Hummingbird Cake is a moist and dense cake filled with ripe bananas, pineapple, pecans, and deliciously savory spices. Tweaked slightly from the original, this cake is simplified and made even easier in a Bundt pan. And, of course, drizzled in a thick cream cheese glaze for the ultimate in flavor.
Sometimes the very best recipes are the old ones, the tried and true, dog-eared recipes tucked away in the card file.
And while tastes evolve and change and are tweaked over time, there are those recipes that linger in our memories and when dusted off, and tried once again, can stand the test of time.
A Hummingbird Cake is just that… a classic recipe we should never forget.
Perfect all year, in all seasons, and for any celebration.
Or simply when you’re craving a dense, sweet, tender cake filled with flavors reminiscent of the tropics.
Its texture is much like a moist and tender carrot cake.
And simple? Oh my, yes. Especially when converted to a bundt cake.
Hummingbird Cake Origins
The Hummingbird Cake made its popular debut in Southern Living magazine after the recipe was submitted in 1978 by Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina. It’s now a globally loved cake.
After her death, it was written about Mrs. Wiggins that she “left behind a legacy of kindness that she shared by caring for others and, of course, cooking for them.”
A beautiful sentiment to be remembered by. And now, we have her lasting legacy in the uber-popular recipe bakers still love to make today.
Original Recipe submitted to Southern Living Magazine in 1978.
Why Is It Called a Hummingbird Cake?
Red-Billed Steamertail Hummingbird: Charles J. Sharp
While the Hummingbird Cake, as we know it today, began with a recipe submission in 1978, the inspiration for the cake’s birthplace can be found in its key ingredients: bananas and pineapples.
The origins are found in the tropics of the Caribbean and most agree can trace its roots to Jamaica in the late 1960s and its “Doctor Bird Cake,” thus named for a nickname given to the Red-Billed Steamertail hummingbird, pictured above.
I know it seems like a stretch, but there are theories as to how this cake came to be named after a hummingbird.
Some believe it was aptly named because the cake is sweet enough to attract a hummingbird, which feeds on the sweet nectar of blooming flowers.
Others believe the streaks of yellow banana in the crumb of the cake is reminiscent of the hummingbird’s plumage.
In 1968, the Jamaican tourist board sent a press kit to the United States with island recipes, including one for the “Doctor Bird Cake.”
Soon after, variations of that recipe were printed in Southern cookbooks and newspapers, many under the descriptive heading, “The cake that doesn’t last.”
What does a Hummingbird Cake Taste Like?
A unique combination of ingredients like banana, pineapple, pecans, and spices make this cake incredibly delicious. It’s texture and finishing of cream cheese glaze is similar to a moist carrot cake.
Humingbird Cake Ingredients
Here’s my version of this oh-so-delicious Hummingbird Cake. The exact ingredient measurements are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- All purpose flour
- Granulated sugar
- Brown sugar
- Ground cinnamon and allspice
- Baking soda and salt
- Large eggs, beaten
- Neutral oil (like vegetable oil)
- Vanilla extract
- Crushed pineapple with juice
- Ripe bananas
- Chopped pecans
- Shredded coconut, sweetened
Cream Cheese Glaze (Frosting)
- Cream Cheese, room temperature
- Powdered sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Milk for thinning
Tips for Making a Hummingbird Cake
Vegetable Oil: While many delicious cakes contain butter, the original recipe called for oil which helps give this cake its moist, quick bread type texture.
Pineapple: Canned, crushed pineapple works best and be sure to use the juices in the cake batter. Do not drain them as this helps to deliver a lot of flavor and keeps the cake moist.
Pecans: You an use pecans in the batter as well as sprinkling them ontop of the cake. Toasting them delivers yet another layer of flavor that you will love.
- I like to use the whisk attachment for my stand mixer, but a mixing bowl and spoon works well.
- 14-cup Bundt Pan, here’s the pan I’m using.
- Cake stand, platter or plate
- Baking sheet to toast the pecans
- Handheld mixer helps when making the Cream Cheese Frosting (glaze)
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- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 4 to 5 ripe bananas (about 2 cups)
- 8 oz crushed pineapple with juices
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut, sweetened
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped toasted pecans
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 to 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 to 2 tablespoons milk to thin
- 1/4 cup finely chopped toasted pecans for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350F and spray a 14-cup Bundt pan generously with floured cooking spray; or grease and flour the pan.
- In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and allspice; set aside.
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, add the mashed bananas, pineapple with juice, coconut, eggs, oil, sugars, and vanilla. Beat on medium-high until incorporated.
- Add the flour mixture; mix until just combined and fold in the pecans. Transfer the batter into the prepared Bundt pan. The batter should fill the pan 2/3 to 3/4 full.
- Bake the cake for about 1 hour. In my oven, I begin checking the cake at about 50 minutes, it is often done in just under 1 hour. Test with a long skewer (or toothpicK) until it comes out mostly clean. Or you can use the "Bounce Back" test. If after gently pressing the cake, an indentation remains, it needs more time. If it "bounces back," very likely it is done. Baking time varies so watch it carefully.
- Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon of milk together until combined. Add additional milk or cream as necessary to achieve desired consistency. I like it thick but still slightly pourable. Garnish the top of the cake with toasted pecans.
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