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hummingbird cake slice on a white plate with a fork

Hummingbird Cake Recipe

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This Hummingbird Cake Recipe is a Southern delicacy with a banana cake batter, pecans, pineapple, cinnamon and in my version, coconut! With the addition of cream cheese frosting make this banana cake practically irresistible.

Hummingbird Cake with Coconut slice on a white dessert plate with the whole cake in the background

Hummingbird Cake Recipe

The ol’ ball and chain has a huge list of dislikes. Banana bread? No way. All quick bread and muffins are out. So a banana cake is out. Nuts, coconut, pineapple? All three rank high on his fake “I’m deathly allergic” list. So I’ve been saving this hummingbird cake recipe for my book club gathering, where I could share with my more tolerant girlfriends. As you might guess, they all raved about this amped up banana cake recipe!

Classic Hummingbird Cake with Coconut on a white serving plate

What Is Hummingbird Cake?

This coconut hummingbird cake worked its way up to the deep south via Jamaica. First, you must know that Jamaica’s national bird is the hummingbird, which is also known as the doctor bird. A Jamaican newspaper published a cake recipe made with bananas called a Doctor Bird Cake. Whether this cake had the traditional nuts, spices and cream cheese frosting, as today’s version does, no one seems to know.

But I can tell you about this banana cake. The base is rich and dense, made with oil instead of butter. But it’s all the extras that make this delectable dessert a standout. The Southern Living Hummingbird Cake was first published in 1978 and became their most requested recipe ever! It’s just that delicious. Of note, though the naming of this cake is still considered a mystery, it also is known as the “Nothing Left Cake,” referring to the empty plates after it’s served.

What Does this Dessert Taste Like?

It’s obviously a banana cake, as there is lots of banana flavor, but much more than that. It’s almost a cross between banana bread and my classic carrot cake. My favorite carrot cake recipe also has a cream cheese frosting, plus crushed pineapple, coconut, and pecans. And just like carrot cake, this banana cake recipe is dense, moist and irresistible!

Hummingbird Banana Cake with a slice removed

How to Make This Cake 

Like my favorite carrot cake, I also prefer my hummingbird cake loaded. And though coconut is not traditional, it works beautifully! Katie and I both enjoyed every morsel of the leftovers, though, like her dad, she picked out all the nuts. Sigh. Time for a batch of chocolate chip cookies. The family never complains about those! 

Is there an ingredient you do not want in your cake?? Bill still brings up the time we dined at the now-defunct Lumiere in Vancouver. I told him he wouldn’t even notice the beets that were in their chocolate cake. Apparently, I was horribly mistaken! I’ll never live that one down. So feel free to leave out the nuts or coconut as those ommissions won’t interfere with the cake’s baking chemistry.

Tips for Mixing a Banana Cake

  • You’ll need 3 9-inch baking pans. I like lining them with parchment rounds. Make sure all are well greased.
  • Whisk together all the dry ingredients first. This helps distribute the baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  • Next mix in the wet ingredients in two batches. First the eggs, oil, and vanilla. Next, add the bananas, pineapple, coconut, and pecans.
  • Make sure you drain your pineapple well. This recipe does not count on any extra liquid from the juices.
  • Your bananas should have some brown spots on their skins. They should be slightly overripe, but not so ripe they’re fermenting!

Tips for Baking with Bananas

  • PRO-Tip: If you need to ripen a few of your bananas quickly, I’ve often roasted them in the oven to make both this cake and banana bread. Preheat your oven to 300º and roast for 15-20 minutes until the peels are very dark. I found this technique on the Southern Living website
  • I like to stock my freezer with bananas that are too ripe for my taste buds, but perfect for banana bread and cake. Peel, place in a freezer-safe zip-top bag, remove any excess air and freeze. Date the bag in case it gets lost in the back of your freezer.
  • PRO-Tip: It takes about 3 medium bananas to make one cup of mashed bananas.

A Couple More Pointers

  • Make sure your cream cheese and butter for the frosting are at room temperature. It will be much easier to mix. Also, sift your powdered sugar. It’s a pain, but your frosting will be much smoother if you take the time with this extra step.
  • PRO-Tip: Take the time to toast your pecans to release the natural oils and improve their flavor. Toast in a single layer on a sheet pan at 350º for about 5 minutes.  Shake the pan at the halfway mark, and watch carefully so the nuts do not burn.
Hummingbird Cake Recipe with coconute on a serving platter

 

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This Hummingbird Cake recipe was first shared in August 2017. Photos and text were updated in 2020.

 

Slice of Banana Cake on a white plate

Classic Hummingbird Cake with Coconut

A classic Southern dessert with bananas, pecans, and pineapple. I added coconut just because! Adapted from Southern Living.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Yield 16 servings

Ingredients

For cake:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups mashed bananas (use ripe bananas)
  • 1 (8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 3/4 cup coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted for about 5 minutes at 350 degrees

For Frosting::

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Pecans, coconut, to garnish, if desired.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray three 9-inch cake pans with non-stick cooking spray. Line bottom of each pan with parchment paper and spray parchment with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk together flour and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add eggs, oil, and vanilla, and stir until combined. Fold in bananas, pineapple, coconut, and pecans. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans.
  3. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes. Place pans on cooling racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans to cooling racks, and cool completely. Remove parchment paper.
  4. While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. In a large bowl beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Slowly add powdered sugar, mixing until it's all incorporated. Add vanilla and mix until combined.
  5. Place one layer on a serving plate. Top with one-fourth of frosting. Repeat procedure once. Top with the remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of the cake. Garnish with pecans or coconut, if desired.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

16

Serving Size:

1 slice

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 807Total Fat: 48gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 29gCholesterol: 86mgSodium: 410mgCarbohydrates: 92gFiber: 3gSugar: 68gProtein: 7g

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