This Hummingbird Cake recipe makes a two-layer 8-inch cake. It is packed full of flavor from the bananas, the pineapple, all the spices and the nutty pecans. The perfectly sweet layers are wrapped up in a tangy cream cheese frosting that will keep you coming back for more.
The first time I made hummingbird cake was actually for our Thanksgiving dinner last year. I used a recipe from Duff Bakes. The cake was absolutely mind blowing delicious. And it was a lot of cake, 3 super tall layers, and could easily be 4. We happily shared with friends, neighbors, family, and still had leftovers for days.
It was the perfect cake for a large family party, but it was too much cake. Is that even possible? I must be crazy! Trust me on this, I made it into a two-layer cake and even that is still a lot of cake to go around. You won’t go hungry, I promise!
Hummingbird Cake Origin
This beloved Southern cake was created on the island of Jamaica. The recipe was sent to the US by the Jamaica Tourist Board as marketing material aimed at enticing American tourists to visit the island. The cake was named for Jamaica’s national bird. [Source]
Lo and behold, the recipe was published in a 1978 issue of Southern Living magazine and became the most requested recipe in the magazine’s history. And rightfully so! This delicious cake is super moist and full of flavor. It is made with banana, pineapple, a variety of warm spices, and toasty pecans. Wrapped up in a layer of tangy cream cheese frosting like a warm hug.
How to Make Hummingbird Cake from Scratch
This cake does have a lot of ingredients on the list but don’t let that intimidate you. It’s actually a super easy cake to whip up. Let’s do it!
Hummingbird cake batter
- In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together mashed bananas, oil, eggs, vanilla extract, brown sugar, and crushed pineapple until well incorporated.
- In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices, stir in the kosher salt. Add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture and stir or fold until incorporated.
- Fold in the chopped toasted pecans – toasting the pecans brings out their flavor and is highly recommended.
- Divide batter between 2 cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
I used 8” cake pans in this recipe so the layers are pretty thick. 9” cake pans should work just as well, but the baking time may be shorter since the cake layers are thinner.
Cream cheese frosting
Cream cheese frosting is a classic pairing for hummingbird cake, it’s criminal to use anything else. The tangy frosting really compliments the flavor of this spiced cake, much like in this Carrot Cake.
You can create smooth sides with the frosting if you want. Or if you’re like me, I’m not great with smoothing cake frosting, I just added a very thin layer of frosting (crumb coat) and then piped swirls all over the cake (as pictured). It’s a great way to make it fancy without a lot of frosting skills.
Storing and making ahead
You can certainly make this hummingbird cake ahead of time. For most cakes, especially layer cakes, I like to bake the cakes at least the day before and then frost them the next day. If you need even more time, you can bake the cake layers a few days ahead of time, wrap them well and store them in the refrigerator, unfrosted.
You could also keep the frosted cake in the refrigerator for 3 – 5 days. This cake will stay moist for that duration. The frosted cake does not need to be covered because the frosting will act as a protective layer to keep the inside moist.
Storing leftover cake
If you have leftover cake slices, store them in an airtight container or just make sure to cover the exposed cake with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.
This cake can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap the individual slices very well with plastic wrap and place them in a freezer bag. Thaw overnight in the fridge or a couple of hours at room temperature before serving.
- Make sure to use ripe bananas for this hummingbird cake recipe. I usually save my overripe bananas in the freezer and defrost them for baking whenever the mood strikes.
- I recommend canola oil, vegetable oil and olive oil for this cake. Even though olive oil has a strong flavor, it’s actually great in a spiced cake like this.
- You’ll want to strain the crushed pineapple but don’t press all the juice out. Use either a sieve to strain or a slotted spoon to scoop out the pineapple leaving the juice behind in the can.
- Save the pineapple juice to make Hawaiian dinner rolls.
- Save leftover pineapple to make a Pina Colada Smoothie or Pina Colada Cupcakes.
- If you don’t like pecans, try walnuts. Make sure to toast whichever nuts you’re using, it will bring out their sweet flavor.
More delicious cakes
- Tropical Cake with Peach Mango and Coconut
- Tangerine Olive Oil Cake
- Blueberry Coffee Cake
- Mini Lemon Bundt Cake
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment, send me a photo, rate it and don’t forget to tag me @wildwildwhisk on Instagram. I’d love to see what’s cooking up in your kitchen. Cheers!
📖 Recipe card
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (325 g)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- A pinch of nutmeg
- A pinch of clove
- A pinch of cardamom
- 1 cup mashed banana (about 2 medium banana, 231 g)
- 1 cup oil (210 g)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cup light brown sugar (lightly packed, 273 g)
- ¾ cup crushed pineapple (strained, 170 g)
- ½ cup chopped pecans (60 g)
- More pecans for topping if desired
- Melted butter for cake pans
- 16 oz cream cheese (room temperature, 454 g)
- 8 oz unsalted butter (room temperature, 227 g)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cup powdered sugar (150 g)
Make the cake batter
- Toast the pecans in a frying pan over medium heat for 3 - 5 minutes until fragrant. Let it cool and chop into smaller pieces.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Brush some melted butter on two 8” round cake pans. Line the bottom of the cake pan with a piece of round parchment paper cut to size and brush the parchment paper with butter as well. Set aside.
- Add mashed banana, oil, eggs, vanilla extract, brown sugar, and crushed pineapple to a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer and beat until the sugar completely dissolves and all the ingredients are well incorporated.
- Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and cardamom into a medium mixing bowl. Add the salt and mix thoroughly with a whisk. Add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture and fold until incorporated. Fold in the chopped pecans.
- Divide batter evenly between two cake pans, about 700 g of batter per pan. Bake for approximately 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean with just a few crumbs attached.
- Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 - 15 minutes. When you can touch the cake pans, use a butter knife to loosen the sides, flip the pan over to remove the cake from the pan. Peel off the parchment paper, and allow the cakes to cool completely on a wire rack before adding frosting.
Prepare the cream cheese frosting and assemble the cake
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream butter and cream cheese together until thoroughly mixed and creamy.
- Add vanilla extract and beat to combine.
- Add powdered sugar and stir until incorporated, gradually increase the mixer speed and beat until fluffy.
- When the cake is completely cool, place 1 layer on a cake stand or plate. Put 3 or 4 strips of parchment paper underneath the cake to cover the cake stand or plate. This is to keep the frosting from smearing everywhere.
- Add about 1 cup of frosting on top of the first layer and even it out with an offset spatula. Add the second layer of cake on top.
- Add a thin layer of frosting on the side and top of the cake, use a piping bag fitted with a star tip to pipe swirl all over the cake. Carefully pull out the pieces of parchment paper underneath the cake.
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the frosting to set or until ready to serve.
- Vegetable oil, canola oil or olive oil will work in this recipe.
- Strained the crushed pineapple using a sieve, but don’t press all the juice out of it. You just want to get as much pineapple pulp without the juice in the can in the batter as possible.
- Don’t throw away the pineapple juice and excess crushed pineapple, you can use it to make smoothies.