I love making (and eating!) big, beautiful layer cakes – there’s something so stunning about looking at a tall, smoothly-iced cake and then cutting into it and seeing layer after layer. I haven’t done any real cake baking since Joseph was born… not since the epic salted caramel apple cake back in September, as a matter of fact. I was long overdue, and since my mother-in-law’s birthday was last week, I thought it was a great excuse to whip up a new layer cake for dessert on Sunday.
I made hummingbird cupcakes a few years ago, and I thought the flavor would be perfect for a summertime get-together. This is essentially a banana cake, with crushed pineapple, reduced pineapple juice and chopped pecans added to the batter. It basically tastes like the tropics!
The two big differences between the hummingbird cupcakes and this cake is that the cupcakes included coconut (this cake does not), and the cupcakes used melted butter as the fat, while this cake uses vegetable oil. I love the inclusion of coconut with the rest of the flavors, so if you’re a coconut lover, I think you could go ahead and add some to this batter without an issue. As for the butter vs. oil, I think the oil creates a much moister cake, without a doubt. With all of the other ingredients, I don’t think you lose anything by not using the butter.
In addition to one heck of an amazing cake, this is filled and frosted with the best cream cheese frosting I’ve ever made. I was totally skeptical of the mixing process for the frosting – everything is mixed on low or medium-low speed, which is vastly different from every other buttercream mixture I’ve made – they are usually whipped at a much higher speed. Even though I was skeptical, I went with it, and the results were phenomenal. Cream cheese frosting can be so difficult to get right, and this one was perfect – silky smooth and easily spreadable.
Needless to say, the cake was a HUGE hit at Sunday dinner and my mother-in-law loved it as her birthday cake. I can see myself making this multiple times during the summer months – not only is it fantastic, but it’s pretty low-maintenance when it comes to layer cakes. Add it to your summer baking list!
Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottom with parchment paper, grease the parchment and flour the pans; set aside.
Drain the pineapple in a fine-mesh strainer set over a small saucepan, pressing to remove as much juice as possible. Place the saucepan over medium heat until reduced to ⅓ cup, about 5 minutes; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs, then whisk in the oil. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the bananas, pecans, vanilla, drained pineapple, and reduced pineapple juice. Gently stir in the flour mixture until just combined.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake until dark golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Let the cakes cool in pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then turn out of the pans, remove parchment paper and allow to cool completely, at least 2 hours.
Make the Frosting: Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt on low speed until smooth, then mix for an additional 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Increase the speed to medium-low and add the cream cheese one piece at a time and mix until smooth, then mix for an additional 2 minutes.
Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Spread 2 cups of frosting over top, then top with the second cake layer, pressing lightly to adhere. Spread 2 cups of frosting evenly over the top, then spread the remaining frosting evenly over the sides of the cake. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the chopped pecans. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. The cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.