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Old Fashioned Hummingbird Cake

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A sweet Southern layer cake.

You’ll be glad you got your hands on this old-fashioned hummingbird cake recipe. Hummingbird layer cake is a sweet Southern cake that’s moist, flavorful from banana, pineapple, nuts and cinnamon, loaded with laid-back charm. 

old fashioned hummingbird cake on plate

Who Invented the Hummingbird Cake Recipe?

For as classic and old-fashioned as hummingbird cake feels, the cake has not been around for very long. Southern Living first published the hummingbird cake recipe in 1978. The layer cake was submitted by a Greensboro, North Carolina widow named Mrs. H.L Wiggins.

But did Mrs. Wiggins actually invent the hummingbird cake recipe?

Yes and no. Mrs. Wiggins is credited by Southern Living as submitting the first layer cake version with cream cheese icing. But the magazine also points out that hummingbird cake existed before that–and possibly first gained a foothold in America thanks to a Jamaican airline brochure!

hummingbird cake ingredients pineapple pecans banana oil flour sugar

Southern Living writes:

It started as a tube cake with no icing. Simple spiced cakes with canned pineapple and bananas popped up in community cookbooks throughout the early 20th century, when these once-exotic fruits became more commonplace in grocery stores, like Publix. The recipes usually sported names like A Cake that Lasts (most likely because it stayed moist and kept well) or Bird of Paradise Cake.

In any event, hummingbird cake took off from there, becoming a common presence in Southern bakeries, homes, and bake sales alike. Hummingbird cake has also been gaining popularity more broadly. The New York Times even recently (finally!) published their version of hummingbird cake. There’s also a well-known hummingbird cake from Magnolia Bakery, but that will cost you $55 to purchase. So I say make one; it’s easy.

cake batter with banana eggs and pineapple

What ingredients are in hummingbird cake?

Let’s start with what is not in a hummingbird cake: birds. Hummingbird cake is an easy banana cake, kicked up with the addition of crushed pineapple, cinnamon, and pecans. To make your hummingbird cake, you will need:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups neutral vegetable oil, such as canola
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, with the juice
  • 2 cups smushed very ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • Vanilla buttercream frosting (recipe follows)

Pineapple Flowers on Buttercream layer cake

How to Make Old-Fashioned Hummingbird Cake

I am a firm believer in not messing with perfection, so I use the Southern Living hummingbird cake recipe almost exactly, with a couple of tweaks. I have also written the directions with more detail for less-experienced bakers.

That said, you do not need to be a great baker to make this very excellent hummingbird layer cake. It is mostly a dump-and-stir recipe with uncomplicated ingredients.

  1. First, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and oil.
  2. Add them to the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  3. Stir in the pineapple, crushed ripe banana, and pecans.
  4. Divide into cake pans and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until done.

old fashioned hummingbird cake slices

What Kind of Bananas Should I Use?

Make sure your bananas are very ripe to get the best hummingbird cake recipe result. The more spotted with brown the better. As bananas age, they develop more sugar and flavor, with less starchy dryness. The ripeness makes a huge difference in the flavor, so make sure you have some bananas browning a few days in advance.

Can I Substitute the Hummingbird Cake’s Crushed Pineapple?

Yes. I sometimes have trouble finding crushed pineapple at the grocery store, so I just buy chopped or diced pineapple instead and crush it with my hands. The key is to include the juice as well. Do not drain it.

You could also use 1 cup of fresh crushed pineapple plus 3 tablespoons water. But the canned pineapple is the classic version.

old-fashioned hummingbird layer cake

How to Frost and Decorate a Hummingbird Cake

With lots of fluffy vanilla buttercream or vanilla frosting, and maybe some pecans for good measure. Some people like cream cheese icing for this.

If you’re feeling arts-and-craftsy, I also recommend making some very simple oven-dried pineapple flowers with thin slices of fresh pineapple.

Pineapple Flowers in Muffin Tin

How to Make Dried Pineapple Flowers to Decorate the Cake

To make dried pineapple flowers to go with this hummingbird cake recipe:

  1. Slice whole pineapple slices paper thin into rounds.
  2. Bake on a sheet pan-lined baking rack at 225 degrees Fahrenheit until they look very wilted and pale golden-brown, anywhere from 2 to 3 hours, more or less. (It will very a lot depending on how thin you got the slices. Keep baking until you get a dried look with the right color.)
  3. While the pineapples are still hot, shape them into muffin cups and let them cool in the muffin tin.

hummingbird layer cake sliced on plate with pineapple flower

If you love a good old-fashioned hummingbird cake recipe, you will also love:

old-fashioned hummingbird cake

Old Fashioned Hummingbird Cake

A sweet and moist old-fashioned hummingbird layer cake recipe with pineapple, bananas, and cinnamon. Adapted from Southern Living.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, jamaican
Keywords:: cake, dessert, easy, hummingbird, hummingbird cake, layer cake, pineapple, southern
Servings: 3 x 8" layers or two 9" layers
Print

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups neutral vegetable oil, such as canola
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, with the juice
  • 2 cups smushed very ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • Vanilla buttercream frosting (recipe follows)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease and line three 8-inch cake pans or two 9-inch pans.
    TIP: You can also use 9-inch cake pans, but the layers will be thinner and the baking time will reduce slightly.
  • Beat together the sugar, oil, eggs, cinnamon, and vanilla until emulsified and slightly lightened. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and stir to combine. Add the crushed pineapple and juice, bananas, and chopped pecans. Stir until fully combined.
    PRO TIP: If you can only find pineapple chunks, just crush it up with your hands.
  • Divide batter between the three cake pans and bake for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean and the top feels springy to the touch.
  • Cool in cake pans for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to fully cool. Frost with vanilla buttercream frosting and serve.
    PRO TIP: Like soup, cake often tastes better the next day. I like to bake my cakes the day before, then frost and serve on the big day.

8 comments

  • 5 stars
    Could you cut down the sugar? I feel the pineapple and banana will be so sweet. To like 1 and a half cups perhaps instead of 2 cups?

    Thank you!

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, CJ! I think I might try just doing down 1/4 cup of sugar or 1/3 cup max, and would also make sure the banana is very ripe. It’s possible that you could cut back even more than that, but it might start affecting the aeration of the cake batter and the texture, in addition to the sweetness. Hope this helps, and if you decide to do the full 1/2 cup reduction, I’d love to know how it goes!

  • 5 stars
    So delicious, one of my favorites!

  • Julie McConnell

    5 stars
    Hi Lisa ,
    Fantastic cake and fun to make.! Right up there with the no dye red velvet 🙂
    One question regarding icing. Both of these, being traditional cakes of the south, call for cream cheese icing, but you suggest a vanilla butter cream. Why is that ?
    Thanks ,
    Julie

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Julie! Thanks so much! Hummingbird is definitely one of my very favorite cakes of all time. (I love cakes with a lot of “stuff” going on, like carrot cake and such.) You are right about the cream cheese icing! I usually use vanilla buttercream with cakes because it is a little more forgiving with heat and some people do not like the tang of cream cheese icing. Personally, I love it, though!

  • Frankie W.

    5 stars
    This is one of my all-time favorite cakes and recommend it to everyone.

  • Jess Randall

    5 stars
    THE BEST!!!!

  • 5 stars
    I absolutely love Hummingbird Cake and always wondered why it was only popular in the South. I am going to make it again this weekend. Have some ripe bananas and everything!

5 from 8 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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