern Living, it holds the title for the “most requested recipe” in the magazine’s history. This version differs from the basic one only slightly.

I’ve added nutmeg, used both baking soda and baking powder for a little extra browning and lift, and added some Cointreau to the frosting. It’s a wonderfully simple cake to make, with impressive results on all counts.

Have you ever tried Hummingbird Cake? If you haven’t, and you have a sweet tooth, this cake’s for you. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Hummingbird Cake Recipe

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  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 12 to 16

Ingredients

Cake Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (make sure your baking powder is still fresh!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple, with juice
  • 2 cups mashed bananas (from about 3-4 bananas)
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients*

  • 1 lb cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 lbs (32-ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp Cointreau**
  • 1 cup roughly chopped pecans, for topping (optional, toasted)
  • Edible flowers for garnish (optional)

Frosting Notes:

*The cream cheese frosting recipe can be cut in half if you prefer less frosting. If so, apply sparingly so there is enough to cover the entire cake.

**Feel free to use any favorite liquor, such as Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, Cognac, Armagnac, Brandy or even Bourbon. Or, simply omit the liquor and use 2 tsp vanilla extract.

Method

Cake

1 Preheat oven and prepare cake pans: Preheat oven to 350° F.  Butter and flour three 9-inch round cake pans.

2 Whisk together dry ingredients: In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg (optional).

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3 Whisk together oil, sugar, eggs, then stir in pineapple, bananas, vanilla, 1 cup of pecans: In a separate bowl, whisk the canola oil, sugar, and eggs together until combined. Stir the pineapple, bananas, vanilla and one cup of the chopped pecans into the egg mixture and mix (do not beat).

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4 Fold wet ingredients into dry: Using a wooden spoon or spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined (do not over-mix).

5 Pour into cake pans and bake: Pour the batter into the three prepared cake pans, taking care to divide evenly. Bake at 350°F on center racks of oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

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6 Cool: Allow the cakes to cool in the pan on wire racks for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, run a knife around the edges and remove the cakes from the pans.  Cool completely on wire racks before frosting.

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Cream Cheese Frosting

1 Beat butter and cream cheese, add vanilla: Beat the softened butter and cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer. With the mixer on a slow speed, add the confectioners’ sugar in small amounts until all is incorporated, then add the Cointreau and vanilla and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Note: Do not add the confectioners’ sugar while the mixer is set on a high speed, or you will create a snowy mess of sugar all over your kitchen. [Please do not ask me how I know this.]

2 Frost the cake: Place one layer, top down, on a large plate or cake stand (this creates a smooth surface on the top and results in a more level cake). Spread frosting evenly over the first layer, then repeat with the second and third layers, then frost the sides.

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3 Sprinkle with chopped pecans: Sprinkle the top completely with the remaining cup of chopped pecans (toasted or un-toasted). Alternatively, press the chopped pecans onto the sides of the cake and leave the top simply frosted. Store in refrigerator, then remove one hour before serving to allow the cake to come to room temperature.

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Steve-Anna Stephens

Management consulting might be her day job, but Steve-Anna Stephens moonlights as an authentic Southern hostess and cook. Having spent the majority of her life in Alabama, Steve-Anna's wanderlust has carried her to Boston, Tucson, Southern California, and back to Tucson again.

More from Steve-Anna

Links:

1978 Submission by Mrs. L. H. Wiggins

The Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder

Showing 4 of 73 Comments

  • Dynah Gomez

    I’m sorry I’ve tried looking through comments for cupcake variation and baking time but haven’t found it. Anyone that can help me?

  • Shirley

    Would like to know if this can be baked bundt cake style and if so…please relate. I’d love to fix this for Thanksgiving. Would love a reply ASAP…this cake looks so delicious…SG

  • Rumi

    I would like to make this a two layer cake and wonder how much the batter would rise? I was thinking of filling two 9″ pans to 2/3 full and increase the baking time. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

  • Daynnell

    I made this cake when my inlaws came and it was such a hit, I decided to make it again for our county fair last week. I took first place in my class. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe!

  • Ron

    I’m a 66 year old man who has just now learned to cook. My Sainted Mother is 90, and can no longer cook for herself. Although I am new at this, I found a recipe for this Hummingbird Cake on the Internet. It sounded good since I even put pineapple in my cole slaw. Well, I’ll have to say, without a doubt, this is the best cake that has ever crossed my lips. And I made it! Simply wonderful.

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