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. Sammy Chowdhury says:

    I have made this recipe for my husband’s birthday two years in a row and it’s his absolute favorite. Everyone should have this cake before they die.

  2. Definitely an amazing cake! I have celiac, so I use gluten-free flour (walmart/great value) without any other modifications, and it is so delicious! My family NEVER tosses the brown bananas. Definitely do the three cake layers, as the frosting to cake ratios are perfect. I frost it, and keep in the fridge overnight to let everything set up, and it tastes even better the second day. My kids love eating this for breakfast, too!

  3. I recently made this cake for father’s day, and it was a big hit! My family said it was the best cake I’ve made! Five stars, all the way! Most delicious hummingbird cake I’ve had. 🙂

  4. This turned out so good!

  5. Could you make this cake with just the banana? My son isn’t a big fan of pineapple.

    1. Hi Tiffany, I recommend just making a Banana Cake! 🙂

  6. I made a 3 layered 6 inch cake and it turned out great! If I want to make cupcakes with the leftover batter in 2 days. Do I bake the cupcakes and refrigerate it or can I refrigerate the raw cake batter until I’m ready?
    Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Christina, It’s best to bake the batter right away. Once the batter is mixed the leaveners are activated and should be baked as soon as possible for the cake/cupcakes to rise.

  7. Celine Huybregts says:

    I made this for my birthday with just 2 layers of cake and everyone raved!

  8. Just made this for my mom’s birthday (her request) and it came out beautifully! I topped with the toasted pecans and candied flowers and it was lovely. Thank you!

  9. Lindsay Mack-Fortune says:

    Hi Sally, I am going to make this for my mom’s birthday. She can cheat with gluten, but I was hoping to be able to substitute the flour a gluten free flour substitute. Do you have any tips or recommendations? I usually use Bob’s Red Mill one-to-one substitution gluten-free flour. My second son is due the same day as my mom’s birthday. Today, we made your amazing confetti sprinkle cupcakes with your buttercream frosting recipe and froze them to celebrate when he arrives. My husband’s grooms cake was your peanut butter double chocolate cake. Thank you for all the ways you have sweetened our lives through the years!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lindsay, We are thrilled that these recipes have played a part in your celebrations! We haven’t tested this cake recipe with gluten free flour but please let us know if you try it!

  10. Niyati Fatehpuria says:

    Hi Sally,
    This recipe looks gorgeous.. and I cannot wait to try it.. but my only concern is the pecan nuts.. they arent available here… and i love the nutty texture so can they be replaced with Walnuts? Also we get tinned pineapple but in slices… and the tin contains a sweet liquid… so should I crush the pineapples with the liquid or without it ?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Niyati, You can certainly use chopped walnuts in place of pecans. For even more flavor, try toasting them first. For the pineapple, crush the pineapple with the juice, then slightly drain the crushed pineapple. You want a little juice, but not all of it!

  11. Could this cake batter be baked in a half sheet pan for construction of a 3 layer cake like the Milk Bar Birthday cake? Would this cake hold up well enough to make the bottom layer out of scraps?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ashley, This cake batter fits into a 12×17 sheet pan. We have never tested assembling it that way so I’m unsure if the bottom layer would hold up. You can simply bake as instructed for three round layers though!

  12. My cake came out so flat! I followed it to the letter too, so sad, was so looking forward to it!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sue, 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. Thank you for trying this recipe!

  13. When my bananas are starting to get really ripe I freeze them. Is it okay to use them for this cake (after thawing of course)?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Katie, absolutely! You can use frozen bananas. Thaw them at room temperature and drain off any excess liquid before using in the recipe.

  14. Brenda Milcetic says:

    Hi Sally,
    When I removed the cooled cakes from the pan they were somewhat damp/wet on the bottom. Is this normal for this type of cake?
    Also, do I wrap the un-iced cakes in one or two layers of saran wrap? I plan on making the rest of the cake tomorrow.
    Your cake looks delicious and I can hardly wait to try it. Am baking it for my auntie’s birthday on Saturday.
    Thank you,
    Brenda

    1. Hi Brenda! I’m just seeing your question/comment now, my apologies. The cake may be wet/damp on the bottom from the greased pan. Sometimes mine are as well (from the nonstick spray I use). This is a super moist cake. As it cools, the bottom should dry out a bit. I usually wrap the cakes in 1 layer of plastic wrap. How did it taste?

  15. Sally, I can’t wait to try out this recipe. My sister asked me to bake her a hummingbird cake for her birthday. I had never heard of one before and your recipes have been great in the past. My sister lives about 3 hours away. I plan to make the cake a day ahead of time and refrigerate it. I have a cake carrier. Should I do anything special to transport the cake in the car, like put ice packs on the sides of the cake carrier?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Zach, It really depends on what temperature you keep your car 🙂 After decorating anything with buttercream or cream cheese frosting, it’s fine for 1 day at room temperature, so if it’s hot out just be sure your air conditioning is on. But, use your best judgment and whatever you are comfortable with- we’ve never had any problems leaving frosted desserts at room temperature for a day. I hope your sister has a great birthday!

  16. Hello, do you know how this recipe would work with a gluten free all purpose flour or almond flour? I absolutely love hummingbird cake and would like to make this for a friend who is gluten intolerant. I have limited experience baking gluten free and don’t know if it’s a case of just switching out the flours needed. Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Heidi, We haven’t tested this cake with gluten free flour. If you would like to try I recommend using an all purpose gluten free flour instead of almond flour (they are very different). Let us know if you try it!

  17. Tried this for my daughter’s birthday cake and it was delicious. My family loved it.

  18. Made this for the first time today. Lovely flavours but only a faint taste of pineapple. Would have loved it to be more fruity. Not sure if I should increase the amount of tinned fruit next time as the cake might get too soggy?!

  19. I’ve been wanting to try a hummingbird cake for years. So glad I started with this one. It’s delicious and it was so easy! The cake is moist and dense and lovely. The frosting is a tad sweeter than my usual cream cheese frosting, but they pair perfectly. I’ll definitely make this again.

  20. Hello Sally, can i replace pecan nuts with walnuts? or it makes a lot of difference?

    Also what is the best substitute for allspice & it’s measurement.

    Im also thinking if it will be ok to just have 2 9” layer as i only have 2 pans, to save baking time. Then just put thicker middle frosting…

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Kath, you can use walnuts instead of pecans. For the allspice, feel free to leave it out. You could also replace it with the same amount of ground ginger, nutmeg, or cinnamon. (Making the total amount of cinnamon 2 teaspoons.

  21. Deb- The Baking Nurse says:

    I used this recipe and it won 2nd prize at the Fairtrade Cake off in Feb earlier this year before lockdown and all this craziness started! I tweaked it like I always do with every recipe- didn’t have allspice, add ground cardamom, ground cloves, ground nutmeg. Used rapeseed oil here in the UK. I think it’s the same as canola. Used a mix of dark brown & light brown sugar. For the cream cheese frosting I do it in reverse order as I find it gets too runny if I beat the butter and creamcheese together first. I beat the icing sugar & butter first then add the creamcheese bit by bit until I’m happy with the consistency. Thank you for your recipes Sally- they provide me with so much inspiration!!

  22. I made this cake for family and they couldn’t believe how moist it came out. My family aren’t big on nuts in cakes, this Hummingbird cake still got high ratings.

    I’ll be making this cake to leave at the doors of friends dealing with covid.

  23. First time making this cake (and I’ve never tried any before either) and it tasted delicious! Thank you for sharing a yummy recipe!

  24. Made this recipe as cupcakes for a bday at work yesterday. They are so good! I love all your recipes that I have tried and always refer everyone who asks to pick any recipe on here for when they need something something delicious.

  25. Thank you Sally for the detailed steps. I made it for a dinner party and it turned out really well, except that it wasn’t as moist as I was expecting it to be. I added exact amount of canned pineapple with quite some juice and four bananas. I wonder what can be done to make it moist. I divided the batter into two cake pans though instead of three.
    Nevertheless the taste was incredible and everybody loved it!

  26. Hi Sally,

    Fan/Lurker/Baker of yours (since your chocolate chip cookies in the old format). This is ANOTHER 10/10!!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Thank you for your loyal readership, Midge — we’re glad the Hummingbird Cake was another hit!

  27. Hi, Sally!

    This recipe sounds amazing! I was wondering though, and sorry if it was already asked, would I be able to substitute spelt flour, whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour? Any recommendations for other alterations if I used one of those instead of all purpose flour? I was looking to reduce the sugar as well, as I saw that it still worked out great for a previous commenter.

    Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mica, we haven’t tested this recipe with any of those flours, so we really can’t say for certain. They will change the taste and texture of the final cake, likely making them more dense. It’s best to stick to all-purpose flour here! Same with the sugar — reducing it will change the taste, texture, and structure of the cake, but certainly feel free to experiment if you’d like. Let us know what you try!

  28. Hi,

    Do you think this would work with a rum and cream cheese frosting? I was going to use 4-5 tbsp dark rum and just fix the consistency by adding some more icing sugar if needed.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sarah! We don’t see why that wouldn’t work – you can leave out the milk and use all rum if you would like. Hope it’s a hit!

  29. What a show-stopping cake! It was incredible. I took out the pecans but added in a cup of shredded coconut to my family’s preference, and it really was so good. This is a super moist and flavorful cake that I’ll make again.

  30. This turned out so perfect! Thank you!

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