KP Cooks

The Hummingbird Cake

No hummingbirds were harmed in the baking of this Jamaican creation.


I am rather new to the wonderful hummingbird cake, first created in Jamaica, where it was originally called the Doctor Bird cake (named after the island’s national bird).

In 1968, the Jamaica Board of Tourism mailed press kits with the recipe for this cake, along with other local recipes, to the United States, where this marketing effort was aimed at enticing American consumers to visit the tropical island. While tourism may have picked up as a result of the media kits, the recipe for hummingbird cake languished in relative obscurity until 1978, when it was featured in the February issue of Southern Living. The cake won the Favorite Cake Award later that year at the Kentucky State Fair. Southern Living reported in 1990 that this recipe was the most requested in its history, and once you’ve tried it, you’ll see why.

Chock full of chopped pecans, crushed pineapple, chopped bananas and spices, it’s a three-layer delight, reminiscent of the moist and tender carrot cake, complete with cream cheese frosting. It’s a perfect cake to serve year around, but especially wonderful in the fall, when we spend more time indoors anticipating the change of seasons and a focus on comfort foods. This is an easy to put together recipe, baked in 9-inch cake pans. Make sure to grease and flour the pans for ease in removing the cake once it’s out of the oven. Cool completely before frosting.

As described in the Southern Living Community Cookbook, a sheet cake is a dessert; a layer cake is an event. A hummingbird cake is a legend. I agree. And just maybe we will be dreaming of traveling to a tropical island, as Jamaica intended all those years ago.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1½ teaspoons vanilla
One 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups chopped bananas (about 3)

One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
One 16-ounce package powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans.

Whisk together flour, soda, salt, sugar and cinnamon in large bowl. Add eggs and oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened; do not beat. Stir in vanilla, pineaple, pecans and bananas.

Pour batter equally into prepared pans. Gently tap pans on counter to remove air bubbles.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Carefully remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

To prepare frosting, beat cream cheese and butter in a large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until light and fluffy. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Spread frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Decorate top and sides with additional chopped pecans, if desired. Store in refrigerator, where it will keep for several days.


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