Hummingbird Cake

Hummingbird cake is an easy, sweet taste of the tropics with banana, pineapple, toasted pecans, and the best cream cheese frosting! Make this recipe for dessert today!

A hummingbird cake on a cake pedastal with slices removed.

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 made hummingbird cupcakes many years ago, and I thought the flavor would be perfect for translating into a wonderfully epic layer cake. This is essentially a banana cake, with crushed pineapple, reduced pineapple juice, chopped pecans, and warm spices that taste like the Caribbean.

In addition to one heck of an amazing cake, this is filled and frosted with the best cream cheese frosting I’ve ever made and that comes together quickly and easily. 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 is absolutely luscious – silky smooth and easily spreadable.

You’ve found a delicious dessert you’ll want to come back to again and again!

An overhead photo of hummingbird cake cut into, with pecans on top.

Why is it called hummingbird cake?

No birds will be harmed in the making of this cake!

Despite the name, there are no birds included in the recipe. Instead, the name is thought to come from the fact that the cake is sweet enough to attract hummingbirds seeking nectar.

This dessert recipe comes from the Carribean country of Jamaica, originating in the 1960’s. It’s a banana cake similar to my traditional version, but with the addition of sweet pineapple and pecans. The recipe was sent to the United States by the Jamaican Tourist Board, as a way to entice Americans to visit their country.

Originally, the name was “doctor bird cake”. This is because the Jamaicans call hummingbirds doctor birds (because of their probing beaks). There are plenty of other names for this dessert, though. Popular names include: “the cake that doesn’t last”, “bumblebee cake”, “Jamaica cake”, and “bird of paradise cake”.

No matter what you call it, this cake is delicious!

A collage of ingredients used for making hummingbird cake.

Ingredients

One of the amazing things about this cake is that it has more fruit than flour. We are talking about 4 cups of fruit versus 3 cups of flour. This makes the cake super moist, full of flavor, and dense yet fluffy.

Aside from the usual suspects like flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla, let’s chat about these special additions:

  • Vegetable Oil – using oil instead of butter makes the cake lighter, fluffier, and more tender.
  • Cinnamon – gives the cake a wonderfully warm flavor.
  • Pineapple – canned, crushed, and with the juice. Don’t drain it!
  • Bananas – Use very ripe bananas. You want them to be mushy and super sweet!
  • Pecans – toasted and chopped.

For the cream cheese frosting, we use contrasting temperatures for our butter and cream cheese, so be sure to remember:

  • Unsalted Butter – make sure it’s room temperature and not cold.
  • Cream Cheese – you want this to be chilled, and cut into smaller pieces

Cake batter being mixed together.

Cake batter for hummingbird cake being mixed together in a bowl.

How to make it

  1. Preheat the Oven – Heat your oven to 350F, and prepare three 8” round cake pans by greasing, flouring, and lining them with parchment.
  2. Drain the Pineapple – Pour the canned pineapple into a fine-mesh sieve placed over a small saucepan. Use a spatula to press the fruit and drain as much juice from it as possible. Set the pineapple aside, and reduce the liquid over medium heat to about ⅓ cup.
  3. Mix the Dry Ingredients – In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  4. Make the Batter – In a large mixing bowl, whisk the sugar and eggs, and then whisk in the oil. Use a spatula to mix in the pineapple, peeled and mashed bananas, nuts, vanilla, and juice. Then, gently fold the dry mix into it until just combined.
  5. Bake the Cakes – Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans, and bake for about 35-40 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Make sure to rotate the pans halfway through to ensure an even bake. Allow the cakes to cool on a wire rack for twenty minutes before turning them out and removing the parchment. Let them cool completely on the rack – at least two hours.
  6. Make the Frosting: Beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt on low speed with an electric mixer until combined and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and mix for an additional two minutes. Increase the speed to medium-low, and add the cold cream cheese one piece at a time. Mix until smooth, plus two minutes.
  7. Put it all Together: Place one cake layer on a serving platter, and spread 2 cups of frosting evenly over top. Lightly press the second cake layer on top and spread 2 cups of frosting evenly over the top of that. Spread what is left of the frosting onto the sides of the cake. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the chopped pecans. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Hummingbird cake on a cake pedestal with pecans.

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Take your butter out of the fridge one hour before you make the frosting. As a result, it will be soft enough to combine with the cream cheese, but still cool.
  • Bananas – Make sure they are super ripe and spotty brown for a cake that’s ultra moist with lots of banana flavor!
  • Pecans – The pecans can be omitted without needing to be replaced with anything else.
  • Cake Size – I love large, three-layer cakes but you can also make this cake using two 9-inch cake pans. The batter will also work for a Bundt pan; start checking around 50 minutes, but bake time could be closer to an hour. There is too much batter for a 9×13-inch cake.
  • Cupcakes – This recipe will make around 24 to 32 cupcakes. Fill cupcake liners two-thirds full with batter and bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  • Make-Ahead Instructions – You can bake the cakes and prepare the frosting up to one day in advance. Wrap the baked and cooled cakes in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature. The frosting should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator. Remove and allow to come to room temperature before using it.
  • Freezing Instructions – Both the cake layers and assembled and frosted cake can be frozen. Wrap cake layers or assembled cake in plastic wrap and then foil and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight then allow to come to cool room temperature before serving.

A slice of hummingbird cake on a plate with a fork.

More Tropical-Flavored Cakes

I hope you’ll enjoy this hummingbird cake anytime you get a craving for a little taste of the tropics! If you make it, I’d love if you would take a moment to stop back and share a review below. ENJOY! 😍

Hummingbird Cake

Servings 16 servings
Prep 45 minutes
Cook 50 minutes
Total 1 hour 40 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Michelle

Hummingbird cake is an easy, sweet taste of the tropics with banana, pineapple, toasted pecans, and the best cream cheese frosting! Make this recipe for dessert today!

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

  • 16
    ounces
    canned crushed pineapple in juice
  • 3
    cups
    all-purpose flour
  • 2
    teaspoons
    baking powder
  • 1
    teaspoon
    baking soda
  • 1
    teaspoon
    salt
  • 1
    teaspoon
    ground cinnamon
  • 2
    cups
    granulated sugar
  • 3
    eggs
  • 1
    cup
    vegetable oil
  • 4
    very ripe large bananas
    (peeled and mashed (about 2 cups))
  • cup
    pecans
    (toasted and chopped)
  • 2
    teaspoons
    vanilla extract

For the Frosting:

  • cups
    unsalted butter
    (at room temperature)
  • 5
    cups
    powdered sugar
  • teaspoons
    vanilla extract
  • ½
    teaspoon
    salt
  • 20
    ounces
    cream cheese
    (chilled and cut into 20 pieces)

To Garnish:

  • ½
    cup
    pecans
    (toasted and chopped)

Directions:

  1. Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 8-inch cake pans (you can also do two 9-inch pans), line the bottoms with parchment paper, grease the parchment and flour the pans; set aside.

  2. 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.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  4. 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.
  5. 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, 35 to 40 minutes (a little less for the 9-inch pans), 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.

  6. 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.
  7. Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Spread 1 cup of frosting over top, then top with another cake layer, pressing lightly to adhere. Spread another 1 cups of frosting over that layer, then top with the third cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting evenly over the sides and top 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.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes:

  • Take your butter out of the fridge one hour before you make the frosting. As a result, it will be soft enough to combine with the cream cheese, but still cool.
  • Bananas - Make sure they are super ripe and spotty brown for a cake that's ultra moist with lots of banana flavor!
  • Pecans - The pecans can be omitted without needing to be replaced with anything else. 
  • Cake Size - I love large, three-layer cakes but you can also make this cake using two 9-inch cake pans. The batter will also work for a Bundt pan; start checking around 50 minutes, but bake time could be closer to an hour. There is too much batter for a 9x13-inch cake.
  • Cupcakes - This recipe will make around 24 to 32 cupcakes. Fill cupcake liners two-thirds full with batter and bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  • Make-Ahead Instructions - You can bake the cakes and prepare the frosting up to one day in advance. Wrap the baked and cooled cakes in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature. The frosting should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator. Remove and allow to come to room temperature before using it.
  • Freezing Instructions - Both the cake layers and assembled and frosted cake can be frozen. Wrap cake layers or assembled cake in plastic wrap and then foil and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight then allow to come to cool room temperature before serving.
Nutritional values are based on one serving

Nutrition:

Calories: 733kcal
Fat: 38g
Saturated fat: 18g
Cholesterol: 108mg
Sodium: 416mg
Potassium: 332mg
Carbohydrates: 95g
Fiber: 3g
Sugar: 71g
Protein: 7g
Vitamin A: 1002%
Vitamin C: 5%
Calcium: 85%
Iron: 2%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

(Recipe from The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2015)

Originally published in 2015, this has been updated to include new photos, a helpful video tutorial, and more in-depth recipe tips.

[photos by Dee of One Sarcastic Baker]