This classic Hummingbird Cake recipe is perfect for any special occasion or celebration. It's perfectly moist, with juicy pineapple, sweet banana, warm cinnamon, and crunchy pecans throughout and a thick vanilla cream cheese frosting between each of the layers and more pecans on top.
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The first time I experienced hummingbird cake was at the extremely popular Hominy Grill in Charleston, South Carolina and I instantly fell in love. This hummingbird cake recipe is the exact same one that made me fall in love with this classic Southern dessert in the first place!
When I saw that Hominy Grill had a small paperbook cookbook available with some of their most popular recipes, I immediately grabbed one so I can remake this cake and their shrimp & grits (the best I have ever had) at home.
You can think of hummingbird cake as a cousin to carrot cake, spice cake, or even banana bread. All of them have a warm, sweet crumb. In this case, the hummingbird cake layers are extra moist and sweet thanks to the addition of crushed pineapple and mashed banana. It's a fluffy and moist cake that also has a crunchy texture throughout from the chopped pecans.
The cream cheese frosting is rich and creamy, and it helps cut through the sweetness of the cake with its tanginess, which compliments the nutty flavors as well.
Hummingbird cake actually originated in Jamaica, not the Carolinas, but quickly became popular and an iconic dessert of the South once it was introduced there.
Why We Love This Recipe
- Decorate this cake with nuts, edible flowers, or even sprinkles to suit your occasion!
- This delicious cake is a great way to use up overripe bananas.
- It's a forgiving cake recipe, even if you happen to overbake slightly, that is super easy to follow but looks so impressive!
What You'll Need
Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Flour - All-purpose flour works best for this cake.
- Granulated sugar - Use white granulated sugar to sweeten this dessert.
- Baking soda - The rising agent we'll use here to give a nice, fluffy cake crumb.
- Cinnamon - Ground cinnamon will bring a warm flavor.
- Salt - An important element in any dessert to enhance all the flavors of this cake.
- Overripe bananas - You'll need about 3-4 ripe bananas. They can be spotted and brown, but not too black. They'll mainly add sweetness and moisture to the cake.
- Pecans - Chopped pecans are dotted throughout the cake and also used as decoration on the top.
- Pineapple - You'll need a can of crushed pineapple, or make your own using fresh chunks of pineapple that you run through a food processor . Don't forget to include the juices if you do this.
- Vanilla - Vanilla extract adds a warm sweetness and complexity that blends well with the spiced flavor of this cake.
- Eggs - To bind ingredients and help it to rise.
- Oil - I've used canola oil here but you can use vegetable oil or even olive oil if that's all you have on hand.
- Butter - Use salted butter to enhance the flavors in the frosting.
- Cream Cheese - Plain, full-fat cream cheese from a brick, not a tub, works best to give the frosting a creamy flavor and texture. You can use lower-fat neufchatel if you prefer.
- Powdered Sugar - For sweetening the frosting and adding substance to it.
How to Make Hummingbird Cake
- Put ingredients in a bowl. Add mashed bananas, pineapple, vanilla extract, oil, and eggs to a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Combine. Whisk together to combine using a hand mixer, or the paddle attachment on a stand mixer.
- Add flour mixture. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a separate large bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture. You can really get away without whisking them in an another bowl if you sprinkle the ingredients over the batter rather than dumping the baking soda or cinnamon together in one clump that might not get mixed in all the way.
- Add pecans. Chop the pecans and add them to the mixing bowl, then stir until the ingredients are evenly moistened.
- Put batter in pans. Divide the cake batter evenly between three 9-inch cake pans that have been lined with parchment paper circles and sprayed with baking spray. I always recommend using parchment paper circles in cake pans because they ensure that the cake layers won't stick when you turn them out after they are done baking.
- Bake. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake layers comes out clean or with just a few crumbs on it. Cool in the cake pans for 10 minutes before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.
- Make frosting. Beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until creamy and smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Beat until combined and fluffy.
- Assemble the cake. Frost each of the cake layers as you add them on, then frost the sides of the cake. Add the remaining 1 cup of chopped pecans to the top of the cake in a decorative manner by sprinkling them around the border.
Some say that hummingbird cake got its name because of its sweetness, which might be true. But hummingbirds are also the national birds of Jamaica, where hummingbird cake originated. The birds are actually known as "doctor birds" there, so this cake is also known as "Doctor Bird Cake" in Jamaica. Hummingbird Cake was made popular in the late 1970s in the United States when it was featured in Southern Living Magazine in February 1978. The cake recipe was submitted by Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina and has since been considered a classic southern cake in the United States.
Because this cake is frosted with a cream cheese frosting, it is best to store any leftover cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. I recommend letting the cake come to room temperature before serving, although that is just personal preference.
Yes, you can freeze hummingbird cake, either as slices or as a whole cake. To freeze individual slices, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for 2 hours before transferring to a freezer-safe container for longer storage of up to 2 months.
To freeze the whole cake, place it in the freezer for 2 hours so the frosting can solidify on the outside, then wrap the whole cake carefully in plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 2 months. Unwrap it and let it thaw in the fridge for at least 12-24 hours, then on the counter for another 1-2 hours before slicing and serving.
You can also freeze the individual cake layers after baking but before assembly, as well as freezing the frosting in a freezer-safe container.
To freeze the baked cake layers, let them cool completely, then wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or store them in airtight containers in the freezer for up to 2 months. Let them thaw on the counter for a few hours or in the refrigerator overnight.
If you freeze the frosting separately, let it thaw completely in the fridge overnight beat again before using to make sure it is smooth enough to frost the cake. If needed, you can add a splash of milk to make it smooth again.
You can definitely use 8-inch pans if you prefer thicker layers or that is what you have. The layers will just take slightly longer to bake all the way through.
Tips for Success
- Use ripe bananas that are full of brown or black spots on the outside skin. The more ripe your bananas are, the sweeter they will be, and the more banana flavor you will get. You can even use completely brown bananas that have gone squishy and soft.
- Line the bottom of your cake pans with parchment paper. It will help a lot with taking the layers out.
- For perfectly even cake layers, you can use a kitchen scale to divide the batter between the three pans. I tend to just eyeball it because I don't care enough about perfection!
- Every oven works differently, so I'd recommend checking on your cake layers during the last 10 minutes of baking to avoid overbaking them.
- You can decorate the cake with extra crushed pecans or even edible flowers for a really fancy dessert!
Tips for Frosting a Cake
I believe that homemade is better than perfect. No one expects you to be a professional baker. Almost any cake made from scratch will taste better than a store-bought one simply because the ingredients will be superior and also because you put in the time and effort to make it!
When it comes to frosting a cake, though, there are a few tricks you can use to help you get that perfect look.
- Don't overbeat the frosting, and make sure it's the right consistency before you start. Cream cheese frosting actually gets runnier the more you beat it!
- Try spreading a thin coating of frosting around the outside of the cake, and then put the whole thing in the freezer for 15 minutes. This will help "set" the crumbs, meaning they won't crumble off into the outside frosting. Then frost it with the remaining frosting and decorate as normal!
- Use a turntable if you have one, or even a cake stand, to give you a bit of elevation for adding the frosting. It will allow you to turn it more easily too.
Substitutions and Variations
- Hummingbird Cupcakes. Have you ever heard of something as cute as hummingbird cupcakes?! Simply make the cake batter, divide it evenly into a cupcake tray lined with paper cases, and bake for about 16-18 minutes. Check out my Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting for more spiced cupcake ideas!
- Coconut. Add some shredded coconut to the mix for more of a tropical flavor, or use it in place of the chopped pecans.
- Nuts. Use walnuts, almonds, or even peanuts instead of pecans for a different flavor.
More Cake Recipes You'll Love
- Best Homemade Strawberry Cake
- Luscious Lemon Layer Cake
- Vintage Cherry Cake
- Tropical Pineapple Sponge Cake
- Burnt Almond Cake
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (375g)
- 2 cups granulated sugar (400g)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups mashed banana, (about 3-4 ripe bananas or 460g)
- 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, juice included (1 cup)
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- ¾ cup canola oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups chopped pecans, divided
- 12 Tablespoons salted butter, softened
- 12 Tablespoons cream cheese, softened
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray three 9-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
- Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
- Combine bananas, pineapple, eggs, oil, and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Mix well.
- Add the flour mixture and 1 cup of chopped pecans to the wet ingredients. Mix on medium-low speed or stir by hand just until the ingredients are evenly moistened.
- Divide the cake batter evenly between the three prepared pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake layers comes out clean or with just a few crumbs on it. Cool in the cake pans for 10 minutes before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.
- Beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until creamy and smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Beat until combined and smooth.
- Place the bottom cake layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Frost with a generous amount of the cream cheese frosting. Add the next layer and repeat, followed by the final cake layer.
- Do a crumb coat by lighting frosting the top and sides of the cake with some, but not all, of the remaining frosting. Transfer the cake to a freezer for 15-20 minutes to help set the frosting. Then frost the cake top and sides with the remaining frosting. Decorate the top of the cake with the remaining 1 cup of chopped pecans.
- Storage: Store leftover cake (if you have any!) in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Freeze: To freeze the layers, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or store them in airtight containers and freeze them for up to 2 months. Defrost them in the refrigerator overnight. If you freeze frosting, defrost it in the fridge and whisk in a splash of milk to make it smooth again.
- Nuts: You can use walnuts or even peanuts in place of the pecans.