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
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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. I have never tasted Hummingbird cake, but loved the outcome of this recipe.. I used fresh pineapple and the cake tasted great.. 🙂

  2. Im thinking the origin of the name is from the room full of people tasting is saying “mmmmm” and thereby sounding like a room full of buzzing hummingbirds. Anyone who has had one of those beauties fly by will know what I’m talking about. Any way you call it… its delicious!

  3. Can walnuts be used instead of pecans in the hummingbird cake?

    1. You can use chopped walnuts, yes. Same amount.

  4. Awesome cake! Delicious! Thank you!

  5. I bake pretty often and I have always loved hummingbird cake. But this may have been the best recipe EVER!! This cake was moist without being overly oily, well balanced, not too sweet, had great structure and tasted AHHHHMAZING!! Don’t skip the allspice. It made a world of difference.

  6. Stacy Bobian says:

    This cake is to die for!!!! My kids that don’t like pineapple loved it. I made a banana cake from another website and it is nothing compared to this cake. I would give it a million if I could. Incredibly moist and the tang of the icing pairs perfectly. I made 2 (6 in) cakes, 1 (4 in) cake and 12 cupcakes from the recipe. I only had 1 cup of nuts and can’t wait to make it with 2 cups.

  7. This looks so good but too big for my small family. Do you think I could halve it and make it in an
    8 X 8 inch pan with icing on top? Thank you!

    1. Hi Ellen! Halving this recipe would still be too much batter for an 8-inch pan. You find this Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions post helpful though!

  8. Sherylheiner says:

    Would it be ok to omit the pineapple. Not a fan of pineapple. Cake sounds wonderful

    1. If you omit the pineapple you would just be left with a banana cake. I suggest following this recipe for my Banana Cake.

  9. How do you think this would turn out in a bundt pan?

    1. Hi Jen, see my recipe note.

  10. I made your hummingbird cake for Easter, and it was delicious! The texture was perfect. I wish I could post a photo, because I did some toasted shredded coconut “nests” with pink, yellow, and blue Robin Eggs malt candies on top for the occasion.
    Thanks for the recipe! I have a feeling my family is going to request this cake next Easter, too. 😉

  11. Hi Sally..My 14-year old son wants to try to make this cake (with some supervision) for my birthday on April 26, but using our 9X13 cake pan. By how much would we need to modify the recipe to adapt?

    1. Hi Kristy! For best results, I recommend making the batter as written and using extra for cupcakes on the side. Fill the greased 9×13 inch baking pan halfway with batter. I’m unsure of the exact bake time, but use a toothpick to test for doneness. (Bake time should be similar to my pineapple carrot cake.)

  12. We loved this cake recipe. Didn’t change a thing. The texture is delicious especially. It’s moist without being heavy. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Christina Edwaess says:

    This was wonderful! I made a tray cake for one of my friends who’s been going through a lot the past few weeks. I had some left over batter that was enough for 6 cupcakes. And this was a hit! So yummy and moist. I think next time I’ll add just a little bit more pineapples as I didn’t get enough taste of it.

  14. It’s amazing. Absolutely amazing. Just make it. Then eat it

  15. I’ve made this twice and have to say that this recipe is perfection! My husband said it’s better than any cake we would get in a bakery. All of your tips are so on point too, although I’ve always forgotten to drain the crushed pineapple. The toasted pecans are such a flavorful compliment to this cake. Even chocolate lovers like me will appreciate this cake – reminds me of summer 🙂

  16. Hi Sally, have had great success in making your chocolate moose cake and carrot cake so am now addicted to baking and thought I would try more of your recipes! You mention using some of the juice from the canned pineapple , how much exactly? Thanks

    1. Hi Giuseppe! I would say use about 1 Tbsp of juice left in the can of crushed pineapple. Glad you are enjoying my recipes!

  17. Janis Richards says:

    Love the site! Never had Hummingbird cake before but was making for a friend for her birthday. Agree with other baker who commented that there is hardly enough batter for three cake pans. Made it as above. Decided to google southern cookbook sites and discovered that there is entirely too little oil in this recipe. Most call for 1 1/2 cups of oil to 3 cups of flour. These cakes are super dense and not that tasty. Edible, but more like banana pecan bread.

  18. Will it make a difference if I do not add the pecans? As much as I love them we cannot have nuts in our house due to an allergy. Thank you.

    1. Feel free to leave them out!

  19. I made your carrot cake for my husband’s birthday and he said it was the best cake he ever ate in his life! So now I’m trying this. I’m about 1/3 cup short for the bananas and I don’t have any apple sauce, would it be okay if I topped off the banana with more pineapple? Thank you!!

    1. That should be just fine! So glad my carrot cake recipe was enjoyed. Thank you!

  20. I made this cake yesterday to use up four overripe bananas. The cake turned out well. I only used two 9″ cake pans and it cooked perfectly. I did substitute Pumpkin Pie spice for the cinnamon, as cinnamon alone is too pungent for my taste. I also added toasted nuts directly to the frosting, rather than as garnish. The frosting went a long way – about a 1/3 was left over (I’ll make breakfast rolls later this week to use it up. Delicious last night for dessert, and I suspect it will be even better today.

  21. Ashley Mjoen says:

    Hi Sally!

    Do you think it would be possible to maybe like half this recipe and make in a 5×7 loaf pan?

    1. Hi Ashley, I believe that would still be too much batter. Each 9 inch round layer would fit into a 9X5 inch loaf pan. For helpful information on calculating different size pans you can visit my post Cake Pan Sizes and Conversions.

  22. This cake was amazing but someone tell me how it’s possible to use all the icing! I iced the whole cake and had about half the icing left still! I guess I’ll make another cake to use it up!

  23. I have never left comments, but….Loved this cake! Made it just as written and turned out wonderful! Gave a slice to my mother in law for mother’s day, it was a huge hit. Will make again soon. You always have great recipes, thank you!

  24. This recipes was absolutely delicious! My 10 year old daughter baked it with me standing by. I love that there were plenty of leftovers for the whole family to enjoy the next day.

  25. This cake is AHHHH-MAZING!! It’s super moist and the cream cheese frosting compliments this cake beautifully! I made it exactly as printed, and it was a BIG hit at my office potluck! Thank you so much for sharing!

  26. Hi Sally! I’m planning to bake this cake for my husband’s birthday. Was wondering if I could divide the ingredients by 2/3 and just make two layers instead of 3 (only got 2 cake tins) Will that work?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Himaya, I recommend baking the cake with 3 layers as instructed- simply leave the batter for the 3rd layer at room temperature while the first 2 layers bake. You could also make cupcakes with the batter you’d use for the 3rd layer (instead of the 3rd layer). Hope this helps!

  27. This looks great! Can it be made in a sheet pan instead? Not sure how long to bake it for in that case though

    1. Thanks Jenna! See my recipe note for details about different size cake pans.

  28. I’ve made this before and LOVED it! My only thought is that I wish I tasted a bit more of the pineapple. Is it possible to add more pineapple? If so, should I leave out one of the bananas?

    1. Absolutely! You can replace some of the mashed banana with more crushed pineapple.

  29. Keryn Venter says:

    This was a total success. Looked great and tasted amazing. I did use my own frosting though so it wouldn’t be too sweet. I also did 2 layers as my pans are very big. Cooking time was the same.

  30. I made this cake for my brother’s birthday last weekend and it was a huge hit, everyone love it! We have a dinner party on this weekend and I will be making this cake again. Thank you for a great recipe!

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