No birds were harmed in the making of this cake! Despite the name, there are no birds included in the recipe. Instead, the name is thought to come from the fact that the cake is sweet enough to attract hummingbirds seeking nectar. This dessert recipe comes from the Carribean country of Jamaica, originating in the 1960’s. It’s a banana cake with the addition of sweet pineapple and pecans. The recipe was sent to the United States by the Jamaican Tourist Board, as a way to entice Americans to visit their country. Originally, the name was “doctor bird cake”. This is because the Jamaicans call hummingbirds doctor birds (because of their probing beaks). There are plenty of other names for this dessert, though. Popular names include: “the cake that doesn’t last”, “bumblebee cake”, “Jamaica cake”, and “bird of paradise cake”.
No matter what you call it, this cake is delicious!
This Hummingbird Cake has been Dads long-standing favorite cake and I recently made it again for him. He lives in Austin, so I made the cake layers the week ahead and froze them in plastic wrap, then foil. It’s been proven that cakes taste better the next day, and freezing the cake layers is a shortcut to that technique I learned from a master cake baker. If I have time I try to do this with all my layer cakes.
16 ounces canned crushed pineapple in juice
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 very ripe large bananas peeled and mashed (about 2 cups)
1½ cup Texas pecans, toasted and chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 and 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups powdered sugar
2½ teaspoons vanilla extract
20 ounces cream cheese chilled and cut into 20 pieces
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup Texas pecans, toasted and chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 8-inch cake pans (you can also do two 9-inch pans), line the bottoms with parchment paper, grease the parchment and flour the pans; set aside.
- Drain the pineapple in a fine-mesh strainer set over a small saucepan, pressing to remove as much juice as possible.
- Place the saucepan over medium heat until reduced to ⅓ cup, about 5 minutes; set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs, then whisk in the oil. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the bananas, pecans, vanilla, drained pineapple, and reduced pineapple juice. Gently stir in the flour mixture until just combined.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake until dark golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes (a little less for the 9-inch pans), rotating the pans halfway through baking. Let the cakes cool in pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then turn out of the pans, remove parchment paper and allow to cool completely, at least 2 hours.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt on low speed until smooth, then mix for an additional 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Increase the speed to medium-low and add the cream cheese one piece at a time and mix until smooth, then mix for an additional 2 minutes.
- Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Spread 1 cup of frosting over top, then top with another cake layer, pressing lightly to adhere. Spread another 1 cups of frosting over that layer, then top with the third cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting evenly over the sides and top of the cake.
- Chop the remaining 1/2 cup of pecans and press to adhere around the sides of the cake. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. The cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.