I’m not sure that I’ve ever had a cake quite as packed with flavor as this Hummingbird Cake is. The perfect springtime cake, this recipe is flavored with ripe bananas, crushed pineapple, ground cinnamon, butter, vanilla, and pecans, then iced with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting. It really doesn’t get any better than this.
Have you ever heard of Hummingbird Cake?
Hummingbird Cake is said to have originated in Jamaica and was first published in the US in an issue of Southern Living during the late 70’s. Since then, it’s become a popular cake across the US but particularly in the south.
It’s a moist spice cake, well-flavored with bananas and crushed pineapple. The flavor is rich but also refreshing, and it makes me think of a cross between carrot cake, banana cake, and pineapple upside-down cake. A lot of flavors going on here, but they work so well together.
Ingredients for Hummingbird Cake
You should recognize the entire cast of ingredients here, even if you’ve never used them together in quite this way before:
- Bananas. The riper the better and the more moist and flavorful your cake will be. Reach for the brown and spotty ones, browner and spottier than those in the picture above, if you can!
- Crushed Pineapple. You’ll need an 8 oz can. Don’t drain it, the juices will add flavor to the cake.
- Oil. Any neutral oil will work, I use canola oil but vegetable oil is fine too. As with my vanilla cake recipe, we’re using both butter and oil for great flavor and texture.
- Brown Sugar. Light or dark will work, but dark brown sugar is my preference. It will make the flavor slightly richer and the cake a tad more moist.
- Eggs. They should be at room temperature, in fact all of your ingredients should be.
- Vanilla Extract. You’ll need a full tablespoon, that’s not a typo in the recipe.
- Baking Powder & Baking Soda.
- Pecans. I recommend toasting them and include instructions in the recipe.
No surprise that this cake is super moist and super flavorful, huh?
How to Make Hummingbird Cake
Hummingbird Cake is easy to make. The hardest part is having the patience to let your layers cool before slapping on the cream cheese frosting.
- Combine your wet ingredients. Butter, oil, bananas, sugars (fun fact, sugar is considered a wet ingredient), crushed pineapple, eggs, and vanilla extract. You’ll need an electric mixer since we’re using softened butter here and creaming the butter and sugars together with a mixer is an important step.
- Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk these together in a separate bowl.
- Combine wet & dry ingredients and stir in pecans. Everything should be combined thoroughly, but take care not to over-mix or your cake could end up dense and dry. I always recommend using a spatula and not your electric mixer for this part.
- Bake. Make sure your cake tins are thoroughly greased and floured or use a baking spray (make sure it’s a baking spray, one that contains flour). For best results, place a round cut-out of parchment paper in the bottom of each cake pan. This will guarantee your cake won’t stick when you go to invert it.
- Cool and Frost. We’re using cream cheese frosting, it pairs perfectly with the flavors of the Hummingbird Cake.
And yeah, be patient and let that cake cool completely before frosting. I’m really bad about this and too many times have ended up with a soupy mess of frosting because I decided my semi-warm cake was “cool enough”. If you can feel any heat radiating from the Hummingbird Cake, give it more time.
Does Hummingbird Cake Need to be Refrigerated?
If I know that the cake I’m making is going to be completely eaten within two days, I’ll usually leave it at room temperature. The refrigerator can dry out cakes, so if I don’t have to, I won’t refrigerate them.
However, if it’s particularly hot or humid or if I know the cake won’t be eaten right away or not within two days, I will refrigerate it. Hummingbird cake will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
However you store it (fridge or not), make sure you keep this cake in an airtight container. It will dry out quickly if not covered, especially in the refrigerator. And what a sad thing to happen to such a decadently moist cake.
In case you’re also wondering, I was really curious why this was called a Hummingbird Cake, but as with my Whoopie Pies it seems the origins of the name are murky and contested. Here are a few theories I’ve found that you might find interesting. According to that source, it also goes by other name including “Nothing Left Cake”, which is less pretty but seems the most fitting to me.
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Hummingbird Cake Recipe
- ¾ cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature (170g)
- ¾ cup canola or vegetable oil
- 1 cup light or dark brown sugar (200g)
- ½ cup sugar (100g)
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten,
- 2 cups mashed over-ripe bananas this is was about 4 bananas for me (479g)
- 1 8 oz can crushed pineapple do not drain (226g)
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (375g)
- 1 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup chopped pecans¹ (120g)
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and lightly grease and flour the sides and bottoms of two 8" or 9" pans. I also recommend using a round cut-out of parchment paper to line the bottom to prevent sticking when you invert your cake.
- Combine butter, oil, and sugars in a large bowl and use an electric mixer (or use a stand mixer) to beat together until creamy and well-combined.
- Add eggs and stir again. Add bananas, crushed (undrained) pineapple, and vanilla extract and stir well.
- In a separate, medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt until thoroughly combined.
- Using a spatula or spoon (don't use an electric mixer for this step) gradually begin to fold dry ingredients into wet. Once about half the flour mixture has been added, add the pecans and stir them in as well. Stir until completely combined, but don't over-mix the batter or you could end up with a dry cake.
- Evenly divide cake batter into prepared baking pans Transfer to 350F (175C) oven and bake for 39 minutes if using 8" pans and 34 minutes if using 9" pans or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or preferably with a few moist crumbs.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes in baking pan then run a knife around the inside of the pan to loosen cake and carefully invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Once cooled completely, prepare cream cheese frosting.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- Combine butter and cream cheese in a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until creamy, smooth, and well-combined. Stir in vanilla extract and salt.
- Gradually, with your mixer on low speed, stir in powdered sugar until completely combined. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl so ingredients are evenly combined.
- Place one layer of the cake on serving dish. Top with cream cheese frosting and spread evenly. Top with second cake. Frost top and sides of cake and serve.