Hummingbird Cake

slice of hummingbird cake on a teal plate

I faced a major pickle yesterday.

I was working on the edits of Cookie Addiction’s manuscript, taking breaks here and there to edit photos from 2 recent recipe photoshoots. I peeked at my editorial calendar to get started on writing today’s recipe and realized I had both recipes written down in today’s slot. Where’s my brain right now? It must be hiding in the 181 pages of my manuscript.

Regardless, I turned to Instagram and asked you which recipe you’d like to see first. Layer cake or sprinkle-loaded cupcakes? It was a close tie, but the majority voted for cake. We’ll have to wait until Friday to experience those cupcakes!

hummingbird cake on a white serving plate

So first, let’s talk cake. A maaaaajor major delicious cake flavor that I’ve never really paid attention to until recently. You see, my dear friend had her bridal shower earlier this month. She’s from Savannah, GA and she chose hummingbird cake as their wedding cake flavor. Sure I’ve tasted it a few times in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever had traditional, stick-to-your-fork-moist hummingbird cake before. It’s her favorite and her sister even made it for the bridal shower that afternoon. I sliced off a sliver (literally the smallest sliver… what was I thinking?) and sat down to mingle with other guests as I ate my dessert.

I needed a moment of silence. In fact, I think someone asked me a question during those first few hummingbird cake moments and I blatantly ignored them. Excuse me, I’m with my cake here. Obviously 1 sliver turned into 1 sliver + 1 giant piece + weird moments of silence sitting with cake + zero guilt.

For years, I thought carrot cake was my favorite cake. Sadly, I’ve been mistaken. Tastebuds, you’re wrong. MOVE OVER CARROTS. Make room for banana + pineapple + deliciously spiced hummingbird cake. Of course we’re using cream cheese frosting and there’s toasted pecans too. Is there a better cake than hummingbird? Nope. The answer is a big fat straight-up no.

side view of hummingbird cake layers with cream cheese frosting between each

We’re working with 2 main flavors today: banana and pineapple. Well, we also have lots of cinnamon and a dash of allspice to round things out, but the main event is all about those fruits. There’s no butter; just oil. We want a delectably moist cake– and we don’t want butter to overpower the banana and pineapple. And since we’re relying on 2 fruits for flavor, we have to make sure we’re using the correct forms of both.

  1. BANANAS – brown and spotty. The uglier your bananas, the better the flavor. Odd, but true.
  2. PINEAPPLE – crushed and canned. You may want to use fresh pineapple that you crush yourself and yes, that’s absolutely fine! But 1 8 ounce can of crushed pineapple in *most* of its juices is what I reached for in my testing. Convenient and oh my goodness… the flavor!!

I based this recipe off of Southern Living, the recipe that the bride’s sister made for the shower. (Yes, I asked her. Have I mentioned how weird I acted at that shower?) I baked the original cake first, but found there were a few things I wanted to change. First, I reduced the oil and added an extra banana in its place. I reduced the sugar because of the added banana sweetness and used brown sugar in addition to white. Left out the nutmeg and used allspice (and more of it) instead. Allspice’s flavor tastes like a mix of nutmeg + cinnamon + cloves, with a VERY slight peppery note. It’s phenomenal in hummingbird cake. I also increased the toasted pecans and used my own cream cheese frosting recipe.

2 images of ripe bananas and crushed pineapples in a measuring cup

2 images of wet ingredients in a glass bowl and dry ingredients in a glass bowl

Two bowls. 1 medium, 1 large.

Wet ingredients in medium. Dry ingredients in large. ↑

Mix together.

hummingbird cake batter with toasted pecans

Up close and personal with those toasted pecans. ↓

Don’t skip the toasting part. You will *NEVER* regret toasting nuts for this cake.

cake batter with toasted pecans in a glass bowl

cream cheese frosting in a glass bowl with a whisk attachment

Frosting: cream cheese. A classic made for cakes like this. I increased my favorite cream cheese frosting recipe to ensure I had enough for the 3 layer cake. And by “enough” I mean thick layers. YES to thick cream cheese frosting layers!

The cake is even better after a few hours because the flavors have had a chance to settle, mingle, and marry. For that reason, it’s a wonderful cake to make ahead of time– even the day before. Honestly, I enjoyed the cold leftover slices more than anything.

hummingbird cake with a slice cut out with cream cheese frosting garnished with toasted pecans on a pink and white plate

slice of hummingbird cake on a teal plate with a fork

You’ll need a moment of silence too.

PS: wondering why it’s called hummingbird cake? I found this article discussing some theories. Anyone know the real answer?!

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
slice of hummingbird cake on a teal plate

Hummingbird Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 28 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 12-14
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Homemade hummingbird cake is exceptionally moist and flavorful with 3 delicious layers and silky cream cheese frosting!


Ingredients

  • 2 cups (250g) chopped pecans*
  • 3 cups (375g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups mashed banana (4 ripe bananas)
  • one 8 ounce can crushed pineapple*
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (160ml) vegetable or canola oil (or melted coconut oil)
  • 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • two 8 ounce (450g) block cream cheeses, softened room temperature (16 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup (175g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 5 cups (600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F (149°C). Spread pecans onto a lined baking pan. Toast for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven. Turn oven up to 350°F (177°C), then grease and lightly flour three 9-inch cake pans.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt together in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk the rest of the cake ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk until completely combined. Fold in 1 and 1/2 cups toasted pecans. (Save the rest for garnish.)
  4. Spread batter evenly between the 3 prepared cake pans. Bake for 26-29 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Rotate pans halfway through baking.
  5. Remove cakes from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. Once completely cooled, remove cakes from pan and level the tops off so they are flat. I simply use a serrated knife. Discard the tops or eat. YUM!
  6. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on high speed until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, milk, and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. Taste. Add more salt if needed.
  7. Assemble and frost: Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with 2nd layer and evenly cover the top with frosting. Finish with the third cake layer and spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Garnish with leftover toasted pecans. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before slicing or else the cake may gently fall apart as you cut.
  8. Leftover cake is delicious covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare cakes and frosting 1 day in advance. Keep cakes at room temperature, covered tightly. Refrigerate prepared frosting in an airtight container, then bring to room temperature when ready to use. Frosted or unfrosted cakes may be frozen up to 2 months, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature, if desired, before serving.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand MixerGlass Mixing Bowls | Rainbow Whisk | 9-inch Cake PanIcing Spatula
  3. Pecans: I’ve gotten several questions about leaving out the pecans due to allergy. You can leave them out without replacing with anything. Stirring in 1 cup of sweetened shredded coconut would be wonderful though!
  4. Pineapple: Slightly drain the crushed pineapple. You want a little juice, but not all of it!
  5. Cupcakes: This recipe will make at least 32-35 cupcakes. Fill liners 2/3 full and bake 20-22 minutes or until cooked through. You can halve the recipe for less cupcakes, but things get tricky with the eggs. I recommend using 1 egg plus this: crack a 2nd egg in a separate bowl, whisk it, and use about half.
  6. Non-Layer Cake: This recipe also fits into a bundt pan, though the bake time will be long– 55-65 minutes. Use a toothpick to test for doneness. Too much batter for a 9×13 pan, but a 12×17 sheet pan would be perfect. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, keep a close eye to not overbake.
  7. Adapted from Southern Living.

176 Comments

  1. Sally I made this cake yesterday. It was just amazing. Seriously, one of the softest cakes you have ever created. Everyone loved it. 🙂 Thank you

  2. I finally had the chance to make this recipe this week! It was amazing–my family and I have eaten it all up in just three days. 🙂

  3. I just made this for Mother’s Day and man, the flavors!!! Yum!!! But mine came our super dense. It was basically banana bread consistency. Did I go wrong somewhere or is that how this cake is supposed to taste? Either way, super delicious and I’ll definitely be making it again!! 

    1. Mine turned out the same way! So dense and kind of hard to slice. Flavor was amazing and loved the icing, it just seems like it should’ve raised more and been more cakey like your pictures. Wondering if I used too much pineapple bc I got the 8 oz out of a 20 oz can and didn’t use a scale??

    2. Supposed to be dense like carrot cake/banana bread. 🙂

  4. I can’t wait to try this recipe! Sally, what size of a bundt pan would you recommend? I have a 12-cup pan, but I have a feeling that this would just be too much batter for the pan that I have.
    Thank you for all of your wonderful recipes! (Your pineapple upside down cake recipe is the ONLY recipe I’ll use! )

    1. I’d say a 12-cup Bundt is your best bet. Any leftover batter, you can make cupcakes 🙂
      I LOVE that pineapple upside-down cake recipe too!!

  5. This is baking now, and the aroma is just incredible!

    Trying it for my mom’s birthday tomorrow – I can’t wait! 🙂

    I made some cherry-almond shortbread cookies as backup, because there’s a weirdo in the group who doesn’t like bananas! Those are the best, though…

    1. Haha! Both desserts should be fabulous!

      1. The cherry cookies were also to pay off a debt I owed my sister from her early-April birthday, so I was able to give her a bunch and make a cute little plate to go along with the cake. I always make a double batch of those! They’re SO perfect, they’re my favorite cookie from your site. Well, that I’ve tried yet, at least…and I do love all of them!

        The cake…OMG, it was delicious! So moist, like a spice cake and banana bread and a carrotish-cake all combined, with that frosting! I did add probably an extra cup of sugar to the frosting because it was still fairly thin even after refrigerating. It didn’t seem too warm in the kitchen, but maybe the butter I added was too soft, or I had a sub-par cream cheese – I don’t know. I also need to learn how to frost better! 🙂

        Thanks for another fabulous recipe!!

  6. Debbie Hopkins says:

    Is there an alternative for the bananas?

    1. It’s the main flavor, so I don’t suggest it. How about a carrot cake or spice cake instead?

  7. I made this for a Church coffee hour. It was my first attempt at a layer cake, so hooray for the delicious frosting to hold it all together!

    People went CRAZY for it, it was a huge hit! I got a few comments like, “Better than carrot cake!” and even “Better than my Grandmas!” which, no matter what kind of cook Grandma was, is a huge compliment!

    I love your recipes, thank you so much!

  8. This cake is delicious! It is very moist and was a huge hit with my family — many people said it reminded them of carrot cake. I needed to use 6 medium bananas to get 2 cups of mashed bananas. The frosting seemed a bit thin to me and I was worried it would slide down the sides, but it held up wonderfully in the fridge. I highly recommend trying this cake if you or your family likes carrot cake!

  9. Heather La Conte says:

    I made this tonight for my husband’s birthday. It turned out great! Each layer was fluffy and moist, the frosting complements the cake so well. Also the added crunch from the pecans is a wonderful bonus. Thank you for a great recipe!

  10. Dominic Sturt says:

    If you don’t like pecans, you could swap them out for walnuts. Turns out super yum

    1. Absolutely!

  11. I accidentally used two stick of butter in the frosting instead of 3/4 cup and the frosting still came out fluffy and tasted great. Now I’m afraid to try it with the right amount of butter because my family said that was the best cream cheese frosting I’ve ever made.

    1. Haha- if it worked for you then do it again! 🙂

  12. I tried this for tne first time (used coconut oil) and while the taste is nice the cake turned out pretty dense. I hand mixed the ingredients…would using a hand mixer help maybe? It was moist and flavorsome just too heavy.

    Any ideas/suggestions?

  13. Hi Sally! Can I do this recipe for 2 layer cake instead? Thank you!

    1. Hi Tin! You certainly could, but I’m unsure of the ratio and measurement of ingredients. I recommend making the batter as is and using any extra batter for a few cupcakes on the side. You can freeze them.

  14. Can you use cake flour instead of all-purpose flour?

    1. Hi Raschelle! Cake flour is much too light for this hummingbird cake batter. All-purpose is best.

  15. I made this cake for by husband’s birthday and it was a hit! And I’m not a baker. It seemed more like making an easy banana bread. one thing I did differently was I pushed finely chopped pecans into the side of the frosted cake, all the way around and left the top plain cream cheese frosting. I saw that on a carrot cake and thought it looked nice.

    1. I’m so glad it was a hit, John!! I hope he had a fantastic birthday 🙂

  16. I just made this cake today for my boyfriend’s mom’s birthday and oh my lanta it is delicious. Few slight changes – I only had 2 8″ cake pans so made a double layer cake plus some extra cupcakes. Omitted the nuts and used coconut instead. And in a last minute light bulb moment, I added some leftover crushed pineapple and a bit of its juice to the cream cheese frosting, turning it into pineapple cream cheese frosting. Easily could have eaten the entire bowl with a spoon but had a bit of will power. Topped the cake with some toasted coconut and man it was amazing…might be my new favorite cake!

  17. Hi! This sounds amazing. I’m wondering if I could possibly use pumpkin pie spice instead of allspice…

    1. You can certainly try it!

  18. Made this cake as a second cake for my daughter’ s birthday and the guests were simply oohing and aahing about the taste….and rightly on gentleman commented, with each bite the flavor would simply hit you….Thank you for this wonderful recipe. i tweaked it a bit by adding some dessicated coconut and walnuts instead of pecans.

  19. I loved this cake, I made it for a bake-off and got so many compliments. The only caveat is that I made the cream cheese frosting as per the instructions and and was so glad I tasted it before putting in onto the cake. So so over sweet. In the end I took about 1/10 of the frosting and mixed it with another tub of cream cheese and that was a lot better, so I would recommend considering this too anyone having a go.

  20. I made this and followed to the letter. It was a huge freaking success! Sally, you’re a genius! Everyone in my office couldn’t stop raving about them. I made medium-sized cupcakes out of the batter and it rendered 17. My only niggle is my frosting came up a bit on the liquidy side. How do I “firm” it up?

    1. I’m so glad the cake was a success! For the frosting make sure your butter and cream cheese are at room temperature but not too warm and if it’s still to thin you can add more powdered sugar.

  21. I give this 5 stars! I made this for Memorial Day BBQ. It was BIG hit. I love allspice so it was a give in to try this recipe. One couple who never eat dessert asked to take home 2 slices for their morning coffee! I only used 1 cup of pecans in the cake, but I did toast them, and sprinkled extra on the top. Don’t skip toasting them! OMG so good. I used dark brown sugar because it’s my favorite but cut back to 3/8 cup granulated sugar. Also used melted coconut oil because everything I bake turns out so tender. My frosting was a bit soft so didn’t piping didn’t hold very well. Stored in frig so not a problem but next time I will omit milk until I know the consistancy. After making countless cream cheese frostings I should have known better:( Don’t skimp on the cream cheese for wonderful flavor. The frosting makes very generous amount so I was generous between the layers. Love hummingbirds, love this cake! Will definitely make this cake again. Yummy!

  22. I made this today and it was amazing. I did use apple sauce instead of oil. I will definitely make this again. When I look up a dessert recipe, you are my go to!

  23. Can you make this cake in two 8 inch pans instead of three 6 inch pans?

    1. Hi Samantha! Use 3 9-inch cake pans. There is simply too much batter for 2 8-inch pans, unless you use any extra for a few cupcakes on the side!

  24. Is the 12×17 pan recommendation for dividing and making a layer cake or as one large sheet cake?
    Not much of a baker, but I can follow a recipe. : )

    1. Hi Larry, a 12×17 pan would be for a one layer sheet cake. Enjoy!

  25. I made this by request for a work event and it got rave reviews. Usually there’s a piece or two left over. But not this time. A very competitive person was not happy that it was said to be better than hers. I’d never made it before and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Ended up printing off this recipe for several people. ( Yay Sally! )
    Made exactly as per recipe except for walnuts instead of pecans because it’s what was on hand.
    I liked it a lot, sort of like an excellent cake version of banana bread.
    Having said that, it’ll never replace carrot cake as my go to autumn cake. The recipe was great, obviously, but Hummingbird Cake was just a bit of an anticlimax for me after all the buildup.
    I’d happily make it again if it was requested, though.

  26. What do you oil the cake pans with? I have canola oil, extra virgin olive oil it coconut oil?

    1. Hi Sherry, I use and prefer nonstick baking spray.

  27. I have three large bananas that will mash up to about a cup and a half but definitely won’t make it all the way to two cups. Can I get away with it on this recipe?

    1. Hi Shannon! That will be plenty, yes, but you can try supplementing with unsweetened applesauce.

  28. I got three layers from this recipe, but they are so thin. Did I need to put baking powder in with all purpose flour? My layers were only about 3/4 inch each. I used 9 inch pans.

    1. Hi Shellie! These are thinner cake layers due to all the wet/moistening/heavy ingredients, but the cakes should still rise quite a bit. Make sure you’re following the recipe closely and that your baking soda is fresh.

  29. I made this cake exactly as suggested opting for the coconut oil. It is the most amazing cake I’ve ever had, hands down!! This cake is super moist and will awaken your taste buds!! Thank you for sharing. It’s also a beautiful cake.

  30. Justine Sanchez says:

    The cake came out perfectly! And I am so not a baker. This was an easy recipe and I would def make it again 🙂

1 2 3 4

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Sally's signature

Recipes You’ll Love

Archives

Categories

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe. Review Sally's Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions.

View More

Every December we publish 10 new cookie recipes in a row! The 2021 Sally’s Cookie Palooza begins 11/29. Sign up via email and we’ll send you my most popular recipes and all the new cookie recipes once the palooza begins!

View More

Pie Week is all about baking the BEST pies! Sign up via email and we'll send you my most popular recipes and all the new pie recipes once Pie Week begins!

View More

My Cookbooks

Sally's Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally

×