Beautiful banana and pineapple layer cake with walnuts and a hint of cinnamon make this a crowd-pleasing, classic cake that's perfect for a special occasion. It has a sweet and rich cream cheese frosting that makes it exceptional. An old-fashioned cake recipe that keeps well and can be frozen.
This cake recipe is delicious and I urge you to try it.
It's made with canned pineapple, so it's a year-round recipe.
Why is it called Hummingbird Cake?
Popular in Southern baking, this cake originates in Jamaica, where the national bird is, you guessed it right, the hummingbird! It's also known as doctor bird cake.
For me, the pineapple screams vacation, Summer and palm trees, so it's fitting it comes from the Caribbean.
- Bananas: very ripe ones as they have the sweetest flavor.
- Pineapple: the recipe uses canned pineapple. And, though you can use fresh, the first option keeps it moister in my opinion, and is available year-round.
- Pecans or walnuts.
- Cinnamon: ground.
- Vanilla extract.
- Vegetable oil: we always use sunflower oil, but canola or another neutral one works.
- White, granulated sugar.
- Brown sugar.
- Eggs: fresh, large.
- All-purpose flour.
- Baking soda: make sure it's not expired.
- Cream cheese: full-fat, regular type.
- Powdered sugar.
See the recipe card towards the end of this post for quantities. You can check the Ingredients page for more details and the brands we use.
How to make a hummingbird cake
Baking layer cakes
The way to ensure the best results is to bake each layer separately. That way, they bake faster and more even than you do when you cut a cake in half (or thirds, which is not easy).
But having 2 or 3 similar baking pans may not be your case, or the oven might not hold that amount of pans.
You can bake it in just one pan. I recommend a 9 or 10-inch cake pan with a removable bottom for this recipe. You might have to make it a two-layer instead of three.
- Rectangular pan: like you would a sheet cake, cut it in half and layer both halves. It will be a square cake. And I suggest an 8x13 inch pan or similar. Or simply make it as a sheet cake, one layer of cake with another of frosting. It's great for barbecues or parties.
- Loaf pan: this is another option and this recipe makes enough for 2 medium loaves, similar to the zucchini pineapple bread.
- Tube pan: it has a hole in the center but it has a flat bottom and smooth sides. I don't recommend bundt cake pans because the cake tends to stick to the nooks and crannies the patterns make. I use a 10-inch tube pan as you can see in the pecan coffee cake.
I bake this recipe in three 8-inch pans or two 9-inch pans (image above). Either size, whether you make it in two or three layers, the result is excellent.
Cream cheese frosting
The traditional filling is this much-loved frosting. It is extremely easy to make and keeps well for a few weeks in the refrigerator.
I like to keep an eye on the cake/filling ratio.
As much as I love this component, I want the cake to shine on its own and the flavors to be present. So I use enough to enhance the cake but don't overdo it.
Vintage Kitchen tip: refrigerate the cake layers for several hours before filling and frosting; ideally the day before. It's easier to assemble when cold.
- Freezing: the layers can be frozen, well wrapped, for a month. Defrost at room temperature, but don't let it lose their coldness before filling and frosting. The frosting can also be frozen, but it's not the exact same texture afterward.
- Refrigeration: I recommend storing it in the refrigerator after the first day. The pineapple can ferment if left out in a warm environment and completely ruin the cake. It happened to me.
Related recipes you might like:
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For the cake:
- 3 cups all-purpose or cake flour
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sunflower oil
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups mashed, ripe bananas
- 1 cup very finely chopped pineapple, canned or fresh (see Notes below)
- ½ cup walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted (see Notes below)
For the Cream cheese frosting:
- 8oz regular cream cheese, at room temperature
- ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar (see Notes below)
- ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
For the cake layers:
For the cream cheese frosting:
- Beat cream cheese in a bowl with the soft butter until very creamy and no lumps remain.
- Gradually add sugar and vanilla until you have a thick, very creamy consistency, good enough to spread. You might need more sugar, up to a half-cup or so.
- It keeps well in the refrigerator for a few weeks. Beat again before using to attain a creamy consistency.
- Organization: read the recipe first and ensure you have ingredients at the correct temperature, equipment, and enough workspace. This will make the process so much easier.
- Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
- Pineapple: I use canned most of the time (if not always) because it's available year-round and the flavor it gives is amazing! Fresh pineapple has way less flavor and lacks that smoky quality. But you can absolutely use fresh; make sure it's very ripe and use the tender part, not the woody center.
- Nuts: I suggest you lightly toast them. It's an extra step but worth it. Preheat oven to 300°F/150°C, put the walnuts or pecans in an oven pan, and bake for about 5-10 minutes, until fragrant but not too dark. Let cool completely before using.
- Powdered sugar: the final amount depends on how thick you want the frosting and the water content of your butter mainly. So the amount given is estimated.
- Frosting: make sure the cake is cold, as it will be much easier to fill and frost. You can fill it with as much frosting as you want, but keep in mind that it is very sweet so it doesn't overpower the flavors of the actual cake.
- Pan sizes: with this recipe, you can make two 9 or 10-inch layers, three 8-inch layers, a 9x13-inch sheet cake, 2 medium loaf cakes, or one 9-inch plain tube pan cake (I don't recommend bundt pans as they usually have patterns and this batter might stick).
- Freezing: the layers can be frozen, well wrapped, for a month. Defrost at room temperature but don't let it get to room temperature before filling and frosting. The frosting can also be frozen, but it might not have the exact same texture afterward.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cooling time: 60 minutes
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- Category: Cakes
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 1/10
- Calories: 855
- Sugar: 73 g
- Sodium: 343.9 mg
- Fat: 44.6 g
- Carbohydrates: 108.9 g
- Fiber: 2.9 g
- Protein: 8.7 g
- Cholesterol: 103.1 mg
Keywords: hummingbird cake