Ages ago, my cousin asked me if I’d ever made hummingbird cake. Hummingbird cake, you say? Whatever is that? After a little research, I found that hummingbird cake is considered a southern cake (from what I have found, the recipe first appeared in Southern Living magazine in 1978, which is the year that I was born, so maybe this is my spirit cake).
What I needed to know what this: how was there a southern cake that I had never, ever, ever heard of? Reportedly this is a dish that “frequents covered-dish events”. Ahem. Interestingly, I am finding as I delve more deeply into popular southern recipes that there are lots of dishes or traditional ways of making dishes with which I am unfamiliar.
Anyway, it turns out that hummingbird cake is an extremely moist cake filled with bananas, pineapple, cinnamon, and pecans, coated with cream cheese icing and coated with more pecans. And it spectacularly gigantic. Usually it’s baked in three nine-inch layer pans, but come on. What non-professional baker has three nine-inch pans? I have the two I got for my wedding. Hmmm.
Then I remembered a recipe that I saw on America’s Test Kitchen for a four-layer carrot cake baked in a half-sheet pan (the kind you buy in a restaurant supply store) and cut into four rectangles. Perfect. Now, I’m not going to lie. This sucker was a gigantic pain to cut and I broke a layer. Um. Oops. But you know what? That’s what icing is for-glue things back together. So if you have three nine-inch pans, by all means use them. If you don’t, you will need to be equipped with lots of parchment paper and some spatulas. But you can make it work. Believe in yourself.
Sorry for the motivational speech. I just don’t want you to not make hummingbird cake because it’s kind of a pill because it. is. so. worth it. It smells like the best banana bread you ever smelled and tastes like flowers and sunshine. Be warned, though, that the cream cheese icing does make this cake outrageously sweet, and I am starting a quest to find or create a cream cheese icing that doesn’t involve a crap-ton of powdered sugar. You can adjust the amounts to suit your tastes, though, and next time I may make this without the icing on the sides.
This recipe is adapted slightly from Simply Recipes.
55 minTotal Time:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I used 1 1/2 teaspoons Alchemy Spice Wake and Bake Blend in place of the cinnamon & nutmeg)
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 8 ounce cans crushed pineapple (with juice)
- 2 cups mashed ripe bananas (3-4)
- 2 cups finely chopped pecans (can toast them lightly if you wish)
- 1lb cream cheese (softened)
- 1 cup unsalted butter-2 sticks (softened)
- 2lb powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a half-sheet pan or 3 9-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper, then butter the parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
- In another medium to large bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, and sugar. Stir in the mashed bananas, the pineapple, and one cup of the pecans (I did all of the mixing for this cake by hand...do not use a mixer).
- Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until just combined (it's fine if you have a couple of lumps of flour in your batter). Pour into the prepared sheet pan or divide among the three round pans. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean (the sheet pan may take slightly less time than the round pans). Cool briefly in pan then turn out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
- If you baked the cake in a sheet pan, cut the sheet in half lengthwise then cut the halves in half crosswise so that you have four roughly equal rectangles. I put parchment between mine to help with transfer; a cake lifter sprayed with non-stick spray would also be helpful here.
- Make the frosting: using a hand or stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese and the butter until well incorporated, then beat in the powdered sugar a little bit at a time, making sure that the previous addition is fully incorporated before adding more (going slowly will keep you from making a gigantic mess...like I did). Beat in the vanilla.
- To assemble the cake. put a small dab of icing on a cake board to secure the bottom layer. If you baked in a sheet pan, use about 1/2 cup of icing between each layer; if you used round pans, use about 2/3 cup. Ice the outside of the cake then coat the sides with icing. I refrigerated my cake prior to serving to firm up the icing.