Hummingbird Cake

Cake, Desserts, Easter, Southern, Spring / Friday, May 1st, 2009


Eating a slice of Hummingbird Cake is like falling in love. It’s sweet and intoxicating, and after you’ve spent a little time together, you start counting down the minutes until you can see it again. Seriously. Like, OK, I had a slice after lunch. Can I have another for dessert? No, that’s too much. Maybe? Like, just a bite? OK, a bite now and one later. Oh, wait, it’s got all the food groups! I’ll  just eat the cake for dinner! Yeah, it’s that good.

And I did have cake for dinner.

It was my birthday.

Southerners have been making versions of this cake for decades, calling it different names, like Nothing Left Cake, Cake That Won’t (or Doesn’t) Last, Granny’s Best Cake and Jamaican Cake. The name “Hummingbird Cake” probably comes from the cake’s roots as a Jamaican banana cake; the swallow-tail hummingbird is the national bird of Jamaica. So, you could think of this cake as the love child of Jamaica (with its mashed bananas and pineapple) and the American South (with its pecans and cream cheese frosting).

Not only is Hummingbird Cake delicious beyond belief, it’s exceptionally easy to make, with a batter that requires just one bowl and a little stirring and a cream cheese frosting that comes together quickly in the mixer. It also requires very little decoration. Once you assemble the cake, you can sprinkle the pecans on top (or press them into the sides), and add a fresh flower to keep things simple and beautiful.

Since Hummingbird Cake stays moist and fresh for days, it’s a perfect cake to make ahead and share with people you love. Or, hide it in the back of the fridge, lie about stray dogs knocking you down and eating it, and keep all of that goodness to yourself. I’m not here to judge you.

Hummingbird Cake

Adapted from a recipe by Mrs. L.H. Wiggins (originally printed in “Southern Living,” Feb. 1978)

Yield: 1 9-inch triple-layer cake

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 2 cups chopped pecans, divided
  • 2 chopped bananas
  • Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 9-inch cake pans, or spray them with a nonstick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add eggs, oil and vanilla; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.
  3. Stir in pineapple, 1 cup chopped pecans and bananas.
  4. Spoon batter into prepared cake pans. Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool immediately. When the cakes are completely cooled, spread frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Sprinkle with 1 cup chopped pecans.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine cream cheese and butter; cream until smooth. Add powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla.


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73 thoughts on “Hummingbird Cake

  1. belated happy birthday! great picture…i like staring at and pretending that i might bake it.

  2. I adore hummingbird cake. I made it for the first time for easter (in cupcake form), and it was absolutely divine. I'm from Alabama, and I had heard of it, but never had it before I made it. Surprisingly, very few people I've met have heard of it! Maybe I should address it by its other names that you listed. I didn't know there were so many alternate names for it! Yours is beautiful.

    1. Ooh, hummingbird cupcakes! What a great idea for Easter. Perfect egg hunt dessert.

      I didn't know there were so many names for it until I started digging around to try to find where the name came from. I'm surprised it's not more popular, but some people are funny about bananas. I guess Red Velvet has taken over.

    1. Thanks! I love it, too. It's a good thing this one was a mini, because I could have eaten my body weight in Hummingbird Cake.

    1. Exactly. Very, very similar, and you don't have to use every bowl in the house. I guess it skates dangerously close to quick bread territory.

  3. Oh heck yes!! If that slice was sitting anywhere near me it would be dinner … clearly.

    The awesome thing about Hummingbird cake is that you can substitute other mashed fruits for the banana/pineapple for different flavor combos (I used a Hummingbird Cake recipe as the base for a totally-from-scratch strawberry cake).

    P.S. Happy birthday!!

      1. I absolutely did! I'm so flattered that you remember that! :-)

        Btw, I'm loving this IntenseDebate comment platform. This is the first time I've seen it and I'm thinking of implementing it on my site. It's really fantastic!

      2. It's a pretty interesting comment setup. IntenseDebate was bought by the company that makes WordPress, so I would think we would see lots more integration between the two in the future. It does take a little while to get used to, though.

    1. Thanks! You could put a dogwood blossom on a Twinkie, and it would class it up.

      Can you believe it's May? This year is flying.

  4. Love the cake you made. Here (or at least in my family) a hummingbird cake is an angel cake that is folded with egg yolks to make a yellow marble pattern. Other people call it Daffodil cake so I'm pretty sure my family is just being 'unique'.

    1. My thoughts exactly! I think making my own birthday cake might become a new tradition. It was fun! Although next year, it should really be cake and a cocktail. Yesss.

  5. Finding pineapple and banana in the recipe urges me to try making this cake. Thanks for sharing :)

  6. I've heard of this cake before… yep, it definitely looks like one that's tough to stay away from. Such a pretty cake to start off May (with that May flower strategically placed!)

  7. My dad made this a few times when i was a kid (only in sheet cake form). I’ve been thinking about it lately, and I think your post is a sign that it’s about time I make it! Beautiful presentation, btw!

  8. your cake looks amazing! i made the magnolia bakery hummingbird cake recipe by request last year and it was divine – my first time tasting a hummingbird cake. the frosting looks like an ocean of deliciousness. so gorgeous.

  9. I made a Hummingbird Cake from the Hominy Grill recipe, which is very similar to this one (more bananas), and everybody loved it. Mine didn't look as pretty as yours, though! It was amazingly moist. Do you think the layers would freeze okay? (I need to make one ahead)

    1. You shouldn't have any problem freezing it. I usually wrap cake layers in Saran Wrap and cover them in aluminum foil. Go for it!

  10. Okay..My Daughter and I made this cake today and ours sooooo didnt turn out like yours. We chopped the bananas…so they were NOT mashed…was that right or should we have mashed them? Our cake sunk in the middle too. This was our first attempt…it tasted DIVINE…but next time what should we do different?

    1. I definitely chopped the bananas, so you're good there.

      Here are some possible reasons for the sinking:

      1. Opening the oven during baking.
      2. Taking the cake out of the oven too early. The baking time can fluctuate depending on the size and type of your cake pans, the true temperature in the oven, and all of the moisture in this cake. Did it pass the toothpick test when you took it out?
      3. Overmixing. You want to stir the ingredients just until everything comes together, like you would a muffin mix, so that it doesn't get too dense. You don't want to stir all of the air out of the batter.

      But if everything else is fine, and your only problem is that the cakes are dipped on top, don't sweat it. Take the top layer of your cake and turn it upside-down, so that the flat bottom is on top to give you a nice flat surface for the frosting. No one will ever know…

  11. Wow. I was a little disappointed when I read the title because I've never liked any of the hummingbird cakes I've ever made. But then the photo loaded. That's a gorgeous cake! I think I might have to reconsider and make this!

  12. Mmmm, hummingbird cake makes me totally want to start humming right now…or more like mhmmm mmmm-ing. Looks delicious!! All of those wonderfully moist layers sandwiching yummy cream cheese frosting…amazing!

  13. Happy Birthday! I hope you had a fabulous day! Speaking of fabulous that describes your hummingbird cake! With it being your birthday you shouldn't have needed to use "the dog ate your cake" excuse. I would have used the it's "my birthday and I'll eat all the cake if I want to" one! :)

  14. This was a simple and delicious recipe that I was able to put together quickly. Unfortunately, my flaw was using two 8 inch pans instead of three 9 inch and ended up having some overflowing the batter and some crisping of the edges (which were delicious, btw).

    Thank you for sharing! This will be a keeper in my personal recipe books…

  15. You're inspiring me again. I've wanted to make this simply because I like the name. But your photo and review of the recipe convince me that my husband wold love to eat this!

  16. My grandmother makes a hummingbird cake ever so often. They're so good – especially from the ice box, nice and cold, and with a cup of coffee. Oh, great. Now I've got to go and make one.


    Happy Birthday!

  17. OH!! I haven't made Hummingbird cake in years. I don't know why – it is an amazing cake. I even made a light version once. Just as good, honest. That is beautiful. just beautiful.

  18. does anyone know if these cakes can be refrigerated? or are they best left out at room temperature? i'm thinking of making it for a friend's birthday just the night before and wants to know the BEST way to store them! any help is appreciated!!!

    1. You're definitely going to want to store the cake in the fridge. Then take it out about 30 minutes before you're planning to serve it.

  19. I have never made or eaten humming bird cake. I know, I need to get with the program!

  20. Wow! That cake is gorgeous! I've never made Hummingbird cake, but I know it's one that my cousin requests for her birthday every year.

  21. Thank you very much Rebecca! I have baked your Hummingbird cake for my mother-in-law's birthday and she was really surprised :) Also the waiter who tasted it, have really apreciated it… so thank you, thank you, thank you: it was a success!!

  22. Should the bananas be chopped or mashed? You have chopped here, but most other recipes say to mash them. Too late now, as my cake is cooling, but I'm wondering if that step is correct …

  23. This is the same SL recipe I have used (and adapted and mangled) for years..its so yummy good..and my favorite birthday cake…I'm linking to you today…Thanks!

  24. […] mom’s birthday. We’re one of those birthday-pie-not-birthday-cake families (except for this hummingbird cake, which is probably the best cake I’ve ever had, and angel food cake, which I made into a […]

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