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An Old Fashioned Hummingbird Cake recipe is essentially ‘banana bread meets canned pineapple’ and is the most popular of all Southern cakes.
With gratitude and appreciation, this recipe courtesy of the late Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina, and our friends at Southern Living Magazine!
If Hummingbird Cake is not on your radar, you 100% must change frequencies! Not to worry, I hadn’t heard of it until moving from New Jersey to Charleston, South Carolina 20 years ago.
Hummingbird cake is similar to carrot cake in that it boasts warm spices like cinnamon and vanilla. But I could argue that I find it closer to a banana bread because of the ULTRA MOIST cake layers laden with bits of mashed banana.
This southern classic layer cake lays ‘claim to fame’ for a familiar tropical flavor as well. Pineapple.
Do You Have What’s Needed to Bake Up This Old Fashioned Hummingbird Cake Recipe? Check The List!
for the flavorful cake layers
- all-purpose flour
- granulated sugar
- table salt
- baking soda
- ground cinnamon
- large eggs
- vegetable oil
- vanilla extract
- canned crushed pineapple in juice
- vegetable shortening
for the tangy cream cheese frosting
- cream cheese
- unsalted butter
- powdered sugar
- vanilla extract
optional for garnishing
- food grade lavender flowers
How This Recipe Came About…
Planet Earth has Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina to thank for Hummingbird Cake. According to Southern Living Magazine, in 1978, Mrs. Wiggins submitted a recipe for hummingbird cake to their magazine.
Her recipe was so flavorful and tender that it became not only Southern Living’s most popular dessert recipe, but also the most popular recipe of any kind published in the magazine’s now-52-year history.
Since Mrs. Wiggins original submission, Southern Living has published 10 variations of that original cake. The homemade cake I am sharing here today is the original version.
You will see reading down the ingredient list that you will need nothing special to achieve fabulous results for this delicious cake. For readers of Not Entirely Average who know I am particular about the type of salt used in my recipes, even the table salt specified in this cake is the most basic of on-hand ingredients.
What Does Old-Fashioned Hummingbird Cake Taste Like?
Close your eyes. Imagine a three-layer banana pineapple spice cake built high with sweet and luscious cream cheese frosting in between each layer. The top and side of the cake is adorned with even more cream cheese frosting and both whole pecan halves and chopped pecans.
The flavor of the cake is so much more than banana or pineapple flavors, rather it’s an end result unlike any other cake out there. For every special occasion or any family gathering, nothing – and I mean NOTHING – screams ‘celebration’ like the way it’s done in the southern United States by way of this recipe, the best Hummingbird cake recipe.
How to Make a Hummingbird Cake?
Prepare Your Tools and Your Workspace
About 30 minutes before beginning your recipe, remove three large eggs from your chiller and set them on the counter. Do the same with two (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese and a full stick of unsalted butter. You want everything to be at room temperature.
I also like to assemble wire racks for cooling the layers and also have my cake stand, offset spatula, and strips of parchment paper ready to go for when it’s time to frost.
You may use the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment for this method as I do, or an electric mixer if preferred. This cake requires three 9-inch cake pans. If you have round cake pans but of an only slightly smaller or slightly larger size (8-inch or 9 1/2-inch), you may still use them without too much worry.
Larger than 9 1/2-inches gets into sticky territory. The broader the base for frosting, the more frosting required. I’d rather have the problem of too much frosting rather than not enough, so I stick with 9-inch pans always.
Prepare Your Ingredients
It’s not enough that we want intense banana flavor in this cake, but also pieces of banana in every bite! I use slightly overripe bananas. Cutting them into 1/2-inch pieces works to this advantage.
Also, preheat your oven to 350°F and lightly toast some chopped pecans, about one cup. Remove from your oven and allow them to cool while you continue prepping.
Measure out the remaining ingredients and lightly beat the now room temperature eggs. There aren’t a lot of ingredients, rather it’s just the best way, my pro tip to you, to have them all measured and ready to go before starting. It’s these little important things you know.
For the Cake
Your oven should be sufficiently preheated to 350°F by now. Use a bit of shortening to lightly grease the bottoms and sides of the cake pans. Flour the pans next, tapping out any excess flour. Set all aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl if using your electric mixer), add some all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Give the flour mixture a whirl on medium low speed for one minute.
Next add the slightly beaten eggs and some vegetable oil and again on medium-low speed, mix until the dry ingredients are moistened. Next, add in a can of crushed pineapple with the juices, the banana pieces you prepared, and the previously toasted chopped pecans. Mix on medium low speed for 1 minute.
Divide the cake batter evenly between the three prepared cake pans. I use a scale to do this and go by weight/volume to ensure my cake layers are even.
Bake until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Of course, all ovens will vary as will bake times. Remove from the cake pans to your arranged wire racks to cool.
While your oven is still on, take a couple of extra minutes to toast both pecan halves and chopped pecans to garnish later on.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
While your layers are baking, empty each package cream cheese into the now clean and dry bowl of your stand mixer. Alternatively, empty each into a large bowl for use with your electric handheld mixer. Add a stick of softened butter.
Beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Gradually add in 32 ounces (about 4 cups) of confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed until blended after each addition.
Add in a scant couple of teaspoons of good vanilla extract and increase the speed of your mixer to medium-high. Beat the frosting until it is visibly light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Do not refrigerate the frosting before applying to the cake.
Assembling the Cake
Once your layers are baked and COMPLETELY cooled (yes, all the way!) create a triangle atop the cake plate you will serve from using three 3-inch-wide strips of parchment. Set your bottom layer atop the parchment-lined plate.
Spread 1 cup of the cream cheese frosting on the top of the cake layer. Repeat with the second layer and another cup of frosting. Top with the third layer and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of cake.
I do not do a crumb coat when I make and assemble this cake. If you did want to do a crumb coat, simply portion out 2 cups of the frosting before you begin and proceed with the assembly and thin layer crumb coat as you normally would.
I do however make a point of garnishing heavily with pecans. It must be ‘a Jenny thing’ because I’ve never seen any southerner use as many as I do, but I just cannot get enough of those sweet toasted crunchy bits. Go heavy, go lite, or don’t use them at all, the choice is ultimately yours.
I also scatter food grade organic lavender flowers on top and around my cake. The scent is Heavenly and the buds 100% edible. I’m not going to tell you they make the cake taste better, but they do “Spring-up” the appearance when serving at Easter.
Can I Bake This Old Fashioned Hummingbird Cake Recipe in a Sheet Cake Pan or Bundt Pan?
Yes, and the recipe is exactly the same all but for bake times. If using a 9 x 13 sheet cake pan, plan on beginning to test for doneness at 45 minutes. With a Bundt, begin testing for doneness at 50 minutes to 1 hour.
Old Fashioned Hummingbird Cake Recipe
- 3 9-inch round cake pans
for the cake layers
- 3 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting pans
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 large eggs room temperature; lightly beaten
- 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple undrained
- 4 medium bananas chopped
- 1 cup pecans chopped; toasted and cooled
- vegetable shortening for greasing cake pans
for the cream cheese frosting
- 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese softened to room temperature
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 4 cups (32 ounces) powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
optional for garnish
- pecans halves and some chopped; toasted and cooled
- lavender flowers food grade
for the cake layers
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl; add eggs and oil, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, bananas, and toasted pecans.
- Divide batter evenly among 3 well-greased (with shortening) and floured 9-inch round cake pans.
- Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely, about 1 hour.
for the cream cheese frosting
- Beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Increase speed to medium-high, and beat until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Use (3) 3-inch-wide strips of parchment to aide in keeping the cake plate clean while frosting by laying atop the plate in a triangle. Place the bottom cake layer atop the parchment, ensuring a good portion is sticking out and covering the plate. Spread the top of the first layer with 1 cup of the frosting. Top with second layer and spread with 1 cup frosting. Top with third layer and spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Arrange chopped pecans and pecan halves on the top and sides of cake. Sprinkle with lavender flowers if desired.
The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.
Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.