Let me tell you about a cake that’ll have your heart humming with joy—the one and only Hummingbird Cake. Picture this: ripe bananas and crushed pineapple nestled in a soft, spiced batter, all lovingly hugged by the creamiest, dreamiest cream cheese frosting you ever did taste. Humming bird cake is like a warm Southern hug on a plate, y’all!
Oh honey, Hummingbird cake isn’t merely a dessert; it’s a whole vibe, as sweet as the giggles echoing through a family reunion and as cozy as those heart-to-hearts on the front porch swing. When you strut this stunner out, all dressed up with its pecan bling, you’re not just dishing out a sweet treat, you’re weaving a tale of love, legacy, and those simple joys that sprinkle life with sweetness. So, let’s get that mixer whirring and that spatula flipping, sugar, and whip up a Hummingbird cake that’s gonna leave your loved ones absolutely gobsmacked.
Why is it called Hummingbird Cake? A Quick History For curious Folks
Hummingbird Cake is a traditional Southern dessert with a history as delightful as its taste. The name “Hummingbird Cake” is believed to have multiple origins. One theory suggests that it’s named for the hummingbird’s affinity for sweet things — much like the cake’s sweet flavor, which comes from the bananas, pineapple, and sugar in the recipe.
Another widely accepted theory is that the cake makes people hum with happiness because of its deliciousness, much like the pleasant hum of a hummingbird’s wings.
This cake’s story starts off in the vibrant vibes of Jamaica, originally dubbed the “Doctor Bird Cake,” named after one of the island’s iconic hummingbirds, the Red-billed Streamertail. Back in the 70s, the Jamaican Tourist Board was all about showing off the island’s flair and sent out press kits to the U.S. with a bunch of tropical recipes, including the Doctor Bird Cake, aiming to give Americans a little slice of Caribbean paradise.
The recipe made its grand entrance in the States through Southern Living magazine in February 1978, thanks to Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina. It wasn’t long before this cake became all the rage in the South, winning hearts with its scrumptious moist texture and that oh-so-creamy cream cheese frosting.
Today, the Hummingbird Cake is like the poster child for Southern warmth and community, always a hit at parties and special events. It’s cherished not just for its standout taste but also for its sweet link to the nectar that those lively, little birds can’t resist. It’s more than a cake; it’s a piece of heritage, a dollop of joy, and a testament to the sweet life, y’all.
The Heart and Soul of this recipe
Filled with fruit, spice and everything nice, Hummingbird Cake is my idea of the perfect dessert. It’s bright, airy, sweet and oh so good!
Cuisine Inspiration: Southern American
Primary Cooking Method: Baking
Dietary Info: Vegetarian
Key Flavor: The Hummingbird Cake is a mix of sweet flavors, with the tropical notes of banana and pineapple, complemented by the warm, hint of cinnamon.
Skill Level: Intermediate
- Comforting Southern Charm: This cake carries the essence of the South in every bite, promising a cozy, comforting experience reminiscent of grand family gatherings.
- Moist and Flavorful: Thanks to the bananas, pineapple, and oil, each slice is irresistibly moist, dense, and bursting with flavor, ensuring every forkful is as delightful as the last.
- Versatile and Customizable: Whether adorned with or without pecans, transformed into a tiered cake or simple loaf, this recipe is versatile enough to cater to your preferred texture and presentation.
- Cream Cheese Perfection: The smooth, tangy cream cheese frosting perfectly balances the sweetness of the cake, creating a classic flavor combination that’s loved by all ages.
- A Celebration Staple: Ideal for birthdays, holidays, or just a weekend treat, the Hummingbird Cake is always ready to make an occasion special and sweet.
Ingredients To Make This Hummingbird Cake Recipe
I love making this cake on a Sunday afternoon. With my apron tied on tight, I measure, sift, whisk and bake while music bumps and my baby girl dances. There is something so restorative about these moments and it doesn’t hurt that there’s cake to be eaten.
This Hummingbird Cake recipe requires a few extra ingredients, a little more patience and a whole lot of love. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Here’s what you’ll need…
- All-Purpose Flour: The structure of our cake starts here, providing the perfect canvas for the rich and moist crumb we’re after.
- Granulated Sugar: Sweetness that’s just right, balancing the fruit and spices.
- Ground Cinnamon: A whisper of spice that pairs harmoniously with the fruits, giving a warm, aromatic essence to each bite.
- Baking Soda & Salt: The little lifters and flavor enhancers for our cake.
- Eggs: Binding the joy together, they add structure and richness.
- Vegetable Oil: For that undeniably moist texture that keeps every forkful luxurious.
- Vanilla Extract: A splash of pure vanilla elevates the comforting flavors.
- Crushed Pineapple with Juice: It’s the tropical heartbeat of this cake, adding moisture and a fruity zing that’s essential to the Hummingbird charm.
- Ripe Mashed Bananas: Bringing a creamy, sweet depth that complements the pineapple.
- Chopped Pecans: If you desire a crunch, these are your treasure, tucked within the cake’s layers.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Unsalted Butter: Room temperature, ready to blend into the smoothest, richest frosting.
- Cream Cheese: The tangy counterpart to our sweet cake, creating a frosting that’s temptingly creamy.
- Confectioner’s Sugar: Sifted to sweet perfection, it’s the cloud-like sweetness atop our cake.
- Salt: Just a pinch to cut through and balance the sweetness.
- Pineapple Juice: A secret twist that echoes the cake’s fruity notes.
- Vanilla Extract: Because what’s a cake without the warm hug of vanilla?
- Finely Chopped Pecans for Garnish: Optional, but who could resist a bit more crunch and nutty luxury?
How to Make Hummingbird Cake
- Prep: Heat oven to 350°F. Ready pans with spray and parchment. Mix dry ingredients, then add wet ones, including pineapple and bananas. Divide batter into pans; bake 24-30 minutes. Cool.
- Frosting: Beat butter, cream cheese, then add sugar. Include pineapple juice and vanilla for fluffiness.
- Assembly: Level and optionally slice cakes for layers. Apply frosting between and outside. Garnish if desired. Serve at room temp. Enjoy the magic!
I’ve been making cakes for as long as I can remember. I grew up in my Big Mama’s kitchen with a wooden spoon in hand and a stool under my feet. We made every kind of cake imaginable about a million times over.
I’ve got tons of cake making tips, tricks and do-nots. I’m here to impart a little wisdom so you can make the best Hummingbird Cake ever!
The difference between a well-balanced cake and an utter disaster can come down to a simple mis-measurement. Be patient and measure carefully.
When using measuring cups, use the “spoon & level” method. Simply use a spoon to scoop the ingredient into the measuring cup. Do not pack down or tap the measuring cup. Use the back of a knife to level off the excess.
Don’t Over-mix, Don’t Under-mix
Make sure you’re mixing any cake batter just until the ingredients are combined. Over-mixing will knock out the air and replace it with gluten. That means tough, dense cake.
Yes, using a toothpick is always a good way to test a cake’s doneness. But, I prefer a simple bounce-back test.
Remove the cake from the oven and gently (and carefully) press down on the cake with a finger. If your finger left a dent in the cake, it needs more time. But, if the cake bounces back, it’s done!
Keep your Hummingbird Cake fresher for longer by storing it in an airtight container or tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerating, where it’ll stay good for up to 5 days. For a longer storage option, consider freezing the cake; just ensure it’s tightly wrapped or in a sealed container, and it can last for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before serving it up.
Other Desserts with Tropical Flavors
Some of my favorite cakes
Want more Southern inspired goodness? Treat yourself to a few of Grandbaby Cakes’ tastiest cake recipes!
Hummingbird Cake Recipe
For the Cake
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 large eggs beaten
- 1 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 8 oz crushed pineapple with juice
- 1 3/4 cup ripe mashed bananas about 4-5 bananas
- 1 cup chopped pecans if desired
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 8 oz cream cheese room temperature
- 3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar up to 4 cups if you want it stiffer
- pinch of salt
- 2 tsp pineapple juice
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans for garnish if desired
For the Cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 9” inch round cake pans by spraying with non stick baking spray then lining each pan with parchment paper then lastly spraying the top of the parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, add flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt then whisk together until combined.
- Next whisk in eggs, oil, vanilla, pineapple with juice, mashed bananas and pecans if using until completely combined. The final batter will be thick.
- Evenly divide the batter into prepared cake pans and bake for 24-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- After cooling for 10-15 minutes, remove cakes and allow them to cool to room temperature before frosting.
For the Frosting
- Add butter and cream cheese to the bowl of your mixer and beat on high speed until it begins to thicken and fluff.
- Next, slow down the mixer and carefully add in the confectioner's sugar. Once all sugar has incorporated, turn mixer back to high to continue whipping.
- Add in pineapple juice and vanilla and continue whipping until it is smooth, light and a fluffy frosting.
- Level the cakes, if necessary, and slice each cake into two layers making a total of four layers of cake (if desired or you can leave as two layers).
- Add frosting between layers then frost entire cake with remaining frosting. Garnish with additional pecans if desired. Serve at room temperature.