The Best Hummingbird Cake

 I read no further than the title of this recipe in the now defunct Country Home magazine before becoming completely smitten, tearing it out and stashing it in my ‘to make’ binder (the old school version of a Pinterest board).  Despite the sound of the title, the magazine was cool.  No gingham bonnets or cow milking tutorials.  It played to the hip, young shabby chic loving crowd who liked distressed authentic finds, interesting current recipes with approachable charm, and who sought to bring a rural feeling vibe into their urbanized lives. 

I had no imagination of what Hummingbird Cake would be like and I did not care.  Nor did the girl at my neighborhood grocery store who gawked at the recipe title I had in hand at the check out counter and gasped ‘Hummingbird Cake!  I don’t even know what that is but I want to make it….NOW!’  A kindred victim of good recipe titling.

I can now tell you Hummingbird Cake is a perfect marriage between Banana Bread and Carrot Cake.  Lighter than carrot cake, almost crumbly (though still in a moist way) yet bearing the distinct (though not overpowering) flavor of banana.  It has a Cream Cheese Pecan frosting which gives a nod toward the Carrot Cake family and the look of something you’d find in a fairy glen.
I set out to make the cake on a snowy day, seemingly perfect for baking.  And one might expect an ethereal baking experience when making something like Hummingbird Cake; light, airy and magical.  Though the recipe was easy I somehow was over or under caffeinated and it quickly turned into a daylong episode of the Marx Brothers.  The oven door would not close leading me to believe the racks inside were from the other oven.  Which then lead to me pulling them out from a fully heated oven, burning my hand only to learn the oven door just did not close all the way, period.  I then began to bake the batter which seemed a bit ‘wet’ only to realize I’d not put in the flour portion of the recipe.  This I realized half way through the baking of the cake layers. 
The second making of the cake was much quicker and fortunately did not end in me burning anything down which would have been completely understandable from Round 1.  Once the three layers of cake came out of the oven everything slowed to veritable reenactment of normalcy and proceeded smoothly from there.
The Best Hummingbird Cake | BoulderLocavore.com
I love the look of this cake.  It is earthy, rustic but charming at the same time.  The recipe provides for enough frosting to lightly frost between the layers and though visually more might seem better, the flavors are perfectly balanced.  To me it has the look and taste of a cool weather cake; light cinnamon, roasted bananas and the cream cheese frosting.

The Best Hummingbird Cake

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 12-16 servings

Hummingbird Cake is a fantastic combination of banana bread and carrot cake (sans the carrots) with a completely beguiling name! This recipe never disappoints and delivers a specical treat for any occasion.

Ingredients

    Ingredients for the Hummingbird Cake:
  • 3 cups flour (gluten free or regular)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple, crushed (see below)
  • 2 cups roasted bananas*, mashed (approximately 4 large or 6 medium-small bananas with peel left on; instructions below)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • Parchment paper to line bottom of the cake pan
  • Ingredients for Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, chilled
  • 3-8 ounce packages of cream cheese, chilled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 ½ cups finely chopped pecans

Instructions

    Instructions to make Hummingbird Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. *Place bananas on a cookie sheet with peels left on. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes until the skins are black (the bananas may leak which is fine). Remove and let cool until they can be handled. Peel bananas, place in a small mixing bowl and mash. Set aside. Leave the oven heated to 350 degrees.
  3. Butter and flour 3-9 inch round baking pans. Trace the bottom of the pan (for all three pans) onto parchment paper, cut out circle and place in the bottom of each pan.
  4. In a sifter over a large mixing bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Sift into the bowl. Set aside.
  5. In a second large mixing bowl combine the granulated and brown sugar; stir to combine. Add the eggs and stir briskly by hand to combine all ingredients into a smooth mixture.
  6. Whisk the oil and vanilla into the sugar/egg mixture until combined and smooth.
  7. Add the flour mixture all at once and hand stir (do not beat) to combine the mixture fully.
  8. To crush the pineapple: Place 1 cup of finely diced fresh pineapple in a medium mixing bowl and using a potato masher, crush the pineapple. Add the fruit and juice to the batter. Also add the mashed banana and the pecans. Stir just until combined; do not over stir.
  9. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans. Tap the pans on the countertop to release any air bubbles and place in the 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes until cake bounces back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
  10. Allow to cool in pans on racks for 5 minutes then turn out onto cooling racks to fully cool before frosting. Be sure to peel off and discard the parchment paper.
  11. Instructions for Cream Cheese Frosting:
  12. Cut sticks of chilled butter into 1 inch pieces and place in the bowl of a standing mixer (can use a hand held mixer if needed). Beat on low speed, gradually increasing speed to medium until the butter is still cool but has softened together (about 3 minutes).
  13. Cut the cream cheese into 1 inch strips and add to the butter. Mix at medium speed until fully combined, and smooth.
  14. Add the vanilla and slowly add the sifted powdered sugar. Beat until well blended, increasing speed to beat on medium-high for 3 minutes or until the frosting becomes light and fluffy.
  15. Fold in pecans by hand.
  16. Instructions for Cake Assembly:
  17. Place the first layer of cake upside down (the bottom of the cake will be frosted) on the serving plate. Cover with 2/3 cup of frosting. This will be a thin covering.
  18. Place the second layer of cake right side up (flat cake bottom onto the frosting) and frost the top of this layer with 2/3 cup again (note: I found I needed just a bit more to cover this layer).
  19. Place the last cake layer with cake right side up and use the remaining frosting to cover top of cake and the sides.
  20. 4. Allow cake to stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving and store any uneaten cake in the refrigerator. Cake best when made the day prior to serving!

Notes

Adapted from Country Home magazine (2008)

http://boulderlocavore.com/2012/01/hummingbird-cake.html

 
 
My thanks to reader Lori for prompting me to shake off the reverie of my food crush on this cake long enough to look into its roots.  It has been more popular in the southern U.S. with roots seeming to originate in Jamaica where the hummingbird is the national bird.  To read more, click here!

Comments

  1. edith says

    I am not sure if I read wrong but when do u add the pecans in the caje? I read the part of the frosting but not the cake

  2. Lisa R says

    Toni,

    I loved your recipe! I grilled my pineapple first, brused on a bit of dark Rum. And I subsituted Dark Rum for the vanilla, to add to the ‘tropical flavors’ of the banannas and pineappple. I am thinking that tosted cocnut would really add to this cake, but that may be too much. I am simply loving your site. I somehow have missed it previously. But not any longer!

    Lis

    • says

      Wow! I love all your changes. It probably makes it a less traditional Hummingbird Cake and more of a Bird of Paradise Cake (if we keep it in the bird family!) but you get no complaints from me. It all sounds delicious.

      So glad you found me! Hope you’ll continue to find fun things you enjoy!

  3. says

    The directions say to butter and flour pans…..and then to put parchment paper on top of this. If using parchment paper, is the butter and flour really necessary?

    • says

      Hi Barbara. I realize the two steps sound redundant! I have always done it this way and this was the method from the original recipe I adapted. Since it always works perfectly I have not toyed with it.

  4. says

    Hi Toni, I just made your cake and it looks sooooo good. I didn’t use the parchment paper that I asked you about and it worked fine. The pans I used were those non-stick kind. The cakes turned out looking great.

    I have another question. Is the frosting supposed to be kind of thin? I followed the directions exactly for the frosting and it just seems kind of thin….I should say thinner than what I usually make. It looked light and fluffy……just thin.

    Thanks for your help and this great looking recipe. I almost could have eaten a banana when it came out of the oven. They were pretty good.

    • says

      Hi Barbara! Thanks for ‘reporting back’ about the parchment paper and I agree completely on the bananas. On the frosting do you mean the consistency of the frosting or the volume as it relates to the amount when applied to the cake? I have not found it thin in consistency but it is thinner when applied the cake in terms of the depth of the layers (and there is a note in the recipe on that front). With three layers and the sweetness of the cake, the the thinner layers of frosting help it not become overly sweet I think.

  5. wendy says

    I found my hummingbird cake recipe in an old Southern Living Magazine that was printed in 1973. It’s been a holiday tradition ever since. Also have made the recipe into cupcakes many times for co-worker gatherings. :)

    • says

      How fun Wendy! Being southern in origin, I’m sure your recipe is a winner. As you can see from the comments on this post people have adapted the recipe into so many different forms successfully. It is as adaptable as it is delicious it seems!

    • says

      It IS a long recipe Liz but worth every step! If you read over the comments on that post readers that made it in different forms and it always comes out fantastic! Great for when you have the time to bake. Happy New Year to you too!

  6. mc says

    Does this cake taste like pineapple? I actually do not like the taste. Is there anything i could substitute for the pineapple? carrots?

    • says

      Hummingbird Cake is a very specific combination of flavors with pineapple being one of them, so if you want to make a Hummingbird Cake the pineapple is key. I personally don’t feel the pineapple has an overbearing role in the cake’s flavor however if you don’t like pineapple its flavor may come across more strongly to you. The pineapple contributes flavor, texture and moisture so I’m unsure what you would substitute. Carrots would go with the flavors in the cake but won’t contribute the same moisture level. I’m wondering if you might not be happier making a Banana Carrot Cake which would have the flavors of the Hummingbird Cake you do like but would leave out the pineapple?

    • says

      Hi Torri. I do not provide nutritional facts for my recipes as I cannot control what ingredients readers actually use, therefore risking inaccurate nutrition facts. However I did a quick Google search and there seem to be some free applications online in which you could record the ingredients used to calculate nutrition facts.

  7. koren says

    I saw that you make this gluten free and I did not read though all the comments but would you be willing to share what gf flour you use? I am new to having to be gf and would love a cake option! Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Koren. A blend I like to use for cakes is actually one I purchase which is King Arthur’s Gluten-Free Blend. I find the consistency similar to gluten All Purpose Flour, it does not have a distinct taste as a flour like Gar-Fava does and it behaves well in a cake. I’ve used all sorts of mixes with this cake but that is a blend I use often in everything.

  8. Krizinne says

    Made this tonight for my kids school carnival. I had to use crushed pineapple out of a can and I don’t think I roasted the bananas enough. However I actually assisted the door wich makes a big difference! This turned out moist and springy. Just waiting for my cakes and cupcakesto cool.

    I did not add nuts because it is for a school event. But still amazing product! I will so make this again.

    • says

      I find this is a pretty forgiving recipe Krizinne. Even without fresh pineapple and unroasted bananas I’m sure it will be delicious. To be a true Hummingbird Cake the pecans are key but I completely understand about leaving them off for a school event; and again it will still be delicious!

      I’m not familiar with your comment about ‘assisting the door which makes a big difference’. Do tell! Thanks for leaving your feedback Krizinne!

  9. Jackie says

    There are a lot of steps to make this cake, and after making it I swore I wouldn’t do it again—too much work. BUT after bringing it to an Orchid Judging Center dessert and tasting it and hearing all the raves, this cake is back on my list of favorites. I love the combination of bananas, pecans and pineapple—it is so tropical. It is so moist and flavorful, there were only a few crumbs left. And I mean crumbs.

    • says

      Jackie I completely understand! I’m a busy blogging mom with seemingly little time (my house tells the tale!) and I rarely have or take the time to make something with multiple sub-recipes. However, there is nothing like this cake! If you look through the comments readers have made it in different forms, all with successful end results. It really is special and not usual to most people’s dessert menu. It’s a cake you count on to ‘wow’! So glad you got the kudos you deserve for making it!

  10. Chris says

    Just made this cake last week for a co-worker’s birthday. Sheloved it as did everybody else. I already have an order for our Thanksgiving potluck and two birthdays next year. It has shot to the top five of my favorite cakes. I admit to making a few changes in the recipe though. I added a half-teaspoon of nutmeg (I will probably increase to at least a full teaspoon next time. I love nutmeg.) to the cake batter and three more cups of sugar to the frosting. That much sugar and I still had several people saying they loved it because it was NOTdisgustingly sweet. After comparing to other revolted I see why. Other recipes called for at least one pound of sugar in the frosting. One recipe went so far as to require two pounds.

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