Hummingbird Cake

DessertBakingSouthernCake

Hummingbird Cake is a Southern classic! It's a spiced pineapple-banana cake topped with cream cheese frosting and pecans. Serve it for Easter or any family gathering.

Photography Credit: Steve-Anna Stephens

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

Hummingbird Cake: Sweet, Scrumptious and Loved by All

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.

What Is Hummingbird Cake?

If you’re not familiar, Hummingbird Cake is a spiced pineapple-banana cake topped with cream cheese frosting and pecans. 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?

Hummingbird cake 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.

Classic Hummingbird Cake covered in chopped pecans

A Perfected Hummingbird Cake Recipe

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.

Serving and Storing this Cake

This cake is at its very best if prepared and served on the same day. The assembled cake can be left at room temperature for a few hours before serving. If you need to make the cake in advance, cover it as best you can and refrigerate it. Let it come to room temperature for an hour or two before serving.

Leftovers are best stored in the refrigerator and well-covered with plastic wrap to protect them from drying out as much as possible. Let slices come to room temperature before serving.

By the way, cake is usually fine stored at room temperature, but there’s some debate about the safety of cream cheese frosting being left out. Most sources advise erring on the side of caution and refrigerating it. Better safe than sorry!

Turning Cake into Cupcakes

This recipe makes great cupcakes! The cupcakes bake for about the same time as the cake, and you can double check by inserting a toothpick in the center. (When the toothpick emerges clean, the cupcakes are ready.)

Also, you won’t need as much frosting for cupcakes so you can cut the frosting recipe in half.

Looking for more classic cakes?

Updated April 3, 2019 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle. No changes to the original recipe.

Hummingbird Cake Recipe

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

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.

 

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (make sure your baking powder is still fresh!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, with juice
  • 2 cups mashed bananas (from 3 to 5 bananas)
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 1 pound cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 pounds (32-ounces) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon Cointreau or other liquor (see Recipe Note)
  • 1 cup roughly chopped pecans, for topping (optional, toasted)
  • Edible flowers for garnish (optional)

Special equipment:

Method

1 Preheat the 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).

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).

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 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

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.

7 Make the frosting: Beat the softened butter and cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered 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 powdered 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.)

8 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.

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.

This cake is best served the day it's made and can be kept, assembled and frosted, for a few hours before servings. If you need to serve it the next day or if you have leftovers, cover the cake as well as possible and refrigerate it. Remove it from the fridge and let it come up to room temperature for an hour or two before serving.

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Links:

1978 Submission by Mrs. L. H. Wiggins

The Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder

Hummingbird Skillet Cake on Serious Eats

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

84 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Millicent

    Was looking for an uncommon kind of cake to present at a summer BBQ this past Saturday and this was a hit! Didn’t have any pineapple, unfortunately, so I had to ad lib and use 8 oz of mandarin oranges in light syrup instead. Turned out surprisingly great!

    The nutmeg and cinnamon make this cake reminiscent of carrot cake despite no carrots. Super moist, tender and easily stackable. Recommend refrigerating cakes before icing and chill again post-icing. Cream Cheese Frosting was a tad sweet, but can’t complain. No leftovers! Photo of the cake on IG account @sillymissmilliee … Try the recipe. You won’t be sorry. :)

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Jody

    I was so excited to make this for Mother’s Day but It was so bland, will never make it again.

    xxxxxyyyyy

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Kimmy Coo

    I made this cake and it turned out beautifully. Could use a little more moisture, but I’m in high altitude so go figure. I will get it perfect next time by adjusting a few ingredients. Cheers!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Terri

    Absolutely fabulous!!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  5. Martin

    I made this cake and WOW! Excellent instructions and an obvious fool-proof cake came out perfectly. I had a lot of icing left over. This cake a real crowd-pleaser. Tremendous flavors. Can freeze extra icing if desired for use later with cup cakes. Thank you so very much for this receipe!!!

    xxxxxyyyyy

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