Hummingbird Cake (with Easy Cream Cheese Icing)

12 Slices
40 min

The hummingbird cake is a pride of the south, but yet…a bit of a mystery of the origins. This sweet, moist and tropical tasting cake was first submitted under the name we know today (Hummingbird Cake) to Southern Living Magazine in 1978 by a Mrs. L.H. Wiggins. Proudly to say, she was from Greensboro, NC, (about a 15 minute drive from my birthplace!) According to Southern Living, it is still their most popular recipe published.


The history of the beloved hummingbird cake is still quite a mystery though. Some claim it showed up as a tube cake with no icing at the turn of the 20th century under different labels, such as: “Bird Cake”, “Bird of Paradise Cake” and “A Cake that Lasts” because it kept well and stayed moist. Some believe it has Jamaican origins. Whatever the origin, I’m glad this delicious cake filled with pineapple and bananas was introduced. This cake is so moist and easy to make. I can just imagine Mrs. Wiggins making this cake and sitting it on an open window sill on a summer day, and a curious and brave hummingbird zooming over to it, not able to resist the sweet smell, hoovering around for a sip of sugar, (lightbulb moment for Mrs. Wiggins on the name!💡) That’s what I will imagine for my origin story!

For the FULL recipe with step-by-step photo instructions and printable recipe card, visit:     www.inspirationapron.com


This cake is dedicated to my mom, on her birthday week. ♥ Lover of birds, and especially hummingbirds. During the summer, on any given day, several hummingbirds can be observed in her backyard, feeding on her sugar mixture in the feeder, sometimes having to be filled every day. Those tiny birds have quite a sweet tooth! I updated this post with a few new photos of a two-layer 9-inch hummingbird cake I made for my neighbor. My neighbor had kindly repainted a couple of metal sunflowers that were in our back yard and I thought one kind gesture deserved another, so I baked her this cake. (She loved it by the way!) I decorated it with some of my edible viola flowers that I grew from seed along with a few edible butterflies I had in my cake decorating arsenal.

NOTE: This recipe yields a 9-inch two layer cake or a three layer 8-inch cake, (adjust baking time as needed.) The cake with pineapple flowers shown is a two layer 6-inch cake. (I only needed a small cake to share with family and I made a few loaves on the side to take to some old friends on the same visit.) Traditionally, a hummingbird cake is covered completely in icing, but my family and I do not like an overly sweetened cake, and especially since this cake is already very sweet and moist, it doesn’t need much more, so if you want to cover the cake completely, double the icing recipe.

Ingredients for cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups mashed, ripe bananas (3-4 med bananas)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup plant butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • One 8oz can crushed pineapple, with juice

Easy cream cheese icing ingredients:

  • Two 8 oz blocks cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp orange juice

Optional toppings: Toasted pecans and dried pineapple flowers (see directions below)

NOTE: If you are using dried pineapple flowers for decoration, please allow yourself time, at least 3 hours.

For dried pineapple flower instructions, click HERE.

Cake Instructions:


Preheat oven to 350℉/176℃ and grease and flour two 9-inch baking pans. Mash bananas and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla at medium speed until fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

Start adding the flour mixture, a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Begin and end with the flour mixture, beating until just combined after each addition.

Add bananas and pineapple (with juice) and fold in with fork or rubber spatula until evenly incorporated.


Use a measuring cup to evenly disperse batter into prepared pans, then firmly tap bottom on pans on counter to remove air bubbles.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown and when toothpick inserted, no wet batter, only a few moist crumbs on toothpick or toothpick comes out clean.


Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes, then remove cakes and continue cooling on rack completely.

Add all icing ingredients (cream cheese, honey and orange juice) to a medium bowl and beat on medium speed until light and creamy.


Just as easy as that!

This easy icing is not the traditional hummingbird cake recipe, but in my opinion, it yields the perfect amount of sweetness for an already very sweet cake.


(We southerner’s like to play around with recipes and switch ‘em up to our liking😉)

Spread icing between layers, then remaining amount over top and sides of the cake, if desired. Like I stated before, our family just enjoys the small amount in between layers and on top, so you may have to double (or at least add one more block of cream cheese) the recipe to cover sides also. Top with dried pineapple flowers or edible violas for an extra special touch.

What does Hummingbird Cake taste like?

Hummingbird cake is very moist and dense, and the bananas and pineapple give it a tropical flavor and the hint of cinnamon adds a cozy warmth to each bite.

The cream cheese icing compliments this cake so deliciously and is easy to spread and swirl in a decorative pattern.

If you like my Hummingbird cake, check out my Banana Coconut Rum Cake (👈click link for recipe!)

Hummingbird Cake (with Easy Cream Cheese Icing)
Recipe details
  • 12  Slices
  • Prep time: 10 Minutes Cook time: 30 Minutes Total time: 40 min
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Ingredients
Cake ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed, ripe bananas (3-4 med bananas)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • One 8oz can crushed pineapple, with juice
Cream cheese icing ingredients
  • two 8 oz blocks cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
Instructions
Cake instructions
Preheat oven to 350℉/176℃ and grease and flour two 9-inch baking pans.
Mash bananas and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla at medium speed until fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.
Start adding the flour mixture, a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Begin and end with the flour mixture, beating until just combined after each addition.
Add bananas and pineapple (with juice) and mix until combined well.
Use a measuring cup to evenly disperse batter into prepared pans, then firmly tap bottom on pans on counter to remove air bubbles.
Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown and when toothpick inserted, no wet batter, only a few moist crumbs on toothpick.
Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes, then remove cakes and continue cooling on rack completely.
Icing instructions
Add all icing ingredients to a medium bowl and beat on medium speed until light and creamy.
Spread icing between layers, then remaining amount over top and sides of the cake, if desired. Like I stated before, our family just enjoys the small amount in between layers and on top, so you may have to double (or at least add one more block of cream cheese) the recipe to cover sides also. Top with Dried Pineapple Flowers for an extra special touch.
Tips
  • Tip: You can easily make this recipe dairy-free by using plant butter in the cake and substituting the buttermilk for coconut milk and using cream cheese alternative for the icing.
Julie | Inspiration Apron
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Comments
  • Deb Deb on Jul 07, 2023

    I have a question. Can the SUGAR be cut in half and the cake still turn out alright?

    • Hi Deb,


      Excellent question! I have experimented with cutting sugar from other cake recipes, just not this one, and unfortunately it ended with less than satisfying results. Reducing the amount of sugar in a baking recipe can lead to much different results with taste, texture, color and aeration/light/thick. The sugar helps lighten and lift (aerate) the cake when creamed together with the butter, it also caramelizes during baking which gives it a golden-brown color along with bringing all the delicious flavors together. Sugar also brings moisture to the cake preventing it from drying out and helping it to keep longer.


      I have a suggestion for a substitute though! I have a husband who is diabetic type 1, and I recently discovered an organic sugar substitute that is especially meant to be used for baking and measures 1 for 1 like sugar. It is made from Natures Flavors and called SweetenFX. I haven't tried in large cakes but have used for individual mug cakes and you can't taste the difference and it bakes wonderfully. Here is a link to the product: CLICK HERE


      One final thought: I am all about eating healthy, but I do try to balance my diet and include some splurging on special occasions. I enjoy making this cake for birthday or family get-togethers and you could also freeze small slices to enjoy on occasion.


      Hope that helped, enjoy!

      Julie


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