Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hummingbird Cake

I found this recipe in my newest Food Network Magazine. On first glance I thought it was just another recipe for a carrot cake but after further examination I was hooked. I mean what's not to like with bananas, pineapple, pecans and a decadent cream cheese frosting? The name Hummingbird cake was also unusual so I went on a little hunt trying to figure out where this cake came from.

The history of the humming bird cake seems to go back to Southern Living magazine. It published the recipe in its February 1978 issue which was submitted by a Mrs. L.H. Wiggins. Unfortunately Mrs. Wiggins did not include an explanation as to the cake's unusual name. It is said though, that the name comes from the hummingbird being drawn to immensely sweet sources. The cake is also known under different names in the south such as "Nothing Left Cake", "Granny's Best Cake" and last but not least "Jamaican Cake".

It is a southern cake with the essence of the tropics and South American influence with it's banana, pineapple, and pecan nut flavors. The cake is reminiscent of a dense carrot cake, but more flavorful.
Food Network Magazine's version comes to together quickly. Their version yields a two layer cake but I've seen several recipes that incorporate three layers.

This is surely not a light cake but it is delicious, easy to make, and with a cream cheese frosting to finish it off, it is a cake kids and adults alike will love. I will most definitely make a Hummingbird Cake again, but next time I might explore the original version of this recipe by Southern Living Magazine.

Hummingbird Cake

Unsalted butter, for greasing
1 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup pineapple, finely chopped
3 ripe bananas, chopped
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pans
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
Cream Cheese frosting (recipe follows)
Toasted Pecans for decoration (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper. Butter the parchment and dust with flour.

Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and bake until fragrant and toasted, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly, then roughly chop. Toss with the bananas, pineapple, and 1/2 cup flour in a medium bowl.

Whisk the remaining 2 1/4 cups flour, the baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in a bowl. Beat the eggs and granulated sugar in a separate bowl with a mixer on high speed until thick and light, 5 minutes. Gradually beat in the vegetable oil.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the egg mixture, then gently fold to make a thick batter. Fold in the pecan-fruit mixture, then transfer the batter to the prepared pans. Bake until the cakes are firm and toothpick inserted in to the middle come out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool in the pans on a rack, 25 minutes, then invert the cakes onto the rack to cool completely.

Make the frosting. Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Spread about half  of the frosting on top, then cover with the other cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with additional toasted pecans if desired.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, at room temperature
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat the cream cheese in a large bowl with a mixer until fluffy, then gradually beat in the butter until combined. Sift the confectioners; sugar over the cream cheese mixture ad beat until smooth. add the lemon zest and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy.

Adapted from: Food Network Magazine


  1. How funny that you post Hummingbird Cake today. My mom and I were just talking about Hummingbird Cake last night! I made her one for her birthday last year, and out of the 12 or so people at the party, I was the only one who didn't care much for it. Typically, I eat more of what I bake than anyone else. It was a backwards cake for me. I think the problem was that I expected it to taste more tropical, with the bananas and pineapple and such, but it was kind of bland. Could have been my recipe, i guess. Everyone else loved it, though.


    that's the recipe I used, if you're curious.

  3. We really enjoyed this cake but I do agree that the pineapple was probably the least pronounced. It tastes more like a juicy banana cake to me. Also thanks for the link which appears to be the original recipe. :o)

  4. OOoh, I'll bet that is good... somewhere between banana cake and carrot cake. Looks positively decadent!

  5. Ymmmm!
    Your recipe looks great. We make a hummingbird cake every Easter. Hummingbirds and Easter just go together.
    I found you through photograzing... with those amazing lemon cupcakes. I might just have to give those a try!

  6. Looks awesome!
    You've been baking up a storm~!


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