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This classic Southern Hummingbird Cake is the perfect easy dessert, tea time snack, or sweet breakfast treat! The moist spice cake is full of crunchy pecans, juicy pineapple, and fresh mashed banana, and then finished off with a rich homemade cream cheese frosting. Prepare the old fashioned hummingbird cake recipe as a sheet cake, or as a classic layer cake for your next Sunday supper, potluck meal, or holiday celebration!

Side shot of a slice of hummingbird cake with chopped pecans on top

What is Hummingbird Cake?

Hummingbird cake is a banana-pineapple spice cake popular in the Southern United States. It’s often finished with a cream cheese frosting, and otherwise tastes a lot like banana bread — with a few extra ingredients!

Yoder’s Country Market, a little shop right near our house here in Virginia, sells a homemade Hummingbird Bundt cake that’s absolutely delicious. Southern Living magazine made the old fashioned dessert popular after the recipe was submitted to the magazine in 1978 from a reader in Greensboro, North Carolina named Mrs. L.H. Wiggins. While a Bundt cake or a mile-high multi-layer cake may be more traditional, I typically prefer the ease of a single layer sheet cake.

Fork taking a bite of the best hummingbird cake recipe on a blue and white plate

With this hummingbird cake recipe, you have the choice of either baking the batter in a single 9 x 13-inch baking dish (shown here), or dividing the batter between two 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans to stack in layers. Either way, there’s plenty of decadent cream cheese frosting to finish off the perfect Southern dessert!

Whisking together dry ingredients in a white bowl

Why do they call it a Hummingbird Cake?

The origin of the cake goes all of the way back to Jamaica, but its namesake remains a mystery. That said, many folks speculate that the dessert gets its name because it’s so sweet!

Adding pecans to a mixing bowl

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a homemade hummingbird cake recipe. As always, specific measurements and complete step-by-step instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Cake flour: this flour has a lighter texture than all-purpose flour, which creates a softer, lighter cake with a tender crumb.
  • Baking soda: the leavening agent that helps the cake rise.
  • Salt: to enhance the flavors in the cake and balance the sweetness.
  • Ground cinnamon: for warm spice.
  • Granulated sugar: for just the right amount of sweetness.
  • Vegetable oil: keeps the cake incredibly moist.
  • Banana: choose very ripe bananas (with some dark spots).
  • Eggs: give the cake structure.
  • Vanilla extract: for flavor!
  • Canned crushed pineapple: adds moisture, flavor, and sweetness to the batter. Drain off most of the juice before adding the pineapple to the batter.
  • Pecans: for nutty crunch. Use extra pecans for garnish, if you like.
  • Salted butter: for the frosting.
  • Cream cheese: for a rich, creamy frosting. Use blocks of cream cheese (not tubs).
  • Confectioners’ sugar: to sweeten the frosting.
Cream cheese frosting in a mixing bowl.

How to Make a Hummingbird Cake

This classic recipe is slightly adapted from Vera Stewart — the Queen of Southern cakes! I’ve made it a bit easier by scaling down the quantities and making a single layer sheet cake (rather than a stacked 4-layer cake), but the delicious taste and the decadent, moist flavor remains the same!

  1. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. Combine the sugar, oil, and bananas in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. This creams together the sugar and oil, and also helps to mash the bananas.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla extract.
  4. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat the batter on medium speed for 5-7 minutes, which incorporates a lot of air and yields a light, fluffy cake.
  5. Add the crushed pineapple and the chopped pecans.
  6. Pour the batter into a greased baking pan (or multiple round pans).
  7. Bake in a 350°F oven for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Cool the cake completely on a wire rack before frosting.
  9. Mix together the cream cheese frosting.
  10. Spread the frosting on the cake. Garnish with chopped pecans, if desired.
  11. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving.
Side shot of a slice of homemade hummingbird cake on a plate

Make Ahead

Bake the cake ahead of time, cool, and wrap tightly. Store the cake at room temperature overnight, and then frost before serving. You can also freeze the unfrosted cake for up to 2 months.

Make the frosting in advance and store it in the refrigerator overnight. The frosting will need to sit at room temperature to soften slightly before you spread it on the cake.

Overhead shot of hands eating a plate of hummingbird cake

Storage

Store the cake covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. You can also freeze the frosted cake for up to 2 months. Just make sure that it’s wrapped tightly to prevent freezer burn. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

Square side shot of a blue and white plate with a slice of the best hummingbird cake recipe

Recipe Variations

  • Instead of baking the cake in a single 9 x 13-inch pan, you can make a layer cake by dividing the batter between two 9-inch or 8-inch round cake pans. Stack the layers on top of each other, with frosting in between.
  • For a very impressive 4-layer cake, double all of the ingredients and divide the batter between 4 round cake pans.
  • For a smaller cake, divide all of the ingredients in half and bake the cake in an 8-inch square pan.
  • If you love the stronger flavor of toasted pecans, you can toast the pecans in a dry skillet on the stovetop just until fragrant. Let them cool completely, and then use in the recipe as instructed.
  • Make hummingbird muffins or cupcakes by baking the batter in muffin tins. Bake muffins at 350°F for about 20 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean). Frosting is optional!
Hands eating a piece of the best hummingbird cake recipe

Tips for the Best Hummingbird Cake Recipe

  • Use very ripe bananas (with plenty of black spots on the peels), since they offer the most sweetness and flavor. They also mix smoothly into the batter.
  • Make sure that all of your ingredients are at room temperature. This helps them blend together more easily and smoothly.
  • Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving. The cream cheese frosting will be quite soft when first spread, so you’ll have a cleaner cut if you give the cake time to firm up.
  • Sift the confectioners sugar to avoid any lumps in your frosting.
  • Use full-fat block-style cream cheese for the frosting. The cream cheese frosting will be thin and runny if you substitute with low fat cream cheese or cream cheese spread from a tub.
  • This recipe yields enough frosting for a two-layer cake. If you prepare a single layer sheet cake, you will not need all of the frosting. In fact, for a thin layer of frosting, you can cut the frosting ingredients in half.
  • Garnish the cake with chopped pecans or sprinkle with shredded coconut.
Overhead shot of a fork on a plate of hummingbird cake

More Southern Cake Recipes to Try

Side shot of a slice of hummingbird cake with chopped pecans on top

Hummingbird Cake Recipe

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Cooling Time 3 hours
Total: 3 hours 50 minutes
Servings 18 slices
Calories 317 kcal
This classic Southern Hummingbird Cake recipe is the perfect easy dessert, tea time snack, or sweet breakfast treat!

Ingredients
  

FOR THE CAKE:

  • 2 ¼ cups cake flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ very ripe bananas, chopped
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces canned crushed pineapple, drained
  • ½ cup pecans, chopped (plus extra for garnish, if desired)

FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:

  • ½ cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 lbs. confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Instructions

MAKE THE CAKE:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan (or two 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans).
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine sugar, oil, and bananas until the bananas are mashed (about 3 minutes).
  • Add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla extract; mix to combine.
  • Gradually add the flour mixture until blended. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • Beat the batter on medium speed for about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add crushed pineapple and chopped pecans; mix until well blended.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for 30-35 minutes (for a 9 x 13-inch pan) or 25-30 minutes (for the smaller round pans), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

PREPARE THE FROSTING:

  • Use an electric mixer to cream together the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl.
  • Add vanilla and beat for 1 more minute.
  • With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar. Scrape the bowl, as necessary, to make sure that all of the ingredients are completely combined. Once you’ve added all of the sugar, beat on low for 3 more minutes.
  • Spread the frosting on top of the cake. If you're making a single-layer sheet cake, you will probably not need all of the frosting. Garnish with chopped pecans, if desired. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving.

Notes

  • Use very ripe bananas (with plenty of black spots on the peels), since they offer the most sweetness and flavor. They also mix smoothly into the batter.
  • Make sure that all of your ingredients are at room temperature. This helps them blend together more easily and smoothly.
  • Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving. The cream cheese frosting will be quite soft when first spread, so you’ll have a cleaner cut if you give the cake time to firm up.
  • Sift the confectioners sugar to avoid any lumps in your frosting.
  • Use full-fat block-style cream cheese for the frosting. The cream cheese frosting will be thin and runny if you substitute with low fat cream cheese or cream cheese spread from a tub.
  • This recipe yields enough frosting for a two-layer cake. If you prepare a single layer sheet cake, you will not need all of the frosting. In fact, for a thin layer of frosting, you can cut the frosting ingredients in half.
  • Garnish the cake with chopped pecans or sprinkle with shredded coconut.
  • Recipe adapted from Vera Stewart.

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice of sheet cake (using about half of the frosting)Calories: 317kcalCarbohydrates: 54gProtein: 4gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 48mgSodium: 217mgPotassium: 58mgFiber: 1gSugar: 42gVitamin A: 290IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 23mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: Hummingbird Cake, hummingbird cake recipe, old fashioned hummingbird cake recipe
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in July, 2014. It was updated in March, 2022.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. Blair, I have always wanted to make hummingbird cake. The name alone sold me. This looks yummy and the cream cheese frosting is just to die for. Thanks for sharing! Pinning!

  2. I’ve never had hummingbird cake, but I have seen it pinned on Pinterest many times and have always been curious. I like that you scaled this down. Thanks for sharing on Merry Monday.

  3. 5 stars
    A few years ago my daughter’s mother in law sent me the most amazing cake I’ve ever tasted ,she called it banana cake . So I’ve begged her for the recipe for years now but she wouldn’t give it up, She’s sent me several cakes and teases me every time I start whining for her recipe again. But now I know her secret !! It was a hummingbird cake , I can’t wait to send one to her now !! Thank you so much

  4. 5 stars
    Made this cake right by your recipe. It was easy and delicious. Cheated on the icing with store bought. Have been wanting to try this cake for many years but didn’t want a two layer or whole sheet cake. This was the perfect size. Will definitely make it again.

  5. Hi! I am looking forward to making this yummy cake (I really like the small portion!). I was wondering if I can add sweetened shredded coconut. If so, how much would you recommend?

    1. Hi, Katy! Absolutely! You can really add as much or as little as you like. I would start with about 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup in the batter, and you can also add more on top of the frosting. Hope you enjoy. 🙂