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This classic Hummingbird Cake is soft, moist and tender with the perfect amount of bananas, pineapples and pecans. This lightly spiced cake is layered with the best cream cheese buttercream frosting for a creamy, tangy finish.

slice of hummingbird cake on teal plate.

Hummingbird cake is my preferred way to welcome Spring and Summer! I feel like it often plays second fiddle to the best Carrot Cake, but she deserves a shining spotlight of her own! The bananas and pineapple give it a tropical vibe like rum cake, this tropical trifle recipe, and these coconut cupcakes with marshmallow fluff frosting!

The crunchy pecans and generous amount of cream cheese buttercream frosting pull it back to the South. This cake is one of my favorite desserts of all time and has a firm place alongside other Southern favorites like pecan pralines, Southern cornbread, buttermilk biscuits and pecan tassies.

Why You Will Love this Hummingbird Cake Recipe

  • Soft, moist and gently spiced. A lightly cinnamon spiced banana-pineapple cake with toasted pecans studded throughout.
  • A Southern Living classic recipe adapted by a pastry chef. This recipe is very similar to the original printed in Southern Living, however, I have reduced the oil by a third, increased the banana and completely altered the mixing method.
  • Lighter and more tender than every other recipe. Pureeing the banana and pineapple together and adding before the dry ingredients ensures a light, tender texture and an exceptionally moist cake! You can fold in more banana pieces with the pecans, if you like that added texture.
  • Dressed up with a mosaic decoration. Have you noticed that all hummingbird cakes are garnished with the perfunctory crushed or whole pecans? This seemed to lack the pizzazz that it is due. So I created a fun mosaic pattern out of dried pineapples, dehydrated pineapple slices, banana chips and pecans.
decorated slice of cake next to whole unsliced cake.
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Professional Tips for Making Hummingbird Cake

  • A classic liquid fat cake mixing method. This is a similar mixing method that I use to make the carrot cake that Beat Bobby Flay. Emulsifying the oil into the beaten whole egg creates a moist, fluffy and tender cake. Whisking everything together is fine, but the resulting cake will be more dense and potentially oily.
  • Blend the banana and pineapple together before adding. My recipe calls for blending the ripe bananas and canned pineapple (with its juice) together in a blender or with an immersion blender then adding it before the dry ingredients. This ensures an extra moist and light cake.
  • Toast the pecans. Southern Living said it first and they were right. Toasting the pecans deepens their flavor and will help them maintain a crunch even after baking.

Why do they call it a ‘Hummingbird Cake’?

This cake was first created in Jamaica, where significantly, the national bird is the scissors-tail hummingbird. Locals call this the Doctor Bird cake, which is their nickname for this particular type of fine feathered friend.

Ten years after a 1968 export from Jamaica’s Tourist Board of local Jamaican recipes (including this dessert), Southern Living printed the hummingbird cake recipe. It took flight! (Pun very much intended.) This cake became Southern Living’s voters’ favorite recipe in 1990. And you can be sure that included a bomb cream cheese frosting!

two slices of cake on plate with sliced cake on marble cake stand.

Ingredients Needed

hummingbird cake ingredients on marble.
  • All-purpose flour: I use all-purpose flour because that is what most people have on hand. You could also use cake flour but you’ll need to sift it, please and thank you.
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Baking Soda: Baking soda reacts with the acid in the canned pineapples, which creates a more powerful reaction than the same amount of baking powder. You can use baking powder instead but use 2 teaspoons.
  • Kosher Salt
  • Whole Eggs
  • Vegetable Oil: Canola oil makes the most moist cake! Substitute with coconut oil if desired but not butter.
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Canned Crushed Pineapple: You are going to use the whole can and its juice. Since we are going to blend this with the bananas, you could use 8oz of any cut of canned pineapple (rings, chunks, whatever). You could use fresh pineapple but ensure it is very ripe and in-season. This is part of the liquids in this recipe, so using fresh adds an unknown quantity of liquid.
  • Ripe Large Bananas: What is a large banana? It’s between 6-7 inches and about an inch in diameter. When in doubt measure! 1 cup is about 250g, so you would use 1 ½ cups of mashed bananas in this recipe. One last thing! Make sure those bananas are spotty and ripe. Not mush, but good and spotted. Save the very ripe bananas for old fashioned banana bread or this banana crumb bread.
  • Pecans: You can always buy pecan pieces, not only will the toast faster than whole pecans but they are often less expensive!
  • Cream Cheese
  • Unsalted Butter
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Lemon Juice

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

Variations & Substitutions

  • Canola Oil: You can substitute melted, but not hot, coconut oil for the canola oil in this recipe. It will produce just as moist a cake, unlike melted butter, which adds flavor but will not produce as moist a cake due to its water content.
  • Soak your cake: You can never go wrong with a solid soak. Make simple syrup by boiling equal parts water and sugar then cooling to room temperature (or refrigerated). Use it plain or flavor it with rum, lemon juice, orange juice or your favorite alcohol. You heard it here first, this is an easy way to amp up the flavor of your hummingbird cake!  
  • Flavor the buttercream: Use this rum cream cheese frosting from my red velvet cake recipe or just go ahead and add 2 tablespoons of your favorite booze to the buttercream recipe below! Add an extract or use orange juice in place of the lemon juice.
  • Use a different buttercream:  This is going to be incredibly unpopular, but you could use a different buttercream. If you have a flare for the dramatic, try piling on this marshmallow frosting and giving a quick toast! This easy lemon buttercream frosting would also be complimentary and refreshing, or you could use a Swiss meringue buttercream flavored with homemade lemon curd.

How to Make Classic Hummingbird Cake

Use these instructions to make the perfectly moist cake every time! Further details and measurements can be found in the recipe card below.

Make & bake the cake:

Step 1: Spray and line two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Be sure to spray the sides of the pans. Preheat oven to 350°F conventional.

You can purchase cake rounds or make your own by tracing the bottom of the pan on parchment paper. Cut inside the circles for a perfect fit.

cutting parchment circles for lining cake pans.
lining cake pans.

Step 2: Arrange pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in oven until a golden brown and you begin smelling the “pecan” scent. Allow pecans to cool completely. Chop them if you used whole pecans. I just buy pecan pieces so I can skip this step. That extra time adds up when you’re talking about 500 pecan pies!

Step 3: In a medium bowl whisk together flour, cinnamon, soda and salt; set aside. In another medium bowl, use a hand blender or a regular blender to blend the pineapple and bananas together.

Step 4: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs until beaten. You can also do this step in a large bowl like I did in the YouTube video.

Step 5: Slowly whisk in the oil and vanilla until emulsified.

Step 6: Whisk in the sugar followed by the pineapple-banana mixture.

Step 7: Fold in the flour mixture until just combined followed by the toasted, cooled pecans. Divide between the two prepared pans.

immersion blending pineapple and banana.
emulsifying oil into whipping eggs.
folding dry ingredients into batter.

You can eye-ball this or use a kitchen scale. Each cake will be about 950 g of batter.

Step 7: Bake until cake tester toothpick or bamboo comes out with only a few clinging crumbs but no wet batter streaks, approximately 25-30 minutes.

Step 8: Cool 10 minutes in the pans then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely upside down.

Make the frosting:

Step 1: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream the softened butter, cream cheese, and powdered sugar until smooth.

Step 2: Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract. Beat well.

If the frosting got to warm during mixing or waiting for your cakes to cool, just pop the whole thing along with the attachment in the refrigerator for 30 – 60 minutes. Beat until smooth.

Assemble the cake:

Step 1: On your favorite cake stand, cake plate or platter, place the first layer of cake. Add about 1 cup of the frosting on top, and spread out in an even layer with an offset spatula.

Step 2: Place the second layer on top and add about half the remaining buttercream on top. Spread out with a large offset spatula, allowing it to fold over the edges. 

Turn the top layer upside down so the bottom of the cake is now the top of the cake. The ensures a perfectly flat top without having to actually level the cake or waste even a crumb.

Step 3: Smooth a thin layer of buttercream over the sides of the cake. It will be wiggly-jiggly, so this will be a little challenging. You could end here with a naked cake or you can pop the whole cake in the refrigerator for an hour or two until the frosting has set.

spreading cream cheese buttercream on top of first layer.
finishing crumb coat with cream cheese buttercream.

This is called a “crumb-coat” because it catches all the crumbs so none of those unsightly pieces end up in the final layer of buttercream!

Step 4: Spread the remaining buttercream over the sides and top. I swirled the top using my cake stand like a turn-table and the tip of my large offset spatula. Then I smoothed the edges using a bench scraper.

Step 5: Place whole pecans, banana chips, pineapple chips and dried pineapple in a pattern that you find pleasing. You can watch the video below to see how I did the one pictured. You could also cover the whole cake or go with the standard issue décor and add a rim of crush pecans.

swirling buttercream on top of hummingbird cake.
decorated hummingbird cake.

Chef Lindsey’s Recipe Tip

You can also bake the whole thing in a rectangular baking pan (9 x 13 inches), cover the top with an epic amount of cream cheese frosting and spend all your time creating a massive mosaic or not. I feel like I’m alone here with my mosaic pastry obsession.

moist tender hummingbird cake on plate with gold fork.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to store hummingbird cake?

You can store hummingbird cake in a closed container or covered cake stand at room temperature for 1 day, but the cream cheese buttercream does require refrigeration for longer storage.
Store, covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or frozen for 2 months. Allow the cake to thaw in the refrigerator overnight for the best results.

What does hummingbird cake taste like?

Hummingbird cake tastes like a spiced banana cake with hints of pineapple, pecans and vanilla. It is typically paired with a cream cheese frosting, which adds a nice creaminess and a slight tang.

How to serve hummingbird cake?

Serve hummingbird cake room temperature. The cake itself is delicious warm but cream cheese frosting does not take kindly to warming up!
I love to serve slices of this moist cake with salted caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream, but it is also lovely served with a generous spoon of lemon curd or crème anglaise!

If you tried this recipe and loved it please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it goes in the comments below. I love hearing from you; your comments make my day!

2 layer slice of hummingbird cake.
5 from 6 ratings

Hummingbird Cake

This classic Hummingbird Cake is soft, moist and tender with the perfect amount of bananas, pineapples and pecans. This lightly spiced cake is layered with the best cream cheese buttercream for a creamy, tangy finish.
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 55 minutes
Servings: 18 people

Ingredients 
 

For the Cake:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 8 oz canned pineapple in their own juice
  • 3 large bananas ripe (brown spotted)
  • ¾ cups pecans chopped and toasted
  • dried fruit and extra pecans for garnish optional

For the Cream Cheese Buttercream:

  • 21 oz cream cheese full-fat, softened
  • 18 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions 

  • Spray and line two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans with parchment. Be sure to spray the sides of the pan. Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Whisk together flour, cinnamon, soda and salt; set aside.
  • Use a hand blender (immersion blender) or a regular blender to blend the pineapple and bananas together. You can also just mash them very well.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl, whisk the eggs until beaten.
  • Whisk in the oil and vanilla until emulsified
  • Whisk in the sugar followed by the pineapple banana mixture
  • Fold in the flour mixture followed by the chopped pecans.
  • Divide between the two prepared pans. Bake until cake tester or skewer comes out with only a few clinging crumbs but no wet batter streaks, approximately 25-30 minutes.
  • Cool 10 minutes in the pans then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

For the Cream Cheese Buttercream:

  • Cream together cream cheese, butter and sugar until smooth. Add lemon juice and extract.
  • If it gets too warm, chill the it. Just pop the whole bowl and attachments in the fridge and give it an hour. Beat with paddle until smooth and silky.

Video

Notes

Yield – 1, 2 layer 9 inch cake. Can also bake 3, 8-inch layers but they will be thinner and the bake time will need to be reduced.
Presentation – Decorate in a mosaic pattern with pecans, banana chips, pineapples and pineapple chips.
Variations – Soak the cake with a flavored simple syrup, add up to 2 tablespoons of alcohol to the buttercream, or
Storage – Store at room temperature for 1 day or refrigerate for up to 7 days. Wrap and freeze cake for up to 2 months.
Originally adapted from Southern Living

Nutrition

Calories: 333kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 27mg | Sodium: 137mg | Potassium: 135mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 26g | Vitamin A: 62IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 14mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Southern
Calories: 333
Like this? Leave a comment below!

Before You Go

Check out our other delicious cake recipes like this Orange Upside Down Cake or dive into these carrot cake cupcakes for your next baking project!

Hi, I’m Chef Lindsey!

I am the baker, recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Chef Lindsey Farr. I believe in delicious homemade food and the power of dessert!

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10 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This hummingbird cake was delicious – the buttercream frosting was so decadent, but it was still simple to make!

    1. Hi Shruthi! I’m so happy this cake was a delicious and decadent experience for you!

  2. 5 stars
    This cake is just perfect! I made it for my daughter’s birthday party and have many people asking me for the recipe. Thank you so much for easy to follow instructions.

    1. Hi Vladka, I’m so happy you made this for your daughter’s birthday and that everyone wanted the recipe! Thank you for commenting!

    1. Hi Darcey! This is a great graduation party cake, thank you so much for letting me know everyone enjoyed!

  3. 5 stars
    Sooo delicious! Made this for brunch this past weekend and everyone loved it. The banana flavor was amazing.

  4. 5 stars
    My mom requested a Hummingbird Cake for Mother’s Day and I was happy to oblige. I found this recipe and am so glad I did. It was so easy to make and the cake was such a hit! The banana and pineapple flavors are fantastic. My mom loved it, but so did the rest of us. Thank you for a great recipe!

    1. Hi Rebecca! This is the absolute perfect Mother’s Day cake, I’m so happy your mother and the rest of your family enjoyed!