Hummingbird Cake


Everyday Culinary Delights 👩‍🍳


The Hummingbird Cake, a decadent dessert known for its moist texture and flavorful combination of bananas, pineapple, and pecans, first fluttered into the hearts of dessert lovers through its Southern roots. This cake, crowned with a rich cream cheese frosting, carries with it a history as rich as its flavor profile. The cake’s origin can be traced back to the late 20th century, where it first gained popularity in the Southern United States. It’s believed that the recipe was first published in Southern Living magazine in 1978, quickly soaring to become one of the publication’s most requested recipes.

This tropical delight’s journey from a regional favorite to a nationwide sensation underscores the universal appeal of its ingredients and the perfection of its taste. The Southern Living magazine feature not only introduced the Hummingbird Cake to a wider audience but also cemented its status as a staple in Southern baking. The recipe’s inception and its rise to fame are as fascinating as the cake itself, blending cultures and tastes into a single, irresistible dessert.

The appeal of the Hummingbird Cake lies not just in its flavors but also in its ability to evoke nostalgia and create new memories. Whether it’s for a birthday, wedding, or any celebration, this cake remains a beloved choice. Its history and origin are a testament to the enduring appeal of Southern cuisine and the timeless joy of sharing a delicious dessert with loved ones.

Why It’s Called Hummingbird Cake

The name “Hummingbird Cake” is as intriguing as its taste, evoking images of the delicate and colorful birds known for their sweetness. There are several theories behind this distinctive name, each adding a layer of folklore to its rich history. One popular theory suggests that the cake is so sweet, flavorful, and appealing, much like the nectar that attracts hummingbirds in nature. Another speculation posits that the cake makes people hum with happiness upon tasting it, similar to the joyous sounds of a hummingbird’s flight.

  • The Sweetness Connection: Just as hummingbirds are drawn to the sweetest nectar, so too are people irresistibly drawn to the Hummingbird Cake. Its combination of ripe bananas, crushed pineapple, and toasted pecans, all enveloped in a creamy frosting, creates a dessert that is both rich and satisfying.
  • Hum of Happiness: The delight that this cake brings to those who taste it could easily be likened to the happiness hummingbirds symbolize. The cake’s ability to bring smiles and joy, much like the bird’s presence, is a testament to its enduring popularity.

Despite the theories, the true origin of the name remains a mystery, wrapped in the Southern tradition and shared at countless gatherings. What is clear, however, is that the Hummingbird Cake has become a symbol of celebration, warmth, and the simple pleasure of a delicious dessert shared among friends and family.

While its name might remain a topic of delightful speculation, the Hummingbird Cake continues to be a beloved treat, celebrated for its unique flavor and the sweetness it brings to every occasion.

Ingredients Breakdown

The Hummingbird Cake is celebrated not just for its delightful taste but also for the harmony of its ingredients. Each component plays a pivotal role, combining to create a dessert that’s as rich in flavor as it is in history. Here’s a closer look at the key ingredients and why they’re essential to the cake’s iconic taste.

  • Ripe Bananas: The backbone of the cake’s moist texture. The riper the bananas, the sweeter and more flavorful the cake. Bananas add natural sweetness, reducing the need for added sugars.
  • Crushed Pineapple: Adds a tropical flair and moistness to the cake. The pineapple works in tandem with the bananas to create a soft, tender crumb. It’s important to use crushed pineapple to distribute the flavor evenly.
  • Coconut Flakes: Introduce a subtle crunch and a hint of tropical sweetness. Toasting the flakes beforehand can enhance their flavor and add an extra layer of texture to the cake.
  • Pecans: Toasted pecans add a nutty depth and crunch, contrasting beautifully with the cake’s moist texture. They’re often used in the batter and as a garnish, adding to the cake’s visual appeal.
  • Cream Cheese Frosting: The cake is famously crowned with a rich, silky cream cheese frosting. The tanginess of the frosting perfectly balances the sweetness of the cake, making it utterly irresistible.

Selecting quality ingredients and paying attention to their preparation is crucial for achieving the perfect Hummingbird Cake. From the ripeness of the bananas to the texture of the coconut flakes, every detail contributes to the cake’s beloved flavor and texture.

This breakdown not only serves as a guide for aspiring bakers but also underscores the importance of each ingredient in creating a dessert that’s become a staple at celebrations and gatherings.

Note: For the best results, always follow the recipe closely, especially when it comes to ingredient measurements and preparation methods.

Step-by-Step Baking Process

Creating the perfect Hummingbird Cake involves more than just mixing ingredients together; it’s about understanding the process and the small details that contribute to its final taste and presentation. Follow these detailed instructions to ensure your cake is as delightful to look at as it is to eat.

  1. Preparation:
    • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. This step is crucial for easy removal of the cakes after baking.
    • Toast the pecans in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant. This enhances their flavor and adds an extra crunch.
  2. Mixing the Dry Ingredients:
    • In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices (cinnamon and allspice). This ensures the leavening agents and flavors are evenly distributed.
  3. Combining the Wet Ingredients:
    • In a separate bowl, combine the mashed bananas, crushed pineapple (with juice), vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. Mixing these separately ensures a uniform distribution of moisture and flavor.
  4. Merging Wet and Dry:
    • Gradually mix the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined. Overmixing can lead to a dense cake, so mix until you no longer see dry flour.
  5. Folding in Extras:
    • Gently fold in the toasted pecans and coconut flakes, distributing them evenly throughout the batter. This step adds texture and layers of flavor to the cake.
  6. Baking:
    • Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Rotating the pans halfway through the baking time ensures even cooking.
  7. Cooling:
    • Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before removing them to cool completely. This prevents them from breaking apart.
  8. Assembling:
    • Once cooled, level the cakes if necessary. Place the first layer on your serving plate, spread a generous amount of cream cheese frosting, and repeat with the remaining layers. Finish by frosting the top and sides of the cake.
  9. Decorating:
    • Decorate with additional toasted pecans and, if desired, more coconut flakes. This not only adds to the cake’s beauty but also introduces more texture and flavor.
  10. Serving:
    • The Hummingbird Cake is best served at room temperature. Letting it sit for a few hours before serving allows the flavors to meld together beautifully.

By following these steps, you’ll create a Hummingbird Cake that’s not only a treat for the taste buds but also a centerpiece for any celebration. Each step, from preparation to serving, contributes to the cake’s ultimate success.

Best Practices for Serving

Serving the Hummingbird Cake is about more than just slicing and plating; it’s an opportunity to enhance the overall experience through presentation and pairing. Here are some best practices to ensure that your cake impresses on all fronts:

  • Let It Rest: Allow the cake to sit at room temperature for a few hours before serving. This resting period helps the flavors to intensify and blend, creating a more cohesive taste profile.
  • Slice with Care: Use a sharp, thin-bladed knife to slice the cake, cleaning the blade between cuts. This ensures clean slices that showcase the cake’s moist interior and layers.
  • Presentation: Serve each slice on a plate that complements the cake’s appearance. Garnishing the plate with a drizzle of caramel sauce or a sprinkle of toasted coconut flakes can add to the visual appeal.
  • Pairing: The richness of the Hummingbird Cake pairs beautifully with lighter beverages. Consider serving it with a cup of black coffee or tea to balance the sweetness. For a special occasion, a glass of sparkling wine or dessert wine can elevate the experience.
  • Accompaniments: Though the cake is delightful on its own, offering a side of fresh fruit or a dollop of whipped cream can add a refreshing contrast to its richness.
  • Seasonal Variations: Adapt the garnishes and pairings to suit the season. In summer, a side of fresh berries complements the tropical flavors, while in fall, a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg can enhance the cake’s warmth.

By following these serving suggestions, you can transform the act of enjoying a slice of Hummingbird Cake into a memorable experience. Whether it’s the centerpiece of a festive celebration or a sweet ending to a casual gathering, the way the cake is served can make all the difference.

Storage Tips

The longevity and freshness of the Hummingbird Cake are essential considerations for enjoying its flavors to the fullest over time. Proper storage not only extends the life of the cake but also maintains its moist texture and rich taste. Here are some storage tips to keep your cake as delightful as the day it was baked:

  • Short-term Storage:
    • If you plan to serve the cake within a day or two, keep it covered at room temperature. A cake dome or large bowl can protect it from drying out. Refrigeration can make the cake and frosting too firm, detracting from its ideal texture.
  • Refrigerating the Cake:
    • For storage beyond a couple of days, refrigerate the cake. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container. This will prevent the cake from absorbing any odors and maintain its moisture. Before serving, let the cake come to room temperature to ensure the frosting softens and the flavors are more pronounced.
  • Freezing for Longevity:
    • The Hummingbird Cake freezes exceptionally well, with or without the frosting. Wrap individual slices or the entire cake securely in plastic wrap, followed by a layer of aluminum foil. This double wrapping prevents freezer burn and flavor loss. Frozen cake can last up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature before serving.
  • Reviving the Cake:
    • If the cake feels a bit dry after storage, a simple trick is to lightly brush it with simple syrup (a mixture of equal parts water and sugar, heated until the sugar dissolves) before serving. This can help restore moisture and add a slight sweetness.

Following these storage tips ensures that every slice of the Hummingbird Cake remains as enjoyable as possible, whether it’s enjoyed immediately or saved for later. Proper care in how the cake is stored can make all the difference in preserving its quality and taste.

Variations and Modifications

Dietary Adjustments

For those with dietary restrictions, the beloved Hummingbird Cake can still be a part of your dessert repertoire. Here’s how to adapt the classic recipe:

  • Gluten-Free: Substitute the all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour blend. Look for a blend that includes xanthan gum, which helps mimic the texture and structure provided by gluten.
  • Vegan: Replace the eggs with flax eggs (1 flax egg = 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons water, let sit for 15 minutes). Use vegan cream cheese and butter for the frosting, and ensure the sugar used is vegan. For a binding agent without eggs, applesauce can also work well to keep the cake moist.

These modifications allow everyone to enjoy the rich flavors of Hummingbird Cake without compromising on dietary needs or preferences. By carefully selecting alternative ingredients, this classic cake remains a celebration of taste and texture, accessible to all.

Creative Variations

The Hummingbird Cake is versatile, allowing for creative reinterpretations in form and flavor:

  • Cupcakes: Transform the cake into cupcakes for individual servings. This variation is perfect for parties and offers a personal touch. Adjust the baking time to 15-20 minutes.
  • Bundt Cake: Baking it as a Bundt cake not only changes the presentation but also allows for different textures in the crust. The dense and moist interior contrasts beautifully with the slightly crisp outer layer.
  • Additional Flavors or Textures: Consider stirring in spices such as cardamom for a unique twist or adding a layer of salted caramel between the cake layers for a blend of sweet and savory. Chopped dried fruits or a sprinkle of lime zest can introduce new textures and bright flavors, offering a delightful contrast to the traditional ingredients.

These variations and adjustments ensure that the Hummingbird Cake can continue to be a versatile and inclusive dessert option, inviting everyone to explore its sweet, tropical flavors in a way that suits their tastes and dietary preferences.


What Makes Hummingbird Cake Unique?

Hummingbird Cake stands out due to its combination of ripe bananas, crushed pineapple, and pecans, topped with a creamy cream cheese frosting. This mix not only offers a rich, moist texture but also a blend of sweet and tangy flavors that make it uniquely delightful.

Can Hummingbird Cake Be Made in Advance?

Yes, the Hummingbird Cake is an excellent make-ahead dessert. You can prepare and bake the cake layers a day in advance. Store them wrapped at room temperature. The frosting can also be made ahead and refrigerated. Assemble the cake on the day of serving for the best freshness and taste.

Is Hummingbird Cake Suitable for Freezing?

Absolutely. Both the unfrosted and frosted Hummingbird Cake freeze well. Wrap the cake layers or the entire frosted cake tightly in plastic wrap and then in foil. It can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.

How Can I Make Hummingbird Cake Vegan?

To make a vegan Hummingbird Cake, substitute eggs with flax eggs, use dairy-free cream cheese and butter for the frosting, and ensure all other ingredients are vegan-friendly. These swaps allow you to enjoy the cake without any animal-derived ingredients.

Can I Omit Nuts from the Recipe?

Yes, nuts can be omitted if you have allergies or simply prefer a nut-free cake. The Hummingbird Cake will still be delicious without them, thanks to the flavorful combination of bananas and pineapple. Optionally, you can substitute with additional fruits or coconut flakes for texture.

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Hummingbird Cake

  • Author: Naomi
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 16 slices


The Hummingbird Cake is a classic Southern dessert that has won the hearts of many with its moist, flavorful layers of banana and pineapple cake, enriched with pecans and adorned with a luxurious cream cheese frosting.


For The Cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups mashed ripe bananas
8 ounce can crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
For the Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting:
16 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup caramel sauce
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar (or up to 4 cups, as needed)


Prepare the Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans, lining the bottoms with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in oil, eggs, bananas, pineapple, coconut flakes, and vanilla until just combined. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans.
Bake: Cook for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then invert onto wire racks to cool completely.
Make the Frosting: Beat cream cheese, butter, caramel sauce, vanilla, and salt until combined and fluffy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar to reach a spreadable consistency.
Assemble the Cake: Level the cakes if necessary. Place the first cake layer on a serving platter, spread with frosting, add the second layer and more frosting, then top with the third layer. Spread remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with a ring of toasted coconut and pecans if desired.
Serve: Enjoy at room temperature for the best flavor and texture.


  • Ingredient Quality: For the best flavor, use overripe bananas and high-quality canned crushed pineapple. The ripeness of the bananas will add natural sweetness and moisture to the cake.
  • Texture Tip: Do not overmix the batter once the wet and dry ingredients have been combined. Overmixing can lead to a dense cake rather than a light and moist crumb.
  • Frosting: Ensure the cream cheese and butter are at room temperature before making the frosting to achieve a smooth and spreadable consistency. If the frosting is too thick, a tablespoon of milk can be added to reach the desired texture.
  • Serving Suggestion: The cake’s flavors develop and deepen if made a day ahead, making it an excellent option for preparing in advance. Store it in a cool, dry place if serving within 24 hours, or refrigerate if planning to serve later.
  • Customization: Feel free to adapt the recipe to dietary needs or flavor preferences, as suggested in the variations and modifications section. The Hummingbird Cake is versatile and forgiving, allowing for creative tweaks.
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Dessert
  • Cuisine: American

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