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Hummingbird Cake

My absolute favorite Hummingbird Cake recipe is an amazingly soft, classic Southern cake that’s loaded with banana and pineapple and topped with velvety cream cheese frosting.

If you love this recipe you might also like this fluffy frosted banana cake!

Pineapple Banana Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

If you’ve ever visited the southern states, chances are you’ve at least heard of Hummingbird Cake. We once spent a week in Seaside, Florida (one of my favorite vacation places by far!), and I remember seeing it on the menu at just about every restaurant we visited. 

I grew up with my Grandma’s hummingbird cake. Let me tell you, every time I make it now, I can’t get enough. It’s the sort of life-changing, diet-ruining, eat-your-heart-out cake recipe that just hits every note on the delicious scale. I’d finish the whole cake if I could (because that’s never happened…). It’s THAT good.

What is Hummingbird Cake?

Hummingbird Cake is a classic Southern dessert, sweet enough to attract the hummingbirds! It’s a super moist spice cake made with mashed bananas, pineapple, and chopped pecans. A bit like a mashup between banana bread and a carrot cake, only without the carrots. From my research, hummingbird cake has roots in Jamaica (that explains all those delicious tropical flavors!), and it became super popular in the US once Southern Living published the recipe in the 1970s. 

Of course, like many cake recipes, there are loads of variations out there with different add-ins (more on that later). My old fashioned hummingbird cake is based on my grandmother’s recipe, but just about everyone in the south has their own favorite family version!

A whole frosted Hummingbird Cake topped with pecans

Recipe Ingredients

Simple ingredients make the best recipes, and this cake is no exception. Here’s everything you’ll need to make this classic homemade hummingbird cake from scratch (full ingredient amounts are in the recipe card!).

For the Cake

  • Flour: Your choice of all purpose flour brand.
  • Sugar: I use regular granulated white sugar when baking cakes, for consistent results. 
  • Baking Soda: For leavening.
  • Salt
  • Canola Oil: Or another neutral vegetable oil, like grape seed oil. Using oil over butter results in a more moist cake. 
  • Bananas: You’ll need some slightly older, overripe bananas for mashing. They don’t need to be completely black, but they should have some nice speckling. 
  • Pineapple: I use canned crushed pineapple, and leave it undrained to really enhance the flavor and moisture of the cake. If you prefer, you can also use fresh pineapple if it’s in season.
  • Eggs: Eggs bind the ingredients together and work with the baking soda for a risen, fluffy cake.
  • Vanilla Extract: I love the subtle background flavor that comes from pure vanilla extract. Use the real deal (and not imitation vanilla) for best results! 
  • Pecans: Chopped pecans bring an irresistible crunch and texture to the cake. Walnuts are a next-best option, too.

For the Frosting

  • Cream Cheese: Take your cream cheese out of the fridge about a half hour or so before you start. This lets it come to room temperature, making it much easier to mix!
  • Butter: Also at room temperature for the reasons above. I recommend using unsalted butter in your frosting.
  • Powdered Sugar: Powdered sugar, a.k.a. Confectioner’s sugar gives the cream cheese frosting an exceptionally smooth texture and sweet flavor.
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Candied Pecans: I love candied pecans for a bit of sweetness, or you can use more chopped pecans as an optional garnish.
Photo collage showing how to make hummingbird cake: a photo of the batter, a photo of the frosting, and a photo of the cake being frosted.

How to Make Hummingbird Cake

One of the best things about this tiered banana cake recipe is that the method is very similar to banana bread. Very little fuss with major flavor payoff! Let’s get started:

Prep the Pans: While the oven is preheating, spray your cake pans with nonstick spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Make the Batter: In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, bananas, pineapple, eggs, vanilla and pecans. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Bake: Distribute the batter evenly between your prepared pans, and pop the cakes into the oven. The cakes are done when a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes sit in the pan a bit before inverting them onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Make the Frosting: I recommend using a stand mixer for the frosting if you have one. First, cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar into the mix, followed by the vanilla. Give everything a good whirl with the mixer for a minute or so until the frosting is nice and creamy.

Assemble the Cake: Once your cake layers have cooled completely, it’s time to frost! Beginning with the first layer, spread a heaping cup of cream cheese frosting over the cake. Repeat with the second and third layers, and then frost the cake all over with the remaining frosting. I use an offset spatula to give the frosting a smoothed-over effect.

Garnish your hummingbird cake with candied pecans, or give it a sprinkle with any leftover chopped pecans you may have for extra crunch. You can also get creative with toppings and variations, see the section later on.

Tips for the Best Hummingbird Cake

Here are some tips for the fluffiest, most flavorful layer cake:

  • Line the Pans: Since this cake contains sticky ingredients like pineapple juice, spraying the pans alone doesn’t always cut it. I highly recommend lining the pans with parchment paper, to avoid unnecessary struggle when removing the cakes.
  • Use Room Temperature Ingredients: When it comes to ingredients like butter and cream cheese in the frosting, having them at room temperature makes mixing so much easier!
  • Measure the Flour Correctly: Too much flour will lead to a dense, tough cake. To make sure you’re measuring the right amount, use a kitchen scale, or otherwise spoon the flour into the measuring cup and then level it off with the back of a knife. 
  • Don’t Over-Mix the Batter: Another tip for a cake that’s fluffy and moist, but not dense, is to avoid over-mixing. Stir the ingredients just until there aren’t any streaks left in the batter.
Side view of a slice of cake being lifted from a frosted Hummingbird Cake.

Variation Ideas

I love a classic hummingbird cake, but I also like getting creative, and this recipe leaves loads of space for creativity! Here are some ideas to change it up:

  • Ground Cinnamon: You may have wondered where the cinnamon has been this whole time. It’s true that many hummingbird cake recipes include cinnamon – I just prefer mine without! You can definitely add cinnamon into your cake for some yummy, spicy flavor if you prefer. Just whisk in 1 teaspoon in with your dry ingredients.
  • Nutmeg. Just a pinch can add even more warm spice to this cake.
  • Sweetened Flaked Coconut: Add a cup of coconut into the batter for some extra tropical flair. Toasted coconut also makes a great cake garnish, too.
  • Substitute the Pecans: You can easily swap the pecans for walnuts in this recipe. Or, if you’re making nut-free hummingbird cake, omit the nuts entirely. 
  • Different Frosting: Of course, if you’re keeping this recipe classic like I do, there is no option except cream cheese frosting! But if you aren’t a fan or would prefer something different, try this cake topped with Vanilla Buttercream, Heritage Frosting or my Brown Sugar Frosting instead.
  • Make Cupcakes: This recipe will yield about 3 dozen hummingbird cupcakes. Bake the cupcakes for 20-22 minutes at 350ºF. Prepare the frosting as written, then use a piping bag or ziplock bag with the corner snipped off to decorate.
  • Make a Bundt Cake: Pour the batter into a 10-15 cup bundt cake pan and bake for 50-60 minutes at 350ºF. You can halve the frosting recipe.
  • Make a Sheet Cake: Make a hummingbird sheet cake using a 9×13 pan, baked at 350ºF for 25-35 minutes. Use half the frosting recipe.

FAQs

What does a Hummingbird Cake taste like?

Hummingbird Cake tastes like a cross between banana bread and pineapple upside-down cake. The texture of similar to carrot cake with bits of pineapple and pecans throughout the cake.

Why do they call it a Hummingbird Cake?

Some say the cake gets its name from being sweet enough to attract hummingbirds (who only eat nectar). Others think this cake got its name because the colors look like a variety of Jamaican hummingbird called a Red-billed Streamertail. The yellow streaks of banana in the cake reminded people of the bird’s plumage.

How to Store Extras

Store leftover hummingbird cake airtight in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Take the cake out of the fridge about a half hour before serving to let it reach room temperature again.

Can I Freeze This?

Cream cheese frosting doesn’t hold up in the freezer, so a frosted hummingbird cake shouldn’t be frozen. However, you can freeze the unfrosted cake layers for up to 2 months! Just wrap them tightly in plastic wrap plus an extra layer of foil, and store frozen until you’re ready to thaw and assemble the cake. Defrost the cake at room temperature, and then whip up a batch of frosting!

More Homemade Cakes to Try

Print
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A slice of Hummingbird Cake on a plate with a fork.

Hummingbird Cake

  • Author: Shelly
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: serves 12 1x
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Dessert

Description

This homemade Hummingbird Cake recipe is an amazingly soft, classic Southern cake that’s loaded with banana and pineapple, plus layers of velvety cream cheese frosting.


Ingredients

Scale

For the Cake

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups canola oil
  • 2 large bananas, mashed (1 1/21 3/4 cups)
  • 8 ounces crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans

For the Frosting

  • 2 (8- ounce) blocks cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 8 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional garnish – Candied Pecans or chopped pecans


Instructions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Coat 3, 8- inch or 9- inch cake pans with nonstick baking spray. Cut 3 rounds of parchment paper to fit into the bottom of each cake pan. Place the parchment paper in the bottom of the prepared pan and coat again with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the oil, bananas, pineapple, eggs, vanilla, and pecans.
  5. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir together using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until combined.
  6. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cakes are set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then turn the cakes out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Frosting

  1. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until combined and smooth.
  2. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the powdered sugar until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add in the vanilla and then turn mixer up to medium and mix until smooth and creamy for 1 minute.
  3. Place one cake on a cake plate and cover the top of the cake with a heaping cup of the frosting and spread evenly. Top with another cake and repeat. Top with the remaining cake layer and frost the cake with the remaining frosting, smoothing with an off-set spatula.
  4. Garnish with chopped pecans or Candied Pecans.

Notes

  • Store airtight for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
  • You can sub in walnuts for their pecans, or omit the nuts entirely!
  • Optional add-in: 1 cup coconut

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 slice with frosting
  • Calories: 1293
  • Sugar: 173.7 g
  • Sodium: 457 mg
  • Fat: 54.9 g
  • Carbohydrates: 200 g
  • Protein: 9.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 107.6 mg

Keywords: banana cake recipe, homemade cake recipes, southern food

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15 comments on “Hummingbird Cake”

  1. Hi there. I love this recipe and plan on making for my friends 60th birthday. I want to use a 12 x 18 x 2 pan……any idea how much cake mix I would need? Thanks

  2. Evelyn Hartmann

    I’ve made this cake twice now. First time, a success and delicious! Second time, Delicious but very wet!? Not sure what I did. Is the 1 1/2 cups of oil is right?

    1. Yes, the oil amount is correct… could possibly be the bananas? Maybe the ones you used were extra large? Just a guess…
      Were the eggs large sized? or XL? I use large eggs, but didn’t specify in the ingredients list, so I will fix that right now!

  3. Hi Shelly, this recipe reminds me of one of yours I made several years ago–the “Dr. Bird Cake.” I baked it for a co-worker and she still talks about how delicious it was and how it was the best thing I’ve ever baked. Is there a difference?

    1. Yes, it’s a very similar recipe, almost exact except for the nuts and the bake time due to it being a layer cake 🙂 And of course the addition of the cream cheese frosting!

  4. it looks very delicious .. seems to be very yummy … I want to try it .. can you please tell me what are the things I need to take care of while making this recipe.

  5. I love Hummingbird cake… and I would love to try your recipe. Please tell me that calories listed is for the entire cake and not just a slice!!

    1. Ugh, I wish… when I entered in the ingredients in the nutrition app I used that’s what it told me, I double and triple checked too! Granted this is a decent sized slice with all the frosting. Cut them a little slimmer and you can definitely save calories. It’s that cream cheese frosting that throws it over the edge!

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