A Hummingbird Cake is a classic Southern Cake that is reminiscent of a carrot cake, without the carrots because of its fruity and spicy flavors. It is a very moist cake, full of pineapple, chopped bananas, cinnamon and pecans, and it is usually topped off with a rich and tangy cream cheese frosting. There is no hummingbird in the cake – despite the name. In fact, it’s not entirely clear where the name originally came from, although the first printed instance of it can be found in a 1978 issue of Southern Living Magazine and a recipe by Mrs. L.H. Wiggin.
Many hummingbird cake recipes call for a tremendous amount of oil. This makes for a cake that is both moist and tender, but can also make for one that feels very dense and oily. This is often true of carrot cake recipes, as well. Since the fruity additions to the cake – pineapple and bananas – bring a lot of moisture themselves, I much prefer to cut back on the amount of oil in my cake and use buttermilk to add a little extra flavor and tenderness to the finished product. The result is a cake that is a hit every time I bake it. It is very moist, without seeming heavy, and you get a little bit of every element in the cake in every bite, from juicy pineapple to crunchy pecans.
This is a great entertaining cake, easy to make and impressive when served. It keeps very well when stored in an airtight cake keeper, staying very moist even when made a day or two ahead. While you could frost the top and sides of the cake, I prefer to simply use cream cheese frosting between the layers and on top of the cake. You get a great cake-to-frosting ratio and a very unfussy cake assembly. Reserve a few pecan halves to garnish the top of the cake.
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups banana, chopped (2 medium-large)
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained (or finely chopped fresh pineapple)
1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
cream cheese frosting (recipe below)
pecan halves, for decorating
Preheat oven to 350F. Line two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and lightly grease them.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt
In a medium bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla until well combined. Stir in chopped banana and pineapple. Pour into flour mixture and stir until everything just comes together and no streaks of dry ingredients remain. Batter will be fairly thick. Fold in pecans just until evenly distributed.
Divide evenly into prepared pans.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center of the came comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached.
Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the cake and turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. Peel off parchment paper.
When cake has cooled, place one cake round on a cake plate or serving tray. Top with a generous layer of cream cheese frosting. Place second cake round on top. Top with another layer of cream cheese frosting.
Decorate cake with pecan halves, if desired.
Cream Cheese Frosting
8-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 -3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in vanilla extract, and gradually add in confectioners’ sugar, beating at medium-high speed until frosting reaches a thick but spreadable consistency.