Topped with a luscious cream cheese frosting, old-fashioned hummingbird cake is a cross between a carrot cake and banana bread. It’s made with bananas, pineapple, pecans and cinnamon for plenty of flavor and texture in each bite!

slice of layered hummingbird cake with cream cheese frosting on a plate.

Have you heard of hummingbird cake? It has next to nothing to do with hummingbirds, although they may like the sweetness! This dessert originated in Jamaica and was made popular in the 1970s when Southern Living magazine published the recipe. The cake is chock full of flavor and topped with a rich cream cheese frosting. It is a personal favorite of mine!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Unique cake. Hummingbird cake is truly one-of-a-kind. Its flavorful ingredients don’t only provide a delightful taste, but also wonderful textures. Plus, the name is adorable!
  • Super flavorful. Crushed pineapple and banana in a cake is bound to pack a punch. With a bit of cinnamon and pecans too, each bite is full of delicious surprises.
  • Easy to make. The batter is made in only one bowl without an electric mixer. The frosting comes together in minutes too!
  • Perfect for any occasion. Hummingbird cake always makes me think of Easter and spring (birds chirping, bees buzzing), but it can really be served any time of year. It has fruity flavor for summer and warm cinnamon spice for fall.

Ingredient Notes

hummingbird cake ingredients in bowls on a tabletop.
  • Crushed pineapple: Use one 8 oz can of crushed pineapple—do not drain. Check that there are no added sugars.
  • Bananas: Ripe bananas with a few brown spots are best for this recipe. They are chopped (not mashed) so you want them to still have a little texture to them.
  • Pecans: The third traditional ingredient in hummingbird cakes is pecans. Roughly chop them up before measuring. Make sure you have extra for garnishing the cake.
  • Vegetable oil: For a tender, light texture, use a flavorless oil, such as vegetable or canola oil. This also keeps the cake moist longer.
  • Baking soda: This leavening agent helps the cake rise. Check that is fresh and not expired for best results.
  • Cream cheese: Block-style cream cheese is best for frosting. It’s thicker and contains less air, which means the frosting is less likely to melt.
  • Butter: You can use salted or unsalted butter for the frosting. However, if you are sensitive to salt, I suggest adding it separately.
  • Cinnamon: For a little spice, ground cinnamon is added to the batter and frosting. Check that it isn’t expired for the best taste.

Refer to the recipe card for full list of ingredients and measurements.

Recipe Variations

Try a different frosting. Not a fan of cream cheese? A simple vanilla buttercream is the perfect substitution. I also think brown butter frosting would taste good.

Add different mix-ins. Swap out the pecans or walnuts or chocolate chips. You can also add in 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut or shredded carrot (gently patted dry).

Spice it up. If you like spice cake, then you’ll probably like some additional spices in your hummingbird cake. Add 1 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg to the dry ingredients.

Use a different size pan. This recipe also fits three 6-inch round cake pans (bake 20 to 25 minutes) or one 12-cup bundt pan (bake 45 to 60 minutes). You can also make hummingbird cupcakes!

How to Make Hummingbird Cake

photo collage demonstrating how to make batter for hummingbird cake in a mixing bowl and 9-inch cake pans.
  1. Whisk together dry ingredients—flour, sugar baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  2. Add eggs and vegetable oil. Mix until combined, but do not beat.
  3. Add pineapple, bananas and pecans. Mix until incorporated. Transfer batter to two well-greased 9-inch round cake pans.
  4. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with little to no crumbs.
photo collage demonstrating how to make cream cheese frosting in a mixing bowl and spread it on a hummingbird cake with layers.
  1. Make cream cheese frosting. Beat cream cheese and butter together until fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar , vanilla and cinnamon. Mix until combined.
  2. Frost the cake. Use an offset spatula to spread frosting on one of the round cakes. Place other cake on top and spread frosting on top and around the edges of the cake. Garnish with chopped pecans if desired.

Expert Tips

Do not over-mix. The batter doesn’t need an electric mixer and for each step the ingredient should be stirred just until combined. Over-mixing will cause the batter to be too dense.

Use the right cream cheese. Block-style is preferred for cream cheese frosting. It’s thicker and contains less air. As a result, it’s less likely to melt!

Be aware of the climate. If you’re baking in a warm or humid climate, don’t let the cream cheese and butter sit at room temperature for too long. They should be soft, but still slightly cool to the touch.

slice of hummingbird cake on white plate with fork taking bite.

Make Ahead and Storage Tips

Make ahead the cream cheese frosting and store in an airtight container for up to 48 hours. Let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or until soft enough to spread. The cake batter cannot be made in advance. When the baking soda comes in contact with wet ingredients, it starts to lose its effect and the cake won’t rise. However, you can bake the cake a day ahead of time. Similar to banana bread, this gives the flavors time to mingle and it ends up tasting even better the next day!

Store cake covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The cake is okay for a few hours at room temperature if serving at a party.

Freeze for up to 3 months. Flash freeze the cake (or slices) for 1 hour or until firm. Wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn. Defrost in the refrigerator before serving.

Recipe FAQ

Why is it called hummingbird cake?

Depends who you ask, but I heard it’s called hummingbird cake because the cake originated in Jamaica where the national bird is the Doctor Bird (a species of the hummingbird).

What does a hummingbird cake taste like?

Fruity and flavorful! It’s similar to banana bread, but with a tropical flavor from the pineapple. It’s also tender and moist with hints of cinnamon and chopped pecans.

What’s the difference between carrot cake and hummingbird cake?

Carrot cake uses grated carrots and typically contains more spices. Hummingbird cake has fruity flavor thanks to the bananas and crushed pineapple.

Can I substitute the vegetable oil?

Yes, any flavorless oil will work. I haven’t tested avocado oil or coconut oil (in its liquid state), but it should work. It’s also possible unsweetened applesauce will do the trick!

hummingbird cake covered in cream cheese frosting and garnished with pecan halves on outside and chopped pecans sprinkled on top.

Did you love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating in the recipe card below and if you REALLY loved it, consider leaving a comment further down the page.

slice of layered hummingbird cake with cream cheese frosting on a plate.

Get the Recipe: Old Fashioned Hummingbird Cake

Topped with a luscious cream cheese frosting, old-fashioned hummingbird cake is made with bananas, pineapple, pecans and cinnamon.
5 from 1 rating

Ingredients

Cake

  • 3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup (236 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (225 g or 8 oz can) crushed pineapple, do not drained
  • 1 cup (125 g) chopped pecans
  • 2 cups chopped bananas, (about 3-4 medium bananas)

Frosting

  • 1 ½ cups (340 g or 12 oz) block-style cream cheese, softened, but still cool to the touch
  • ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, softened, but still cool to the touch
  • 3 cups (360 g) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • ½ cup (62 g) chopped pecans, for garnish

Instructions 

Hummingbird Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans (or use my magic cake pan release).
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  • Add the eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla to the dry ingredients. Stir until the ingredients are moistened. Do not beat.
  • Add the pineapple, bananas and pecans. Stir until incorporated.
  • Pour batter into two greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer), beat cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, gradually add powdered sugar on low speed until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla and cinnamon.
  • Spread frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake; sprinkle 1/2 cup chopped pecans on top. Store in refrigerator.

Notes

Bananas: Use ripe bananas that have just a few brown spots. If they’re too mushy, they will lose their texture in the cake.
Pineapple: Crushed pineapple from the can is easiest to use. Remember not to drain the liquid! 
Cream cheese: Block-style is best because it is thicker and contains less air. The cream cheese should be soft, but still slightly cool to the touch.
Frosting: If the frosting gets too thin, but the bowl in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes, give it a good stir, then frost the cake.
Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Loosely tent the cake with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. The cake is okay at room temperature for a few hours if you’re serving at a party.
Freeze for up to 3 months. Flash freeze the cake (or slices) for 1 hour or until firm. Wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn. Defrost in the refrigerator before serving.
Serving: 1slice, Calories: 579kcal, Carbohydrates: 74g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 30g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Trans Fat: 0.3g, Cholesterol: 60mg, Sodium: 272mg, Potassium: 181mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 53g, Vitamin A: 437IU, Vitamin C: 3mg, Calcium: 34mg, Iron: 2mg

Southern Living recipe

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