Cold weather got you in a funk? Get whisked away to warmer weather with the tropical flavor with this classic old fashioned Hummingbird Cake recipe, sometimes called a doctor bird cake. It annually makes an appearance in Better Homes and Gardens and Southern Living Magazine around the start of summer.
A moist layer cake is nice for a special occasion and all, but we try to keep things simple here. I have trouble getting the layers to be perfectly flat, the crumb layer and then the sides of the cake being even with frosting.
This version of hummingbird cake is made in a 9×13 pan. No need for fancy round cake pans, cake layers, baking strips or wire racks here.
Homemade Cake Recipe
Table of Contents
If you’ve never had an old-fashioned hummingbird cake, it’s actually very similar to a carrot cake or a banana cake. The base is a moist spice cake, but instead of veggies we use fruit. The pineapple and banana flavor come together to make a delicious cake that will become an instant favorite.
This cake is like a lighter in texture version of banana bread with more complex flavors from the addition of cinnamon, pineapple, and pecans.
- Flour – All purpose flour adds structure and rise to cake sponge.
- Ground cinnamon – Cinnamon gives a slight spice to the base of this cake that when combined with the fruits, takes your taste buds on a ride.
- Baking soda – When added to baked goods, baking soda helps to provide the light and fluffy texture that we aim for.
- Salt – For this recipe, use fine sea salt.
- Sugar – Even with all the fresh fruit in this cake, we still need some granulated white sugar to make it perfectly sweet.
- Vegetable oil – The biggest reason we use oil in cakes is to provide moisture. A perfect cake is always the right balance of moist and crumbly.
- Eggs – Any time you see eggs in a recipe, always assume they are large eggs unless otherwise specified. Eggs help to provide structure to all baked goods.
- Banana – For the best results, use a banana that is very ripe, you can even use overripe bananas. The mashed bananas provide flavor as well as make for a very moist cake.
- Pineapple – We use crushed pineapple for this cake. But do not drain- we want the maximum amount of fresh pineapple flavor, so we want the pineapple juice as well. Make sure to get pineapple in juice and not syrup.
- Vanilla extract – We use vanilla extract in the cake batter as well as the frosting. It’s a good way to round out all the flavors.
- Pecans – I like to put chopped pecans in the batter, and then save some pecan halves for garnish as well. Of course, the garnish is optional, I just love the way they look and of course, the crunch.
- Cream cheese – This is for our frosting. Make sure yours is softened, as cold cream cheese will not blend with the butter well.
- Butter – I always opt to use unsalted butter when baking and cooking, that way I am able to control the amount of salt that goes into the recipe.
- Powdered sugar – When mixed with cream cheese and butter, powdered sugar creates the perfect base for a delectable tangy cream cheese frosting that is smooth and delicious.
How to Make Hummingbird Cake
This is a scratch cake, but an easy one! As is the cream cheese frosting. If you want to cut a corner, I’d make the cake, but buy the frosting.
- Prepare pan. Preheat the oven and spray your pan with baking spray. You can also line it with parchment paper Into make it even easier for the cake to release.
- Mix dry ingredients. Sift or whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Combining helps to evenly distribute the ingredients.
- Wet ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar with the vegetable oil, mixture will be lumpy. Whisk in the eggs until smooth. Add the mashed banana, pineapple, and vanilla, whisk until smooth. You can also use a stand mixer or electric mixer to the job done.
- Combine. Stir in the flour mixture until combined with no dry patches. Then stir in the pecans. Do not overmix, this can cause a dense cake.
- Bake. Spread the hummingbird cake batter into the prepared baking dish and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Set the cake on a wire rack to cool, this allows air to circulate all the way around and cool fully.
- Make frosting. Beat the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time until fully combined. Add the vanilla and cinnamon, stir to combine.
- Frost. Spread the frosting on top using an offset spatula and add more pecans as a garnish if you’d like. Slice, serve and enjoy! Using a serrated knife will help the slices cut easily.
Hummingbird Cake Variations
I love the texture the pecans add to the cake but if you don’t like nuts or can’t eat them you can leave them out completely. You can also use walnuts in place of the pecans.
I love the fluffy cinnamon cream cheese frosting on top, but you can also use regular cream cheese frosting, vanilla buttercream, or brown sugar frosting would all be wonderful. Nutmeg is another welcome addition.
I suggest only using crushed pineapple and not larger pineapple chunks so you get the right amount of liquid needed to the batter. Don’t leave out the pineapple, it is one of the main ingredients that makes it a hummingbird cake along with the additional liquid that is needed.
Storage and Freezing
This old fashioned hummingbird cake needs to be refrigerated since it is using a cream cheese frosting. It is best served at room temperature so I suggest letting your slice sit out on the counter until it reaches room temperature to enjoy it. The cake will be too dense if you heat it directly out of the fridge.
You can store it covered in the fridge using plastic wrap for up to 5 days. It also freezes well. You can freeze it for up to 3 months.
More delicious cake recipes:
Old Fashioned Hummingbird Cake
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 3/4 cup mashed banana
- 8 ounces crushed pineapple do not drain
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- chopped pecans for garnish optional
For the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×13 with baking spray, set aside.
- In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt, set aside.
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, blend together the sugar with the vegetable oil, the mixture will be lumpy.
- Blend in the eggs until smooth. Add the mashed banana, pineapple, and vanilla, blending until smooth.
- Stir in the flour mixture until just combined, do not overmix. Fold in the pecans but hand.
- Evenly spread the batter into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test and the top is golden brown and lightly springs back when pressed.
- Place it on a wire rack and let it cool completely before frosting.
For the Frosting:
- Cream together the cream cheese and butter until well blended and smooth. Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer is the easiest way to do this.
- Add the powdered sugar in small amounts until fully combined. Add the vanilla and cinnamon, stir to combine. Place on medium speed and whip for 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
- Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting on top of the cake and sprinkle with additional pecans.
- If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.