This Gal Cooks

The Perfect Hummingbird Cake Recipe

It’s spring, and that means it’s time to make this perfect Hummingbird Cake recipe.

Spring is an incredible time of year! No sooner do the flowers begin dancing with vibrant colors than do hummingbirds arrive to sip on the sweet nectar that nature provides.

And of course, friends and families gather together to enjoy great food outdoors… while showing off their cooking skills!

Hopefully, you were following along last year and wowed the gang with that delicious peanut butter oreo cheesecake we tried out.

This year, you’re going to wow them all with THE perfect hummingbird cake, once again securing “Best Cook In The Family” while your cousin and would-be nemesis BBQ Jack weeps quietly in the corner.

WHAT IS HUMMINGBIRD CAKE?

Inspired by the flavors of the Caribbean, hummingbird cake is a banana-pineapple spice cake with origins in Jamaica. The layers of the cake are as easy to make as banana bread. Once ready, you smother those layers in cream cheese frosting. A recipe for hummingbird cake is very much like Pirates of the Caribbean meets my southern grandma!

Speaking of respectable southern women, Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina had a hand in popularizing this amazing cake. She originally submitted the recipe for hummingbird cake to Southern Living in February of 1978.

Numerous versions were already gaining popularity in the southern United States prior to her submission, but it was Mrs. Wiggins who helped cement Hummingbird Cake as one of the most popular cakes of all time.

I’ve made some minor but critical adjustments to Mrs. Wiggins recipe in order to provide today’s perfect Hummingbird Cake recipe.

THE 4 CORE ELEMENTS OF PERFECT HUMMINGBIRD CAKE

This recipe for hummingbird cake is based on four core principles.

The first is moistness, which is achieved by using 1½ cups of oil and juice from a can of pineapple.

The second is the use of tropical fruits for flavor. Call it my love for piña colada, but I like to add desiccated coconut to balance the pineapple flavor.

Cinnamon is the spice that packs the punch needed to make this a spice cake. However, adding an additional ¼ teaspoon of allspice gives it an extra kick and really brings out the rest of the flavors.

Pecans are the fourth and final core ingredient. They provide nuttiness and texture to round out the cake. Some people substitute walnuts, but I find pecans to be slightly sweeter and a better fit for this recipe.

TRUST ME ON THIS: USE FAT DADDIO’S PANS

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that we don’t typically make specific cookware recommendations.

Here’s why I’m breaking from the norm and making a point of STRONGLY recommending Fat Daddio’s pans.

I don’t spend a TON of time baking cakes, but when I do need to bake one, I always have the same problem – the middle of the cakes form a dome that makes them difficult to stack.

Ugg! It’s so frustrating.

So, when I was preparing my recipe for hummingbird cake, I did some research.

As many of you know, there’s a plethora of advice out on the internet for how to solve this problem. I came across everything from lowering my oven temperature to wrapping pans in wet towels. I knew I didn’t want to trim any more cakes with a knife to make them flat. But I also knew that I didn’t want to extend the cooking time.

Eventually, I read a review from a baker who used Fat Daddio’s 9×3 inch anodized aluminum cake pans when she worked in a bakery. She explained that the high walls help cakes rise evenly. They also provide additional protection for cakes if your oven runs a bit hot.

I was intrigued, to say the least. So, I immediately ordered three, fearing they’d quickly be out of stock like everything else during the pandemic. When I popped my cakes in the oven a few days later, I could hardly wait to see the results.

Wow! What a difference these pans made. I ended up with perfectly flat cake layers. Problem solved!

So if like me, you’ve been struggling to bake flat, even cakes, grab some Fat Daddio’s pans and thank my internet review baker lady for the best cookware recommendation of the year.

HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT HUMMINGBIRD CAKE RECIPE

So let’s dive into the making this glorious cake!

We’ll start with the ingredients.

Perfect Hummingbird Cake Ingredients

Cake Dry Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans – toasted
  • ¾ cup desiccated coconut – unsweetened (optional)

Cake Wet Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
  • 2 cups chopped ripe bananas (3-4 bananas)
  • Vegetable shortening – For greasing the pans

Cream Cheese Frosting Dry Ingredients

  • 2 (16 ounce) packages powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh orange zest (grated orange peel)

Cream Cheese Frosting Wet Ingredients

  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup salted butter – softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons fresh squeezed orange juice

Garnish Ingredients

  • ¾ cup pecan halves – toasted

Step 1: Prepare the equipment

Cut a circular piece of parchment paper that matches the inside bottom of your pans. Alternatively, use precut parchment paper rounds. Grease the pans with shortening. Lightly dust the pans with flour. Then, add the parchment paper to the bottom of the pans. Grease the parchment paper with shortening as well. Dust the pans with additional flour and set them aside.

Additionally, preheat your oven to 350℉ and pull the cream cheese out of the fridge so it can begin warming to room temperature. This way, everything will be ready to go by the time you reach the relevant step.

Step 2: Toast and chop the pecans

Toast the pecans for the cake and frosting in a small pan over medium heat. You want them to turn a shade darker than when you started. Don’t walk away from the pan while toasting the pecans. You’ll know the pecans are ready when you begin smelling the aroma.

After toasting, divide the pecans for the cake and frosting. Chop and set to the side.

Step 3: Whisk the dry ingredients

Use a whisk to combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and allspice in a large mixing bowl. Whisking the dry ingredients will yield a smoother surface on your cake layers, which makes frosting much easier.

Step 4: Add wet ingredients to create batter

Crack the eggs into a separate bowl to ensure no shell pieces are present. 

Beat and add the eggs and oil to the dry ingredients. Stir just enough to moisten the dry ingredients. (If you need a new hand mixer, I highly recommend the Cuisinart HM-50)

Next, stir in the vanilla, pineapple, bananas, coconut, and toasted pecans. Remember not to drain the pineapple! Your batter should look something like this:

Step 5: Fill pans with batter and bake

Proceed by dividing the batter evenly between the pans. Try not to splash the sides of the pans above the top of your batter to avoid burning. I like to use a ladle to distribute the batter.

Bake your cake layers on the middle rack of your preheated oven at 350℉ until a wooden pick test comes out clean – 25 to 30 minutes. You may have to bake in separate batches depending on the size of your oven.

Step 6: Remove from oven and cool

Allow the cake pans to cool on wire racks for 15 minutes. Then, carefully remove the cakes from the pans by flipping them over onto the wire cooling racks. 

This is when you’ll be really happy that you used the parchment paper! Gently remove the parchment paper.

Cooling the cakes should take about an hour.

Step 7: Grate your orange zest

Prepare the fresh orange zest by taking one medium orange and grating the outside of it against a hand grater. Catch the zest in a bowl until you have two teaspoons full. Squeeze the orange juice into a separate container and set it to the side.

Step 8: Blend your cream cheese frosting

Use an electric mixer on medium-low speed to beat the cream cheese and butter together. Gradually add powdered sugar on a low speed, making sure each addition is fully blended before adding more. Otherwise, you’ll end up in a cloud of powdered sugar!

Add the vanilla, orange juice, and orange zest to the frosting. Increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high, and beat until the frosting is nice and fluffy.

People claim this process takes 1-2 minutes. It always takes me at least five minutes.

10-15 minutes before assembling the cake, place the frosting in the refrigerator so it can stiffen. This will make frosting the cake easier.

Step 9: Assemble your cake!

Place one cake layer on a cake stand or cake disk. Spread one cup of frosting over the top. Repeat this step until all three layers have been frosted. Use the remaining frosting to touch-up the top and cover the sides.

If the sides of your cake layers show through, place the frosting back in the refrigerator for a few minutes to stiffen up.

Arrange the toasted pecans (halved or chopped) on the top of the cake.

The Finished Product: Perfect Hummingbird Cake

I had a blast making this hummingbird cake, and I’m thrilled with how it turned out!

I was only able to capture one or two pics before I immediately sliced in and enjoyed the… fruit… of my efforts :D

This is such a pleasant cake to eat. It’s loaded with flavor, but at the same time, it’s not nearly as heavy and rich as most cakes in this category. 

The cream cheese frosting provides a subtle richness that pairs perfectly with the lighter, subtler notes of the cake itself.

WHAT PAIRS WELL WITH HUMMINGBIRD CAKE?

I don’t know about you, but pairing my desserts with a hot beverage makes the experience so much more enjoyable.

For hummingbird cake, I recommend a light to medium bodied coffee with low acidity, such as a breakfast blend. The light body will complement the fruitiness of the cake, while the medium body will complement the nuttiness. Having less acidity will avoid competition with the tropical fruit flavors, and I would avoid nut flavored coffees, such as hazelnut, as they will overpower the flavors of the cake.

For me, Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee was a perfect match with this recipe for hummingbird cake.

If you’re a tea drinker, on the other hand, a nutty tea such as Darjeeling will complement the nuttiness of the cake. But I’d avoid any tea with fruit or florals because it will compete with the tropical flavors of the cake.

I hope you enjoy making and eating this cake as much as I have! 

If you decide to try it out, let me know how it goes in the comments!

The Perfect Hummingbird Cake Recipe

The Perfect Hummingbird Cake Recipe

Yield: Serves 12

Inspired by the flavors of the Caribbean, hummingbird cake is a banana-pineapple spice cake with origins in Jamaica. The layers of the cake are as easy to make as banana bread and are smothered in layers of cream cheese frosting. Imagine your southern grandma daydreaming all day about being a swashbuckling pirate and then baking you a cake at night, and you have a pretty good idea of what Hummingbird Cake is all about.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans – toasted
  • ¾ cup desiccated coconut – unsweetened (optional)
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
  • 2 cups chopped ripe bananas (3-4 bananas)
  • Vegetable shortening – For greasing the pans
  • 2 (16 ounce) packages powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh orange zest (grated orange peel)
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup salted butter – softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons fresh squeezed orange juice
  • ¾ cup pecan halves – toasted

Instructions

      1. Grease pans, set out cream cheese to reach room temp, and preheat oven to 350℉.
      2. Toast the pecans for the cake and frosting in a small pan over medium heat. Divide pecans for the cake and frosting. Chop and set to the side.
      3. Use a whisk to combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and allspice in a large mixing bowl. Whisking the dry ingredients will yield a smoother surface on your cake layers, which makes frosting much easier.
      4. In a separate bowl, crack the eggs. Beat and add the eggs and oil to the dry ingredients. Stir just enough to moisten the dry ingredients. Next, stir in the vanilla, pineapple, bananas, coconut, and toasted pecans. Remember to include the full amount of pineapple, undrained!
      5. Place batter into pans and bake on middle rack at 350℉ for 25-30 mins.
      6. Remove from oven and cool for 1 hour.
      7. Grate two spoonfuls of fresh orange zest, squeeze juice into separate container, and set aside.
      8. Use an electric mixer on medium-low speed to beat the cream cheese and butter together. Gradually add powdered sugar on a low speed, making sure to blend fully before adding more. Add the vanilla, orange juice, and orange zest to the frosting. Increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high, and beat until the frosting is nice and fluffy. Place frosting in fridge to cool for 10-15 minutes.
      9. Place one cake layer on a cake stand or cake disk. Spread one cup of frosting over the top. Repeat this step until all three layers have been frosted. Use the remaining frosting to touch-up the top and cover the sides. If the sides of your cake layers show through, place the frosting back in the refrigerator for a few minutes to stiffen up. Arrange the toasted pecans (halved or chopped) on the top of the cake.

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