Hummingbird Cake

This cake became an instant favorite when it arrived on the scene in the late 1970s. The first recipe for this cake has long been attributed to Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greesnboro, North Carolina, who submitted it to the February, 1978 issue of Southern Living magazine. But Helen Moore, a former food editor at The Charlotte Observer, says that hummingbird cake actually hails from Jamaica, where it is called Doctor Bird cake. She says that recipes for basically the same cake by that name were distributed by the Jamaican Tourism Board in the late 1960s.

There are two major schools of thought as to where the name came from. The first is that the cake is so sweet it could attract hummingbirds; the second is that the cake is so good, people spontaneously begin to hum while eating it. No matter which story is true, this is one of the most delicious of all Southern cakes. The recipe is adapted from Mrs. Wiggins’ original.

Yield: one 9-inch layer cake

For the cake:

  • 3 cups all-pupose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon soda
  • 11/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, Drained (reserve 1/4 cup juice)
  • 2 cups chopped pecans, divided
  • 2 cups mashed bananas

Grease and flour three 9-inch cake pans; preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together flour, sugar, salt, soda and cinnamon; place into a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add eggs and vegetable oil, stirring with a rubber spatula until dry ingredients are moistened (do not use an electric mixer). Stir in vanilla, pineapple, pineapple juice, 1 cup of the pecans and bananas. Spoon batter into pans.

Bake until cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool in pans for ten minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:

  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 (16 ounce) boxes powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a 2-quart mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and butter; using an electric hand mixer, cream until smooth. Add powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy; stir in vanilla. Spread frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Sprinkle with 1 cup chopped pecans..

5 Comments so far »

  1. Rochelle said

    March 22 2009 @ 8:13 am

    I prefer to make cakes with cake flour so that they are lighter, especially with sweeter cakes like this . . . can it be done with cake flour or must it be all-purpose flour?
    I can’t wait to make this for Easter!

    Thank you!

  2. Chef Rick said

    March 22 2009 @ 11:26 am

    Hi, Rochelle–
    This cake has a lot of “stuff” in it (the bananas, pineapple and nuts) so the recipe is traditionally made with regular flour to help give it enough body to hold everything in place. You can try it with cake flour, but it may be crumbly…

  3. StephaniaB said

    January 31 2010 @ 6:26 pm

    I loved this cake when my mother-in-law first made it for me. She gave me the recipe, but we both have since lost it. Thanks for posting it for me–I promise to share it, as well.

    Thank you, again.


  4. Gerrie said

    December 24 2010 @ 10:54 am


    This recipe is awesome! It suits the taste of both young and old in our family. I put a little sign next to mine at a family potluck “Hummingbird Cake”.

    I observed a few took it with traditional dinner fare and came back for a second at desert time.

    My Mom made this in the late 60s and it was much loved by all. Now another generation is enjoying it.

    Thank you.


  5. Terryll said

    May 20 2012 @ 2:31 pm

    I made this cake for my church’s pot luck dinner, there were all kinds of cakes, this cake was the biggest hit!! It is better than a carrot cake! My picky son loved it! I am making it for his graduation cake! It is so good you can’t eat just one slice!! Enjoy!!

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