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. How would you modify baking for a convection oven?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cheryl, All of the recipes on this site are written for conventional settings. If you do use convection settings for baking, lower your temperature by 25 degrees F and keep in mind that things may still take less time to bake. Hope this helps!

  2. Can I make this recipe into cupcakes instead?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rhonda, Absolutely! See the recipe notes for cupcake instructions. Enjoy!

  3. This recipe looks delicious! I’m wondering if I can bake the layers of cake and freeze them, to thaw and frost later? Some cakes with pineapple or banana when frozen become a little to moist and spongy. What’s your opinion, freeze ahead of time or make fresh? Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Brooks, sure can! See recipe notes and our How to Freeze Cakes post for more details.

  4. This is an excellent recipe! I made the cupcake/muffin version I iced half and left half plain, they were a huge hit! I halved the recipe and got 12 large pieces and baked a little bit longer at 25 mins and they came out perfectly. I’ll definitely be making more!

  5. Linette Miranda says:

    Hi Sally, can I substitute almond flour for the all purpose flour? I would like to make a healthier version of this if possible.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Linette! Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be a 1:1 swap and would require additional testing.

  6. Oh no! I thought I was only debating the carrot cake vs. the pineapple carrot cake for Easter, but then there’s this! Your banana cake is a family favorite, with the brown butter cream cheese icing. How good would brown butter be on this cake?!! YUM! I am going to end up with 10 SBA deserts on my Easter table! Lol.

  7. Loved it…great Easter success with family. I added caramelized pecans as a the garnish. Really yummy!

  8. I just made this recipe today. The layers came out to about 1 inch each…is that accurate? They just seem so thin…I hope I did everything correctly. Thanks for your recipes!

    1. Hi Steph, that sounds about right. This is a very moist and denser cake, so the layers aren’t very light, springy, or fluffy.

  9. Lauren Figard says:

    I made this cake for Easter, and my family loved it. It turned out very moist and flavorful. I didn’t have any issues spreading the batter over three cake pans to make a triple-layer cake, as other reviewers did. I’m glad you suggested refrigerating it for a while before serving, as I suspect it would have fallen apart when cut if I hadn’t. The only modification I would make is to increase the amount of pineapple- I love pineapple and I didn’t think there was enough of it in this cake. Still delicious, though!

  10. Made for Easter-Loved the cake and the frosting is to die for!! My cake did seem a little dry. I used a kitchen aid stand mixer to mix up. Should I just mix by whisking by hand instead, or did I over bake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Alaine! We’re so glad you enjoyed this Hummingbird Cake. If it was a bit dry, it sounds like it was simply over baked. This post on how to prevent dry and dense cakes might also be helpful. Thank you again for giving this recipe a try!

  11. I understand this batter would be too much for just a 9×13 but if I wanted a 9×13 cake AND cupcakes how much batter might I use in the 9×13 pan? 2/3 full maybe?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kendra! Yes, about halfway to 2/3 full for a 9×13 pan. Happy baking!

  12. I made this cake for a birthday dinner. The young man’s father is a chef so I was challenged but not daunted. I put a couple of skewers in it so it could travel across town and still be together. Success!! Since there was one person who can’t eat nuts I used coconut per your suggestion. The chef inhaled the first piece and came back for a second helping. When everyone had some and cut more to take home, I ended up with one piece left. There were raves all around so I will keep this one to make again and maybe I will be able to use the peans next time. Thank you for a great recipe.

  13. Hi Sally. I just wanted to take a second to let you know how much I adore your recipes. I have a small-ish scale at home bakery business. I make milkbar style cakes and your recipes are my GO TO! I use your vanilla and triple chocolate cake recipe more than any other, but I had a request to make a hummingbird cake this week. Let me just say… this is the best cake I have ever eaten. It turned out perfect. I just wanted to hop on and thank you for what you do!
    Of course I garnished it with fresh pineapple and banana! I wish I could post a picture! It turned out beautiful!
    Many Blessings from Nappy Valley Farms LLC in South East Georgia!

  14. Vivian Lee Cortes says:

    Hi Sally,
    I will be baking your Hummingbird cake as a Birthday present for my husbands co-worker.
    I’ve never made or tasted a Humminbird cake but after reading all the comments, I’m excited to try it.
    I’m wondering if this recipe will work out ok, if I was using three 8″ pans, or is it a must to use the 9″ pans?

    ps: I love that I can bake it the day before, so It has time to set.

    Thank you in advance for your time and help!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Vivian, you can certainly use your 8 inch pans here instead. The bake time will be slightly longer to account for the thicker layers. Hope it’s a hit!

  15. Vivian Lee Cortes says:

    Hi Sally,
    I want to say Thank You for sharing your Hummingbird cake recipe.

    I baked it today as a birthday present for my husband co-worker, and It looks so good. (I wish I could show you the picture of the cake.). I’ve never tasted a Hummingbird cake, so I was more then happy to eat the tops after leveling the cakes. SO YUMMY!!!

    Now I have to bake it again to serve at my house. Thanks again, for a great recipe!

  16. This cake sounds amazing!
    I am planning to make it for my friend’s birthday next week. I have two questions please:
    We don’t have all spice here, what can I use instead?
    Can I use walnuts instead of pecan?
    Thank you!

  17. I make this often with gluten free flour and it turns out wonderfully (as does Sally’s carrot pineapple cake)! I’ve used cup4cup and King Arthur Flour’s GF blend. We’re also dairy free, and both cakes are fantastic with vegan buttercream.

  18. Meghan Trivedi says:

    This cake was such a hit for Father’s Day 2021! My husband requested this cake as a food memory from when we lived in Washington, DC and it was only available at this one bakery. Now living in Toronto, no one has heard of this!

    I only had 2 6″ cake pans, so I made the full batter, and portioned it out into 2 rounds of baking, resulting in 4 separate layers (about 420 grams of batter in each). I made it into a 3-layer 6″ cake (perfect size for a small family), and froze the 4th layer to make as a small sheet-cake down the road! (or just a tasty treat!)

    Thank you for another fool-proof recipe!

  19. Hi Sally, would it be possible to bake this cake in a loaf pan (perhaps in two, given the amount of ingredients)? Thank you, Katerina

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Katerina, that would likely 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 our post on Cake Pan Sizes and Conversions.

  20. Hi Sally!

    I love all your recipes, so came to you first for a hummingbird cake recipe. I want to make one for my grandmother’s birthday because she loves them, however she recently stopped being able to eat bananas. I know that doesn’t really make it a true hummingbird cake, but was wondering your advice on omitting the bananas. I’m worried it will totally change the chemistry of the cake, and I’m not skilled enough to know how to adjust. Was thinking I would need to add something for moisture (maybe applesauce?) and perhaps some extra sugar? Any thought/advice you have on tweaks and/or quantities would be so appreciated! Thanks so much.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Claire, thank you so much for making and trusting our recipes! Bananas are the main flavor in this cake, so we don’t suggest making a substation. How about a carrot cake or spice cake instead?

  21. Hello, I only have a 9×13 cake tray available. I’ll use the leftover batter to make cupcakes, but how long should I bake the cake in the 9×13 pan, and to what height should I fill up the pan? Thanks

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Meena, fill your greased 9×13 pan about 1/2 to 2/3 full. I’m unsure of the exact bake time, but use a toothpick to test for doneness. (Bake time should be similar to our pineapple carrot cake.)

  22. Serena Thomas says:

    Hi, would the Hummingbird cake be suitable as part of a tiered cake, maybe on the bottom, but cover in fondant? Thanks

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Serena, this cake should be plenty sturdy to use as the bottom tier. For extra stability, we recommend using cake rounds and dowels like we do in our Homemade Wedding Cake post. We haven’t tried covering this cake with fondant, but let us know if you do!

  23. Laura Corbell says:

    I haven’t made this cake recipe just yet, going to soon!, my idea is to add about 1 cup of grated carrots along with the pineapple, little extra flour might be needed?, that way you can have your banana pineapple cake and carrot cake all in one! Sounds very good and doable! I also do fruit breads and cookies each week to sell at farmers markets and will have to add this recipe to my others to try selling! YUM! Can’t wait to try it! Let you all know how it turns out with carrots added.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Laura, adding carrots would require some recipe testing since it’s adding volume and moisture to the cake. If you decide to do any experimenting, let us know how it goes!

  24. Do you have directions for baking in a 4×3 pan? I’m planning on making this for my daughter’s birthday because it’s her favorite, and plan to have the small cake surrounded by cupcakes.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Laura, for a smaller pan, you’ll want to fill half way and then bake for less time (we’re unsure of the exact time). You can use leftover batter for cupcakes.

      1. Would I still bake it at 350?

  25. Hi Sally,
    thank you so much for this recipe. I am about to make this cake this weekend and I was wondering about two things: firstly, the flour. I’ve read your post about how the all-purpose and cake flour make a difference in different cakes, so I want to get this right. I live in Italy, you see, and for a cake I’d go with what we call “00” flour here. There is also a “0”, but seems a bit too thick for a cake base. Are you familiar with these? In which case, which one would you say is closer? And secondly, I only own one cake pan. Is there a way to make the three layers with just one cake pan?
    Thank you so much for your help and for this beautiful website. I just love that I can trust everything you post is yummy stuff.
    Best,
    Marketa

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Marketa, 00 flour should work for this cake, but we have not tested it. From our understanding the protein content of 00 flour can vary depending on what type of wheat was used. Typically all purpose flour has protein content anywhere between 9-11%. Check your bag and if it is similar it should be ok to use. We also suggest using the weight measurements. Please let us know if you give it a try!

      1. Hi Stephanie,
        thanks a lot for your response. The flour worked ok, although it was a bit dense, so next time I may try the 0 just for comparison.
        Unfortunately the icing turned into a disaster. The first batch came out liquid, so I skipped the milk when remaking it. It still didn’t help. I have no idea what the cause might have been. Maybe you have different cream cheese. I used Philadelhia (full-fat version), followed the instructions precisely, from temperature of ingredients to times of beating. No chance to get a cream stiff enough to be able to spread it instead of pouring it on. Do you have any idea what the problem could be? I don’t want to abbandon the recipe, the taste is lovely.

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