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. RecipeNewZ says

    I found this post though Pinterest. The photo was so beautiful that I just had to come here to read the recipe! Love it! And love your site :-).

    I would like to invite you to share this post (and your other posts :-) ) on a new photo based recipe sharing site that launched in May. The idea is simple: all recipe photographs are published within minutes of submission. And, of course, the images link back to the author's site.

    It's called RecipeNewZ (with Z) – http://recipenewz.com

    I hope you get a chance to visit and to share some of your delicious posts with our viewers. It would be a pleasure to have you on board :-)

    • says

      I think it would be good. The cake is light and almost crumbly as I mentioned so the cake format really works well for that being in a larger piece eaten with a fork thought I'd try making cupcakes. I might suggest experimenting with a small batchrather than making the full recipe, filling the baking cups 2/3 full.

      If you scroll up in the comments I shared 2 links with a prior commenter that talk about converting one cake form to another (cake pan volume equivalence) as well as suggested baking times when changing a cake to a different form. Let me know how it works!

    • Rosie says

      So I made the cupcakes this afternoon and I must tell you that they turned out SOOOO good!! I didn't change a thing. My oven runs a little high so I baked the cupcakes at 325F for 15 mins! The icing is so yummy. I could just sit and eat it out of the bowl! lol Thank you for this yummy recipe!!

    • says

      Rosie I'm thrilled and thank you for taking the time to comment. This recipe is very popular with lots of people asking about how to tweak it in size so your comment will help others considering doing cupcakes. It really is a charming cake isn't it? I really fell in love with this one.

  2. says

    I can't wait to try this recipe. Can you tell me whether or not the taste is similar to banana bread? We are celebrating my mother-in-law's birthday this weekend and this cake looks tasty. However, my MIL doesn't like banana bread.

  3. Gluten Free Eater/Baker says

    Hello, I am a GF eater/baker. Have you tried this recipe with a gluten free flour mix (such as Bob's Red Mill)?? I would like to try making it GF as the recipe suggests is possible but before I go to all the work and spend the money for the ingredients, I thought I'd ask about it. Thanks!

    • says

      Hi! Everything I make on my blog I make gluten free. I include options for gluten and GF since everyone is different. I either use King Aurthur's GF blend or a blend I make myself. I personally do not care for blends with GarFava flour finding the taste to be a bit 'beaney' and green for my liking. I have a feeling it might bind better than some GF flours but I really feel the taste interferes with most of the baking I've done.

      Which ever GF flour blend YOU like, I'd say use it! The cake in the photos is a GF Hummingbird Cake (and was perfect).

    • Gluten Free Eater/Baker says

      Great! Thank you!

      Also, I noticed the recipe calls for vegetable oil…have you ever tried substituting 1 cup applesauce? I sub applesauce for oil in some recipes but again, I am wondering if you have tried it with success or if you would suggest sticking to the recipe and using oil?

      Thanks!

    • says

      This recipe is pretty perfect so I have not changed anything after making it as it's written above. Love experimenting though; maybe you should try it out?

      I actually have never substituted applesauce for oil in any recipe so am not familiar with how that shifts the recipe either. Please did let me know if you try it how it works out!

    • says

      What a great idea! I'll keep that in mind. I love the balanced flavors in this cake-frosting combo but I think that would be great for a regular carrot cake. If you try it please let me know how it turned out!

  4. says

    Hi! You know I love cooking but I do not have a sweet tooth. So I stayed away from baking, altho I've always wanted to try something interesting. But seeing this cake (from Gojee), I cannot take my eyes off! I Love the promise of the flavors that a banana-carrot-cream cheese-pecans and cinnamon! I suddenly became excited to try and make one for my family! I have not baked anything before so hopefully I can do this.

    Thank you very much for sharing this recipe! I suddenly became inspired! :)

    • says

      First Julie I'm so flattered and excited for you! Nothing like being inspired. It is an ambitious first project but providing all the terminology makes sense to you I don't see why you should not attempt it! It is not a fussy cake to bake just has a number of steps. Also it is not an uber sweet cake, more of a rustic sweetness I'd say, so you will probably really love it.

      To be clear as well, there are no carrots in the cake but it has the spice flavorings of a carrot cake as well as the color and texture reminded me of carrot cake. As you may have noted in the comments, readers are now looping back after making it themselves and sharing their fabulous results. I'm sure you'll have the same!

      • Carol Mattachione says

        Oh, one other thing I enjoyed when making this cake…..although I love my Kitchen Aid Mixer, this cake comes together beautifully with nothing but mixing bowls and wooden spoons! It’s rustic and a joy to make, and I have to thank you for posting this recipe for the rest of us – WHAT FUN to make, and what a JOY to eat and share ♥

  5. says

    Oh what a fantastic cake! I made it over the weekend. And it was gone within a day! I'd never heard of roasting bananas, but it seemed to really bring out their flavor and made them slightly more juicy. I'll give that a try next time I make banana bread even! Beautiful photos, I like that metal cake pan. :) Thanks for posting, I'm happily adding this to my personal recipe collection. And I look forward to putting it on my blog (with proper accolades of course!).

    • says

      I'm so glad to hear the outcome of your baking! It's really a special cake. I began roasting bananas for recipes calling for bananas while ago and feel it does deepen the flavor as well as allows 'instant ripening' so you don't have to wait.

      Thank you for your kind remarks about the photos. You are cetainly welcome to link back to the recipe on your own blog though I'd request you do not reproduce it as posted here. One thing I've done with recipes I love and don't change when making them is make the dish, take my own photos to share on my blog and link to the original recipe for my readers. Maybe that would work for you too?

  6. says

    I just made this recipe (I also went the cupcake route) and the cake is soooo good! I was able to get about 2 dozen cupcakes out of the batter—no changes. I did have to cook mine for 25 minutes at 350 though. I took one readers suggestion and added cinnamon to the frosting—also really good! I only use two packs of cream cheese though since I wasn't frosting any layers.
    Thanks for the recipe!!

  7. says

    I'm just finishing up with making this recipe (I also went the cupcake route) and it turned out so good! So delicious. The recipe above make about 2 dozen cupcakes (I actually got 26), and I ended up taking one reader's suggestion of adding cinnamon to the frosting. I had to bake my cupcakes at 350 for 25 minutes.
    Thanks for the recipe!!

    • says

      Megan I'm sorry I missed your comment earlier. So glad to hear the cupcakes worked out! I appreciate the details as I'm sure will other readers considering doing something similar. Thanks for taking the time to leave the info!

  8. Mathilde says

    Hello !

    Thank you so much for your recipe, the result was absolutely delicious. (that is what also made me hate this cake : i couldn't stop eating it !)
    Really, it was yummee. I only did two floor, and it still look terrifically appetizing.
    For the icing, could you explain me what is the use of the butter ?
    I had to do some more as I didn't have enough to cover all the cake, but the second time I did it without butter and the result was pretty similar (in fact, no difference at all). I tried with adding the cinammon to the vanilla and it tasted really good.
    I also added a drop of orange juice, as it seemed too vanilly to the smell (and my vanilla essence was maybe a bit old). I'm not sure if it made any change to the taste, but at least I can say it didn't spoil it at all.
    Anyway, thanks again and bon appétit !

    • says

      Hi Mathilde. Cream cheese frosting is essentially a butter cream frosting with cream chesse in it. In addition to building the structure, texture and flavor in the frosting the butter counteracts the 'tang' of the cream cheese.

      As I mentioned in the recipe the volume of the frosting makes for very thin layers of frosting between the cake layers which I found was perfect not to make it too rich. It is not intended to make a thick frosting layer as with traditional cakes. But frosting is personal so I'm glad if you wanted more you made some additional to frost it as you like.

      I think it's great that you experimented with what works for you! That to me is the fun and beauty of baking. Also other readers will appreciate to see what you did I'm sure. It sounds like everything turned out great with your modifications! Thanks so much for leaving your comment.

  9. Naomi says

    I made this cake on Sunday and it was a huge hit. Everyone that ate it LOVED it. I only have a couple of questions and one comment to add. People said that the frosting could maybe be slightly sweeter. Would you recommend adding a touch more sugar? Also, I have been researching other versions of the recipe just to compare and all other recipes I find use canned pineapple and don't roast the banana, and some don't even use brown sugar. I love your recipe and I'm only following yours but I'm curious the reasons for fresh pineapple, the roasted banana and the brown sugar and not just white sugar? I have to stress that I'm not changing anything you've done just curious why you use these methods? Thank you!

    • says

      Hi Naomi! Sorry for the delay in responding. Have been traveling with little internet access.

      On the sweetness I find this is so personal! I felt it was just right and would have gone over the top to sweeten the frosting more but again that is really dependent on one's personal palate. I would experiment with adding more sugar to the frosting to see if that better meets your needs. You may find that adding too much sugar thickens the frosting to the point of making it difficult to spread. If so I'd add a bit of water (start by the teaspoon full) or even juice to get the frosting to the desired, spreadable consistency.

      On the use of fresh pineapple it's all about the texture, moisture level and flavor. If you were to crush fresh pineapple and hold it next to canned crushed pineapple you would note the canned pineapple does not have the same texture, is more 'soggy' for lack of a better term and the flavor is different. Having said that I'm one who loves kitchen experiments and think you should play around to see what works best for you and your cake-eaters! Certainly using canned pineapple takes less time.

      I prefer roasted bananas for the flavor. They bear a similar consistency to a naturally ripened banana but their flavor is enhanced by the roasting where a naturally ripened banana becomes densely sweet with a different flavor. Again I do think it's great to experiment! I'm delighted to answer any of your questions and encourage playing around to see what works best for you!

      On the sugar it is a flavor thing. Brown and white sugar taste differently. Combining them will yield a different flavor profile than just using white sugar. Delighted you made the cake and are so curious to learn more!

  10. Annie in Nova Scotia says

    Oh My..the name of this cake caught my attention, but then after reading through the recipe and reviews, I can hardly wait to try this! Definately for my next Pot Luck. Thank you so much for sharing & presenting the recipe in such a great way!

    PS.Gotta love Pintrest !

  11. Leah says

    Hi, this cake looks amazing! A great combination of my two favourites, I can't wait to make it! But (this might sound a bit odd) I'm in New Zealand & we have different measurements so I was just wondering how much is a stick of butter in weight? Ounces, grams or cups I understand, but not sticks… Thank you so much!

  12. Annie says

    Thank You ! Thank You! Thank You!
    You are adsolutely right, this recipie is pretty perfect the way it is! Loved making this and it’s just a show stopper! I made it this weekend as a “test run” before our Thanksgiving dinner in 2 weeks time ( Canada, so we are early!) .The only thing I did different is to make it in 2 pans because I simply did not have a 3rd pan!

    • Toni | Boulder Locavore says

      Annie I’m thrilled the test run was such a smash. It really is a unique recipe and stands up to adaptations and changing it’s size well it seems. I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful and that your crew was thrilled your dessert!

  13. says

    I saw this on Pinterest tonight & sent my honey out to get nuts – we used walnuts instead. It was so easy & so yummy. And, I made it gluten free – can NOT tell a bit. 5 star – thank you!

    • Toni | Boulder Locavore says

      Thank you Jamaise for the report! I too make everything gluten free (all the recipes here are either GF normally or have a modification noted). I am GF but try to be thoughtful also to those who are not. I’m so glad you liked it! I really appreciate you taking the time to let me know how it worked for you.

  14. Heather Morgan says

    This sounds great. I am going to try it this week, and if it works out I’m going to use it for my son’s first birthday cake (sans the nuts). This will be a great alternative to the plain, sugery cakes usually used for birthday cake.

    • Toni | Boulder Locavore says

      Awwwwwe! Heather I’m so touched by your comment and am sure I did not have anything this great for my first birthday! If you read the comments on this cake you saw it is well-loved and has been adapted to reader’s preferences, eating needs and different sizes. I’m sure even without the nuts it will be a hit! Please let me know if you make it how it goes over, especially with your little man!

  15. sharon barton says

    I want to make this cake for Thanksgiving , it sounds wonderful ! I have never roasted bananas ….so how do you do this ?

    • Toni | Boulder Locavore says

      Hi Sharon. I have no doubt this will be a huge hit at your Thanksgiving table! If you look at Step 2 in the instructions for making the cake it instructs on how to roast the bananas. Enjoy and let me know if you have any other questions!

  16. Esha says

    Hi..i made this cake for my hubby’s bday yesterday..it was amazingly good n we loved it :) Thanx for sharing such a great recipie!!!
    Although I’ve one concern..mine was not moist, it was bit dry :(
    Can u plz guide me how to get moist cake? I used canned pineapple, is this be the cause of dry cake??
    One more thing. Cream cheese pecan icing was sinfully delicious…I even ate it with spoon :) Thanx again .

    • Toni | Boulder Locavore says

      Hi Esha. I’m puzzled by the cake being dry as I’ve not experienced that and back at altitude where I would think it might be more of a risk. Could you describe any alterations you make to the recipe? You used canned pineapple; was it crushed and did you crush it more? If you can fill me in more I’d be happy to see if I can help you figure out what happened. Normally it is quite a moist cake. Tell me more!

      • Esha says

        Thanx for ur concern..so here are some details, I used pineapple chunk can but crushed it with fork before adding to batter. One change I made was to use. Powdered sugar instead of granulated but I increased its amount to 1-1/2cup..follow rest of the recipie as is. Bake the batter in three 8-1/2 round pans for almost 40 min ( when from center tooth pick came out clean ) Hope u can help me now.

        Except from my previously mentioned issue we love love love the cake n I want to make it again soon soo badly.

        Thanx.

        • Toni | Boulder Locavore says

          Hi Esha. My guess is that your issue is from substituting confectioner’s sugar for granulated sugar. Though a cup of each is the same in volume, their weight is quite different for the two and I’d wonder by increasing the confectioner’s sugar amount might cause the balance of ingredient moisture to become out of whack. I don’t know for sure but based on what you described that’s my guess. Also the flavor of the sugars are different so I’d guess it actually did not taste the same as the original recipe either.

          I would suggest if you would like to make the cake again that you follow the ingredient list and amounts listed in the recipe and see what happens. As you probably noted in the comments this recipe has been made by many people and you are the first to mention dryness; which I too have not experienced making the cake by the original recipe.

          Hope that helps!

  17. Esha says

    Thanx …ll surely make this cake again with original recipie soon.
    Really appreciate ur effort to guide me, Thanx again.

  18. jenniferro10 says

    This cake is famous in the South of the US, in general, but in the Atlanta area, in particular. Scott Peacock, of Watershed Restaurant and several cookbooks, has made this cake his hallmark. I have given away dozens as gifts. If any of you are ever in the Atlanta area, you should check out Watershed. I hear it has changed locations recently.

  19. Desiree Crooks says

    OMG!!!! Talk about making me drool all over the keyboard….Man i cannot WAIT to make this…and i am in FULL HOLILDAY baking mode too!!!!! I loved that magazine too so its sad to know its gone…They get us hooked and them DROP us like hot potatoes….oh…potatos…potato bread!!! OK gotta go bake now!!!!!!!!!

  20. says

    I made this for our Christmas Party at work and it was a big hit.. I walked away to get some food, came back to the cake there was about a piece that was about 5″ left.. One guy asked me for the recipe… Everyone said, it was really good.. I had a smile on my face cause this is the first time I made this… I’ll be making this again for sure… :)

    • Toni Dash says

      How fun Sue! As you may have noted from other comments this is a well loved recipe. It is unique too so I’m glad it made you the most popular at the party! Happy Holidays and thank you for sharing!

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