Classic Hummingbird Cake

Classic Hummingbird Cake

For years I’ve avoided Classic Hummingbird Cake. Honestly, it wasn’t really that much of an issue since I lived in areas where it was unlikely to pop up all over as it does here in the South. You’ll see it here, at picnics, potlucks, and at all kinds of get-togethers.

*Warning – this is a long post; use the jump to recipe button, below, if you want to skip the narrative.*

Classic Hummingbird Cake

Classic Hummingbird Cake – a turntable makes frosting so much easier.

See, I knew all about Hummingbird Cake, or I thought I did. And what I knew had never enticed me into actually baking this gorgeous cake. I mean c’mon. Nuts IN a cake? Pineapple AND Banana? I wasn’t down with the idea. Not at all.

About Classic Hummingbird Cake:

So when a friend commented on a Hummingbird Cake (for $69.99 yikes!) at Harry & David, I thought it was time to take the leap! Lucky for me I was practicing my “Just say YES attitude.” (You can read more on my annual New Year’s Post if ya want, the  New & Old 2022 ; it also includes my top 10 recipes of the past year.)

Turns out this is one of those “If you know, you know cakes.” I feel like a fool for never trying this cake before and wasting all those years. Yeah, it’s that good. I looooove it! Love, love, love it! And I think you will, too.

Primarily, Classic Hummingbird Cake is a Spice Cake, like the way a Carrot Cake is. You’ll barely taste the fruitiness from the banana and pineapple, but it’s what gives Hummingbird Cake its gorgeous moistness.

The banana flavors take a backseat and the pineapple gives subtle hints here and there – primarily when a little tidbit wakes up your tastebuds. The nuts in the cake stay barely distinct (not hard & crunchy) and add a bit of a little texture. All the flavors blend in perfectly to make one glorious (not to mention beautiful) cake!

Making Classic Hummingbird Cake:

If you already know about hummingbird cake, let me assure you this recipe is the classic one (and I tried several) with just a couple little minor tweaks. It’s the same recipe in Southern Living (claimed to be the original) and in Paula Deans Magazine. I tried multiple recipes (including my own concoction) and haven’t found any better!

This cake is super easy to make. It’s almost a measure and-mix-in one-bowl cake (except you’ll need a separate bowl to mash the bananas.) Make sure you have a good-sized bowl for the cake! The dry ingredients go in first; just give them a good whisking. Then you’ll basically just dump everything else in, in order, mixing as you go. Easy Peasy!

Note on the Bananas: Your bananas need to be spotty and very ripe (if not place them unpeeled on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees F. for 15 to 20 minutes.) Then they need to be mashed – if you have what I always call a potato masher and a small bowl it’s a piece of cake. In the photos, you’ll see my treasured bowl and old-fashioned potato masher. The bowl has a nearly flat bottom which makes it so perfect for mashing anything.

As for tweaks, in this final version, I upped the spice very slightly, used salted pecans, put fewer pecans in the cake and more on the outside, changed up the pan size for a more dramatic profile, and increased the frosting.

This little flat-bottomed bowl is great for mashing and perfect for whipped cream.

Baking:

I highly recommend making this cake in three 8″ pans rather than 9″ like the original. I did so here and the slightly higher cake gives a bit more drama. The cake layers are sturdy enough to withstand the extra height.

When baking, look for the classic signs of doneness. Do the toothpick test. A few crumbs should adhere. The cake should spring back when gently touched in the center and the edges should be lightly brown and just barely starting to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Almost any cake like this, along with most quick breads, become moister and taste better if well wrapped and left overnight. I try to bake the day before if at all possible, then frost the next day.

Frosting & Decorating Classic Hummingbird Cake:

If you’re an amateur cake decorator/froster like me, do yourself a favor and get yourself a turn table and a good offset spatula and/or edge smoother/scraper. It’s unbelievable how much of a difference they made in smoothing the top and sides of this cake. For years I listened to bloggers and tv personalities say if you don’t decorate much you can get by with only an offset spatula and for years I was frustrated thinking any flaws were from my deficiencies and lack of experience. I avoided cakes that had to be smooth or did what I call my swoop and swirl method. If you choose to do that, no judgment! This frosting will work well for that method, too.

Also, work with a lot of frosting. Don’t gasp when you see how much! Trust me on this! While a more experienced decorator may get by with less, if you want your cake to look like mine, you’ll need a lot. That will give you nice, distinct layers and enough frosting (it takes more than you think) to do a little piping. That piping isn’t just decorative – it helps hide the messiness where the top meets the sides. Now that IS my lack of experience!

Another quick hide is the layer of nuts, in this case, sea-salted pecans, which line the bottom of the cake. They look gorgeous but do double duty by disguising any flaws at the bottom of the cake! And because I questioned my ability to make a straight line with the pecans, I went with a free-form wave pattern. Any extra pecans were sprinkled on top. No waste and again, they hid a few flaws where my top wasn’t perfectly smooth!

There are a lot of little variations on cream cheese frosting recipes. I use my Mom’s Recipe (which incidentally is the same one Southern Living uses.) It spreads beautifully and stands up to multiple layers as a filling. It also has enough body to do some light piping. I wouldn’t trust it for very intricate detail but that piping just “makes” the cake.

As mentioned above, I use a lot of frosting! I doubled Mom’s recipe and then made an additional half! That’s in the recipe, below. To make it, make sure your cream cheese isn’t full of gums and other strange thickeners, make sure it’s perfectly soft and the butter is at the right temperature. If your powdered sugar has lumps, sift before using.

You should be able to bend the stick of butter without it cracking (too cold) or blowing out (too warm.) That’s going to make sure the frosting is easy to spread and ensure that it doesn’t taste buttery or oily.

tools for decorating

An investment in a few tools makes all the difference in decorating.

Sea Salted Pecans:

The Sea Salted Pecans are super easy & I think help offset some of the sweetness in the cake. I discovered it by accident in one of my earlier tries at this cake. I was out of regular pecans & made do. Since salted pecans are pricier and harder to find, I’ve included a quick recipe to make your own.

The measurement doesn’t have to be exact, just close enough. Package sizes and pecan sizes vary so don’t go through any heroics like opening a new package because you’re short a few.

Money Saving Hints:

  • Don’t buy the most gorgeous whole pecans for this or any recipe where they’ll be chopped. Pecan halves or larger pieces are large enough to stand up to the roasting without burning.
  • Although Sea Salt sounds fancier, the same amount of table salt will do.

Storing:

Classic Hummingbird Cake should be stored in the fridge (wrap it well after it is cold and unwrap it before it warms up so the frosting isn’t disturbed too much) and will keep well for four to five days. Make sure there is room for the cake in your fridge ahead of time!

Because both cream cheese and butter can suffer in hot conditions, beware when transporting or serving. I literally had a cake melt away once when I put it in a car that had been sitting in the heat. I hadn’t driven a block (I did open the windows and turn the air on right away) when the top layer slid off.

Hummingbird Cake freezes and thaws well. Wrap well after it’s frozen, then remove the wrapping and wrap lightly as it is thawed overnight in the refrigerator.

Saving Money on Classic Hummingbird Cake:

I use the same strategy for buying almost all baking goods, especially since the rising prices of butter, cream cheese, and eggs. Know your prices so you know what is a good deal and what is a great deal.

Generally, the low at your grocery is going to be before any holiday, especially the Winter Holidays and Lent/Easter. Discount stores (like Aldi & Lidl) and big box stores (like Sam’s and Costco) may have great savings but they usually don’t match your grocery holiday discount pricing.

If the savings are worth it, figure out how much of any item you’ll need to last until the next great sale and buy accordingly, stocking up at a low. (If there are limits, you might want to make multiple trips.) To see what might be on sale during any major food holiday, follow my link Win at the Grocery.

  • Butter & Cream Cheese: Both freeze well. Count the weeks to the next holiday and stock up on the appropriate amount of butter. For cream cheese, if you are a regular user, do the same.
  • Powdered Sugar: This will always be at a low around Christmas but will often be at a good price prior to Easter and Mother’s Day. Put it in a Ziploc after opening and it should remain lump free. Sift before using (don”t toss) if there are lumps.
  • Pecans & Other Nuts: The absolutely best time to buy is during the winter holidays, although you’re likely to see some sales around Easter,  the discount isn’t as great. The winter holidays are right after harvest, sales are great and there will likely be coupons. Stock up for the year and freeze nuts to keep them fresh.
  • Spices and vanilla will always be on sale during the spring. Look for paper and electronic coupons and for Catalinas. (Paper that spits out notifying you of a sale.)
  • Any baking items that contain cornstarch or flour should be placed in the freezer for 3 days or in the fridge for 30 to prevent any “peskies.”

About the Price of Eggs:

Eggs are still at a high price as I write this in 2023 – so fair warning: lecture time!

  • Watch your grocery store sales closely. It’s easy to make a mistake these days when specials and coupons have to be loaded onto a card and so on. Pay attention to the pricing at your discount groceries like Aldi & Lidl as well as at the buyer’s clubs.
  • Know that eggs do not – repeat – do not have an expiration date! They are usually stamped with a Best Buy or a Sell By date and expected to be good for two to three weeks after. Sometimes all that’s used is a Julien date. You can read all about it at the National Egg Board.

I know this post is a lot and I hope you both enjoyed it and learned something worthwhile. And if not, well, there’s always that “jump to recipe” button! I’m pretty positive when you make Classic Humminbird Cake you’ll have a gorgeous cake worthy of any special occasion whether you’re an experienced baker or not!

See ya next time, 

Mollie

Print

Classic Hummingbird Cake

  • Author: mollie kirby adapted from Southern Living & Paula Dean
  • Total Time: about 2 1/2 hours (overnight recommended)
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x
  • Category: desserts
  • Cuisine: Southern

Ingredients

Scale

Notes:

  • This cake is at it’s best if wrapped tightly and left overnight before frosting.
  • Sea Salted Pecans may be store-bought or easily made. If making, do so before starting the cake; they will be used in the cake and as garnish.

Sea Salted Pecans (very slightly adapted from Bon Appetit):

  • 2 cups (seven to eight ounces) of pecan halves or large pecan pieces
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt (fine) a little more if in larger grains

Hummingbird Cake:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1½ cups vegetable oil
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 4 medium)
  • 3/4 cup Sea Salted Pecans
  • Cream Cheese Frosting (below)
  • Garnish: remaining Sea Salted Pecans

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 3 eight-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces or 3/4 pound) of softened butter
  • 3 pounds (48 ounces) powdered sugar (approximately 4 cups to 1 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Instructions

Sea Salted Pecans:

Place pecans in a small bowl, drizzle with butter, and toss to coat. Add the salt and stir to distribute evenly. Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 12 to 15 minutes total, until dry and slightly darker, stirring halfway through. After cooling, chop into small pieces as shown.

Hummingbird Cake:

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Grease, with shortening or butter, three 8-inch round cake pans. Place a parchment round on the bottom of each pan and grease. Flour pans, shaking and tapping out excess.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Add eggs and oil and stir until ingredients are just combined. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, banana, and pecans.

Divide batter equally between the prepared pans and spread into even layer. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks. If possible, wrap layers tightly in plastic wrap when completely cool and allow to sit overnight before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

Beat cream cheese and butter together with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until just smooth. (Do not overbeat.) Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Increase speed to medium-high, and beat until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Note: 1 pound of powdered sugar contains about 4 cups.

Assembly:

Remove parchment. Level the tops of each layer by cutting off any doming. Place first layer on turntable and frost with about a cup of frosting. Add second layer and repeat. Top with final layer, placing it upside down (smooth side up) and frost top and sides, saving enough frosting (about 1  1/2 cups) to pipe around edge in a wavy shell pattern with a 1M Wilton Open Star Tip.

Place pecans around the bottom of the cake, working them about 2 inches up sides; use a wavy design rather than a straight line to minimize any fussiness. Sprinkle any remaining pecans across the top of cake inside the piping.

 

Keywords: Bananas, Cream Cheese, Desserts, Fruit, Pecans, Pineapple, powdered sugar

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If you've never tried it, Don't let the ingredients in Classic Hummingbird Cake throw you off - they meld together into one glorious cake with hints of spice. A MUST make! #HummingbirdCake #ClassicHummingbirdCake

10 thoughts on “Classic Hummingbird Cake

  1. The classic hummingbird cake recipe from Frugal Hausfrau is a true celebration of flavors, featuring a moist and tender cake loaded with tropical ingredients like bananas, pineapple, and pecans, all beautifully complemented by a luscious cream cheese frosting. With its delightful combination of textures and indulgent taste, this cake is sure to become a favorite for special occasions and gatherings.

  2. This is a stunningly beautiful cake! I could see this as a wedding cake for non traditionalists, even. I do love the little details, like the nuts at the bottom and the piping; makes it even more special.
    Nancy

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Oh my gosh, thank you! 😊 That means a lot coming from you! Don’t forget I have seen some pictures of your cakes, girl, and this is child’s play compared to those!

      Now that this one looks much better than any cake. I’ve done in the past, It makes me want to just do nothing but make cakes and more cakes and more cakes, lol!

      Mollie

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