Hummingbird cake – a banana-pineapple spice cake -- has been a southern tradition since the mid 19th century and is especially popular at Christmas. The first known publication of the recipe was in the February 1978 Southern Living magazine. It was elected the magazine's favorite recipe in 1990, and won the Favorite Cake Award at the 1978 Kentucky State Fair. The cake typically has two or three layers with pecans, mashed bananas, crushed pineapple and cream cheese frosting.
Food Network’s version uses fresh pineapple and chunked bananas. The mixing method is also slightly different from traditional Hummingbird cake. I had my doubts about this cake, but trusted in Food Network’s vast array of experience. They didn’t let me down; this cake is phenomenal. Light, moist and flavorful, it’s a perfect blend of not-too-sweet frosting and cake. My only complaint is that I don’t like my bananas chunked. Next time I make this cake, it will be with pureed or mashed bananas, and I’ll probably mix the bananas with the eggs and sugar instead of with the pecans and pineapple.
I like that the cake ages well and tastes sweeter, richer and all-around better on day 4 or 5 than on day 1. Since Hummingbird cake is popular, especially at Christmas, you don’t have to worry about making it the day of or the day before the event you are hosting. Make it up to a week ahead and refrigerate it. It’ll be waiting for you to serve to your appreciative guests.
Food Network’s Hummingbird Cake, adapted 6” version
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
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2/3 cup toasted pecan pieces
2 ripe bananas, chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh pineapple
1/3 cup + 1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
3/4 tsp. baking soda
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
2/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
Heat oven to 350F. Butter two 6” x 2” round cake pans. Line with parchment; butter parchment and dust sides of pans and parchment with flour.
Toss pecans, bananas*, pineapple and 1/3 cup flour in small bowl. Whisk remaining 1-1/2 cups flour with spices and baking soda in another bowl.
Beat eggs, sugar and salt* on high speed in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment till thick and light, about 5 minutes. Gradually beat in oil. Sprinkle flour mixture over egg mixture, then gently fold to make a thick batter. Fold in pecan-fruit mixture. Transfer to pans, dividing equally. Bake 45-50 minutes, till cakes are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in center returns clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 20 minutes, then invert onto rack to cool completely. Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below) and decorate as desired. Yield: 6-8 servings
*If you choose to mash the bananas, then mix them with the eggs, sugar and salt.
12 oz. (1-1/2 blocks) Philadelphia cream cheese, very soft
4 oz. (1 stick or 8 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, very soft
1-1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
3/4 tsp. vanilla powder or extract (I used my homemade vanilla powder)
Beat cream cheese in a large bowl with a mixer until fluffy, then gradually beat in the butter until combined. Sift confectioner’s sugar in three additions over the cream cheese mixture and beat until smooth after each addition. Add lemon zest and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Place one cake layer on a serving plate, bottom side up. Spread with 1/3 – 1/2 of the frosting and top with second cake layer, bottom side down. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.
TIP: Insert strips of wax paper at bottom of cake layer so that they are slightly under the cake with most of the wax paper on the outside. This will catch drips. After frosting the cake, just slip the wax paper out from under the cake and discard.