This cake is so easy to make, lasts well for a few days (tightly wrapped in foil), and is lovely topped with a cream cheese icing and sprinkled with a few of the crumbled candied walnuts. I also love it toasted in a sandwich press and spread with a little butter.–Sophie Hansen

WHAT IS A HUMMINGBIRD CAKE?

Rumored to be sweet enough to attract hummingbirds, this cake has been around for quite some time. Made famous in the US because of a 1978 Southern Living Magazine article, it had been already been something of a sensation for a while before that. Recipes have been traced to a 1960 promotional magazine from Air Jamaica, which used a hummingbird as its logo. In the Caribbean, it’s also known as doctor bird cake, a nickname for the red-billed streamertail, an indigenous member of the hummingbird family and the island’s national bird.

Hummingbird cake is traditionally made with bananas, which grow abundantly in Jamaica. This version of the popular cake swaps in grated carrots for the bananas, lightening the rich cake and making it slightly less sweet than traditional hummingbird cake.

CAN HUMMINGBIRD LOAF CAKE BE MADE AHEAD OF TIME?

It certainly can be. And, in fact, some people prefer the flavors of the loaf cake the next day. Wrap it tightly in foil and it will last for a few days. It can even be frozen if you feel like stowing some away for later. Wrap in plastic wrap and then again in foil. It will last for up to 3 months in the freezer. Thaw on your counter then tuck in.

A sliced loaf of hummingbird loaf cake, beside a glass dish of butter and a butter knife.

Hummingbird Loaf Cake

4 / 2 votes
There’s a lot going on here: toasted nuts, spices, pineapple, and carrot, but it works beautifully together.
David Leite
CourseDessert
CuisineAmerican
Servings10 servings
Calories436 kcal
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Total Time1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients 

  • Butter or oil, for the pan
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup mild vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrot
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped fresh or canned pineapple

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter or oil a 12- by 4 1/2-inch (30-by 12-cm) loaf pan. Line pan with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, spices, and brown sugar and whisk to remove any lumps.
  • In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together oil, eggs, and vanilla, then fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add carrot, walnuts, and pineapple and fold until combined.
  • Spoon batter into pan and smooth the top. Bake until the cake is just pulling away from the sides of the pan and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
  • Allow cake to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer it to a wire rack to finish cooling.
In Good Company Cookbook

Adapted From

In Good Company

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 servingCalories: 436 kcalCarbohydrates: 46 gProtein: 8 gFat: 26 gSaturated Fat: 15 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6 gMonounsaturated Fat: 4 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 74 mgSodium: 49 mgPotassium: 310 mgFiber: 4 gSugar: 26 gVitamin A: 3330 IUVitamin C: 3 mgCalcium: 104 mgIron: 2 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2021 Sophie Hansen. Photo © 2021 Sophie Hansen. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Oh my–this was absolutely fabulous! I’ve had hummingbird cake before and it can sometimes be too heavy. This hummingbird loaf cake was lighter than expected but that was a good thing. Perfectly spiced, not too sweet, and delicious lightly toasted the next day–I’ll be making this again.

I was drawn to the recipe for hummingbird loaf cake because it called for whole wheat flour. I like the grainy texture whole wheat brings to bread and pasta.

While baking, my home smelled like fall. This loaf is jam-packed with warm spices. If I could make one change, I’d add chunks of fresh or crystallized ginger. The ginger took a back seat to the cinnamon and nutmeg. I think biting into crystallized ginger would have added a nice flavor to the loaf.

I tried the loaf warm out of the oven. I didn’t butter it nor cream cheese it as I wanted to taste it on its own. When I make it again, I’ll definitely serve it with a sweetened cream cheese spread on the side. It was very nice, not overly sweet and I can see myself serving it in the fall with a nice cup of tea.

This hummingbird loaf cake is a wonderfully moist cake with a variety of tastes and textures. The crunchiness of the nuts, and the moisture of the pineapple and the grated carrot come together beautifully. Cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg complement the variety of textures. I made the cake and served it the same night. The leftover cake held up well in the refrigerator for four days.

I frosted the cake with this wonderful homemade cream cheese frosting. The frosting contains not only cream cheese but also mascarpone and whipped heavy cream. The result was a not too sweet, delicious cake that I will make again and again.




About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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Recipe Rating




5 Comments

  1. 4 stars
    This cake was delicious, and it made my house smell wonderful! I made two substitutions, I used spelt flour in place of white whole wheat and I replaced applesauce for the vegetable oil. This cake tastes great on its own, or with a dollop of fresh cream. I will make this again!

  2. I have a question about the pan size for this recipe. Is it really 12 x 4.5? What normal size pan can I substitute for this??? I’ve got tons of bread pans, square pans, round pans and sheet pans, but nothing that comes close to that measurement. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

    1. It is an unusual size, lisa. A 9-by 5-inch pan should work fine, and I believe a couple of our testers made it that way. Just keep an eye on it and place it on a foil-lined baking sheet for cooking, just in case it overflows.