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Hummingbird Cake | Gimme Some Oven


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This delicious hummingbird cake recipe features ultra-moist tropical pineapple banana cake layered with rich cream cheese frosting and a sprinkle of toasted pecans. 

Friends, have you ever tried making a hummingbird cake? ♡

This classic Southern dessert was a new discovery to me a few years ago and quickly become one of my favorite cakes to bake this time of year. (Along with my favorite carrot cake recipe, of course!)

It’s said that this tropical cake actually originated in Jamaica, where it was named after the island’s national bird, a red-billed hummingbird known locally as “Doctor Bird.” Back in 1968, the Jamaican tourist board included a recipe for hummingbird cake (also called Doctor Bird Cake) in a press kit sent to the United States to encourage American tourists to visit the island. And sure enough, once Americans tried this deliciously fruity cake — it instantly became a hit! A decade later, a version of the recipe written by Mrs. L.H. Wiggins was submitted to Southern Living, where it later went on to become the most-requested recipe in the magazine’s entire history. And to this day, it remains one of the most popular cakes in Southern American cooking.

Basically, if you love banana bread and pineapple and cream cheese frosting, you are going to love hummingbird cake!! The layers of cake themselves are incredibly moist, with a heavier texture similar to banana bread, filled with the yummiest blend of fresh bananas, pineapple, toasted pecans and cozy warming spices. Then when layered up with a generous spread of tangy cream cheese frosting and an extra sprinkle of toasted pecans, I’m telling you, this delicious cake becomes downright irresistible. The entire recipe is easy to make completely by hand, no stand mixer required. And its tropical fresh flavors are perfect for spring and summertime (it would also be delightful served this weekend for Easter) and are always such a hit with our friends whenever I make this one.

So if you happen to be looking for a new dessert to try this spring, bring home some pineapple and bananas let’s make a hummingbird cake!

Assembling hummingbird cake layers with cream cheese frosting

Hummingbird Cake Ingredients:

Before we get to the full hummingbird cake recipe below, here are a few notes about the ingredients you will need for this recipe:

  • Bananas: Similarly to making banana bread, you want to use over-ripe bananas in order to give this cake the richest banana flavor possible. Just peel and then mash the bananas into a measuring cup to measure the correct amount.
  • Pineapple: The original Southern Living recipe for hummingbird cake called for canned pineapple, which will work in a pinch. But if you really want the pineapple flavor to shine in this batter, I strongly recommend using fresh pineapple. It’s flavor is so much brighter, fresher and more intense and — in my opinion — worth the extra effort! Just chop the pineapple very finely to measure it for the batter.
  • Flour: I have only tested this recipe with basic all-purpose flour. But if you end up trying out any other types of flour, please leave your feedback below so that other readers can hear your results.
  • Baking soda and fine sea salt: To salt the cake batter and help it to rise.
  • Spices: I used a blend of ground cinnamon, ground cardamom and ground ginger here, which tasted amazing. But feel free to sub in whatever warming spices you have on hand and happen to love best. (For example, allspice, nutmeg and/or cloves would also be delicious additions.)
  • Sugar: Per the original recipe, I stuck with using basic granulated white sugar to sweeten the cake.
  • Eggs: To bind the ingredients together and give the cake good structure and moisture.
  • Oil: I tested this recipe with both butter and oil and prefer the texture that oil gave the batter. You can use any neutral-flavored oil here that you prefer, such as vegetable, canola or grapeseed oil.
  • Vanilla extract: To add a hint of warm vanilla flavor to both the cake batter and the cream cheese frosting.
  • Nuts: The original recipe calls for adding toasted chopped pecans to the batter (as well as sprinkling them on top of the cake, if you would like). But feel free to use whatever toasted nuts you prefer — walnuts, almonds, pistachios, etc would all be delicious options.
  • Cream cheese frosting: Finally, we will frost the cake with a dreamy cream cheese frosting made with cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract, powdered sugar, and a pinch of salt. Be sure that both the cream cheese and butter are room temperature before mixing the frosting, in order for it to be extra-smooth.

Doctor Bird Cake (Hummingbird Cake) on Pedestal

Tips for Making Hummingbird Cake:

Here are a few important tips to help make the best hummingbird cake…

  • Properly measure the flour: Instead of scooping your measuring cup directly into the flour (which usually packs it in too tightly), fluff the flour with spoon and then scoop it into the measuring cup, and level the flour off with the back of a knife. Or alternately, the most accurate way to measure flour is of course to weigh it on a kitchen scale.
  • Properly measure the pineapple: For maximum pineapple flavor, I recommend very finely chopping up fresh pineapple by hand. Then spoon the pineapple into a measuring cup — leaving behind any excess juices — to measure the correct amount. (The original Southern Recipe instructs you to add canned pineapple juice to the measuring cup, but I prefer just adding in the flavorful pulp instead.)
  • Use over-ripe bananas: Aim for bananas that are generously speckled and over-ripe, in order to give this cake the richest possible banana flavor.
  • Don’t over-mix the batter: You want to fold all of the ingredients into the batter until it is just combined and no streaks remain. If you over-mix the batter too much, the cake will be more dense.
  • Sift the powdered sugar: To make the cream cheese frosting extra-smooth, I recommend sifting the powdered sugar through a fine-mesh strainer when adding it to the frosting if you are stirring it together by hand. Or alternately, you can use a mixer or a food processor to mix the frosting and help make it extra smooth.
  • Use the toothpick test: In order to ensure that the cakes are perfectly baked, test the centers of the cakes with a toothpick to know when to remove them from the oven.

Cutting a slice of hummingbird cake

Possible Cake Variations:

Here are a few other variations on this hummingbird cake recipe that you are welcome to try…

  • Add coconut: Feel free to add 1/2 cup of shredded sweetened coconut to the batter if you would like more coconut flavor. Or you are also welcome to decorate the outside of the cake with shredded coconut too!
  • Make cupcakes: Portion the batter into lined muffin cups, filling each cup about 3/4 full of batter, then bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cupcake comes out clean. Transfer the cupcakes to a wire cooling rack and let them rest until they reach room temperature. Then spread or pipe the frosting onto each cupcake.

Slices of hummingbird cake

More Favorite Cake Recipes:

Looking for more cake recipe inspiration? Here are a few of my faves!

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Description

This delicious hummingbird cake recipe features ultra-moist tropical pineapple banana cake layered with rich cream cheese frosting and a sprinkle of toasted pecans.



Scale

Ingredients

Hummingbird Cake Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom*
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups well-mashed ripe bananas
  • 1 1/4 cups finely-chopped fresh pineapple*
  • 1 cup finely-chopped pecans, lightly toasted (plus extra for topping the cake, if desired)

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:

  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Instructions

  1. Prep the oven and cake pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch* cake pans, tapping out any excess flour.
  2. Mix the cake batter. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, cardamom, and ginger until combined. Add the eggs, oil and vanilla extract, stirring until the ingredients just combined and no dry streaks remain. (Try to avoid over-mixing.) Add the bananas, pineapple and pecans and stir until evenly combined.
  3. Bake. Portion the batter evenly between the three cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let them cool completely to room temperature before frosting.
  4. Mix the frosting. In a large mixing bowl (or see stand mixer option below), whisk together the cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract and salt until evenly combined. Gradually add in the powdered sugar until incorporated, then whisk the frosting vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes until smooth and fluffy. If the frosting seems too thin, add extra powdered sugar. If it seems too thick, add in a tablespoon or two of water.
  5. Assemble the cake. Place one cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly on top of the cake, extending over the edges. Repeat with a second layer of cake, followed by an additional 1 cup of frosting. Repeat with the third layer of cake, then spread the remaining frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake until smooth. Sprinkle extra chopped pecans on the cake as decoration, if desired.
  6. Serve. Slice, serve and enjoy!

Notes

Fresh pineapple: I strongly recommend using fresh instead of canned pineapple, in order for the pineapple flavor to really shine through.  Be sure to also lightly strain off any excess pineapple juice before measuring and adding the chopped pineapple to the recipe.  (No need to aggressively press the juice out; if there just happens to be any excess juice on the cutting board, try not to add it to your measuring cup.)

Use 9-inch cake pans: Alternately, you can use two or three 9-inch cake pans, instead of three 8-inch cake pans. If you only use two pans, be sure that they are at least 2 inches tall. And be sure to keep an eye on the baking time and use the toothpick test to determine when the cakes are finished baking. If you use two 9-inch pans, the baking time will be around 27-32 minutes. If you use three 9-inch pans, the baking time will be around 20-25 minutes.

Use a stand mixer: To make the cream cheese frosting a stand mixer, add the cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract and salt. Mix with the paddle attachment on medium-low speed until evenly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the powdered sugar and mix on low speed until incorporated, then increase the speed to medium and mix for 1 to 2 more minutes until light and fluffy.

Prep time: The hands-on prep time is listed above. But you will need additional time (generally between 1 to 2 hours) for the cakes to cool completely to room temperature before frosting.

Source: Recipe slightly adapted from the Food Network and Southern Living.

Hummingbird Cake Slices with Cream Cheese Frosting

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