Hummingbird Cake

Surely, this moist, pecan- and fruit-flecked cake must get its name from the sugary nectar upon which fluttering hummingbirds lunch. The namesake sweet is at least as popular among the birds’ Southern human counterparts. Indeed, it’s Southern Living’s all-time most requested recipe. This is my adaptation of the magazine’s classic rendition.–Sara Foster

LC An Abundant Stack of Sweetness Note

Sweet as nectar. That’s what we think of this Southern classic, a charming stack of pineapple, bananas, and pecans aplenty. But this cake isn’t just tremendous to behold, it’s sweet almost beyond comprehension. It’s such an abundant stack of sweetness–and, actually, a stack of abundant sweetness–that skinny slivers seem sufficient for plating, which means it’s likely you’ll have a slice or three left to look forward to the following day. While we don’t know what transpires in your kitchen come morning, there’s never been a time when cake wasn’t welcome at our breakfast table.

Hummingbird Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 1 H
  • Makes one 3-layer cake that serves 10 to 12

Ingredients

  • For the cake
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup canola or other mild vegetable oil, plus more for the pans
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 4)
  • 1 8-ounce can (1 cup) crushed pineapple packed in juice, undrained
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, untoasted
  • For the frosting
  • 1 pound cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 to 6 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • For the assembly
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted

Directions

  • Make the cake
  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C) and adjust the oven rack to the center position. Lightly oil and flour three 8- or 9-inch round cake pans.
  • 2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and nutmeg in a large bowl.
  • 3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil and eggs until combined. Add the bananas and pineapple (including the pineapple juice) and stir to combine.
  • 4. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture with a spatula or wooden spoon just until combined. Stir in the vanilla and pecans. Divide the batter evenly among the pans, smoothing the tops.
  • 5. Bake the cakes for 25 to 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in their pans on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Run a slender knife around the edges of the pans and turn the cakes out onto the racks, then turn them again so they’re right side up. Let cool completely before frosting.
  • Make the frosting
  • 6. While the cakes cool, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl with a standing or an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar, as much as desired according to your level of sweet tooth, and beat until incorporated. Beat in the bourbon and vanilla just until combined.
  • Assemble the cake
  • 7. When the cakes have cooled completely, use a long serrated knife to slice off the rounded top of each one, creating a flat, even surface. (Reserve the trimmings for nibbling or crumbling in a parfait.)
  • 8. Place one cake layer, cut side down, on a cake stand or a large plate. Spread the top of the cake with 1/3 of the frosting and sprinkle with 1/3 of the toasted pecans. Repeat with the remaining cake layers, frosting, and pecans, leaving the sides unfrosted. Behold, slice, and serve. (If not serving the cake within 2 hours, carefully transfer it to the refrigerator. Be sure to remove the cake from the icebox about 1 hour before slicing to allow it to come to room temperature.)
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Caroline Chang

May 18, 2012

This cake will have you thinking outside the box. No, really, it’s just a few extra ingredients and just a smidge more time than a boxed mix. A word of caution–this is a cake for those with a serious sweet tooth. It was a little too sweet for me, but that just ensures I eat only the smallest sliver of a slice.

Testers Choice
Melinda Hamby

May 18, 2012

My great-aunt used to make the most wonderful hummingbird cake. I only got to see her once a year, and she always made this for me. This cake brings back those childhood memories of her. Plus, it tastes just as good as hers did! I did, however, substitute melted butter for the oil. This is also good if you use a whipped topping with some extra crushed pineapple folded in, instead of the icing (we are not big icing eaters in our house).

Testers Choice
Julie Dreyfoos

May 18, 2012

This Hummingbird Cake is moist and has a wonderful banana bread aroma. My testers loved it, even the one that never eats dessert (or so he says). One family member was caught eating two pieces in the same evening.

I made this cake using three 8-inch cake pans, which made for a very tall cake, even after cutting the tops off to even the surface. A tip I received many years ago from a local baker is to spin the pans on the counter before baking. This will cause the batter to spread out more evenly in the pan, so the cake will not have a dome in the center and you will not need to cut as much off to level the cake. That said, next time I make this cake I will use 9-inch pans to make the resulting stack a bit shorter.

I found that the frosting was sweet enough for our taste with just about 2 1/2 cups of sugar. That is why my one tester said he loved it: because it wasn’t overly sweet. When frosting the cake, make sure that the layers are completely cooled before you frost. If the cakes are too warm, the frosting will melt or become too loose and the layers will slide right off. It holds up well if kept in the refrigerator for at least four to five days. Just make sure you take it out an hour or so before serving–if your family can wait that long to eat it.

Testers Choice
Adrienne Lee

May 18, 2012

I used 8-inch cake pans and the cake was really tall, really thick, and a towering beautiful sight. The cake was moist. I have only one reservation–I think that this is too much cake. You’d have to be having a party to make this cake. While this cake did get positive reviews from the family and extended family, it was just too much. One very thin slice was too much for one person and was precarious to cut. By the way, I toasted the pecans both for the inside and outside of the cake because it just brings out more flavor.

Comments
Comments
  1. Andrea says:

    This looks so delicious! I’m going to have to try it! Thank you for sharing this. :)

    • Julie Dreyfoos, LC Production Manager says:

      Let us know what you think Andrea, my family and friends loved it and couldn’t help but go back for seconds.

  2. Helene says:

    I’ve discovered Hummingbird Cake years ago, and it had become a favorite. Was not something we baked in Québec. When I have a chance I’ll try your recipe for a change. Thanks and have a great weekend!

    • David Leite says:

      Helene, we love it. It’s a tried and true Southern recipe since the late ’70s that just sort of crept all over the country.

  3. Carolyn Fraser says:

    I’ve been making this cake most of my adult life. It makes great cupcakes as well. I leave out the nuts and use candied ginger to top them. A great dessert for a party.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Looooove the sounds of that candied ginger, Caroyln. Looooove it. Many thanks for sharing…

  4. Pam Moore says:

    My customers and family love this cake. As for breakfast, David, of course! I have also always been a huge proponent of pie for breakfast. Might as well start the day out right…

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Pam, I love your attitude! Pies and cakes are a lovely way to start your morning.

    • David Leite says:

      Pam, exactly. Breakfast without pie, cake, cookies, or something, is like a day without sunshine.

  5. Jerrilinn says:

    Julie, no need to cut off the tops of the cake…when I remove them from the oven I use a couple of paper towels and flatten down the raised center, that way, no cake is wasted.

    • Lindsay Myers says:

      So very clever, Jerrilinn. I’m glad you’re fighting the good fight against wasted cake–but if you don’t cut the tops off, how will you sneak little crumby nibbles before you serve it?!

  6. Pat says:

    I discovered this delight in cupcake form several years ago. I loved the name hummingbird cake and when I found out it contained bananas, I swooned! This looks like a must-try recipe.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      We’re not exactly impartial, Pat, but we agree on it being a must-try…and try again…and again. Let us know what you think. By the way, I’m a tremendous fan of your Asian Ingredients 101 app. As promised, it makes me feel like I’m shopping in Chinatown with an Asian grandma!

  7. Matea says:

    What a delicious-looking cake! This is the first time I’ve heard of a hummingbird cake, but hopefully it won’t be the last!

  8. Elizabeth Craig says:

    Absolutely love this recipe! It was light but it had a lot of flavor to it. I would highly recommend this for any occasion!

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