A darling of Southern desserts, Hummingbird Bundt Cake combines sliced bananas, crushed pineapples and chopped with a spiced cake batter. The slightly sweet cake is then topped with decadent cream cheese icing and more chopped pecans.
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Hummingbird cake – it’s a simple cake with a funny name and beloved by Southerners everywhere. Don’t worry, despite its name, hummingbirds are not included among the list of ingredients.
The Origin of Hummingbird Cake
In February 1978, Southern Living Magazine published a recipe from Mrs. L.H. Wiggins for Hummingbird Cake. To this day, Hummingbird Cake remains one of the magazine’s most popular and most requested recipe.
Mrs. Wiggins never elaborated on how the cake got its name and its origins remain a mystery. Of course, there are more than a few theories floating around among the cotton fields and Spanish moss. Some speculate the name was derived because of the cake’s sweet flavor. Others believe, due to the inclusion of pineapple in the batter, the recipe came from Jamaica and was originally named Doctor Bird Cake. The Doctor Bird is a hummingbird indigenous to the island.
How to Make Hummingbird Bundt Cake
Maybe it’s the mystery that makes this so appealing, or the fact that it’s super simple to make and consistently produces delicious results. Regardless, hummingbird cake is among the dessert darlings of Southern cuisine.
First, put your mixer away. Every recipe I came across in my research clearly states not to beat the batter. My guess, this is to prevent overmixing, which can result in a tough texture.
Whisk together three cups of all-purpose flour, two cups of granulated sugar, one teaspoon salt, one teaspoon of baking soda and one teaspoon of cinnamon. Add three lightly beaten eggs and 1 ½ cups of cooking oil. Then stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
Add 1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract and one (8 ounce) can of undrained crushed pineapple. Next, mix in one cup of chopped pecans and two cups (roughly two average sized) chopped bananas. Slightly over ripe, but not mushy, bananas work best for this.
Traditionally, Hummingbird Cakes are baked in three, 9-inch round cake pans. In my opinion, layer cakes are a little intimidating. Like a stuffy, prim old aunt who never allowed elbows on the table. Sheet cakes are definitely more approachable, but not much to look at in the way of presentation. Bundt cakes are somewhere in between — not as stuck up as a layer cake but not as laid back as a sheet cake. Approachable, yet still elegant.
Getting Your Bundt Cake out of the Pan in One Piece
How many times have you pulled a freshly baked bundt cake out of the oven, turned it out on a plate, then with baited breath, lifted up the cake pan to discover …
- The cake won’t release from the dang pan no matter how many times you run a knife around the edge or bang it on the counter.
- It comes out, but only, like, 95% of it. The other five percent hangs on, stubbornly, to the inside of the pan. You’re left with that deflating feel of defeat and promptly whip up a glaze to hide your inadequacy.
I’ve been there, my friend. More times that I’d like to share. When I decided to make this a bundt cake, I did a whole lot of research beforehand on tips to get the dern cake out of the pan in one piece.
I hit pay dirt with this little trick from King Arthur flour. How many times has a recipe instructed you to grease and flour a pan before baking? Turns out, sprinkling a pan with flour is almost like rubbing the inside of the pan with Elmer’s glue. It promotes sticking. Not to mention, I’m always left with a white residue on the surface of the cake.
Instead, KA recommends dusting with either nut flour or granulated sugar. I didn’t have any nut flour on hand, so I tried coating the pan with granulated sugar after giving it a good coat of cooking spray. Immediately after removing the cake from the oven, I gently ran my knife around the edge of the pan, then let it cool in the pan for five minutes.
Next, I inverted the cake pan onto a cooling rack and waited another five minutes. The cake still didn’t seem to want to budge, so following KA’s advice, I put it back in the warm oven (make sure the oven is off!) for 10 minutes. This was just enough to soften the edges of the cake and … voila! I wish you could have seen the victory dance happening in the middle of my kitchen. Actually, no I don’t.
Let the cake cool completely before applying the cream cheese icing.
How to Make Cream Cheese Icing
Before you get started, set one (8 ounce) package of cream cheese and one stick of unsalted butter out to soften. Both should be soft enough to whip after sitting out for 30 minutes.
Using an electric mixer, whip together the cream cheese and butter on medium to medium-high speed until smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low, then add one cup of powdered sugar. I really recommend sifting the powdered sugar first to eliminate any lumps, ensuring your icing comes out super smooth. Once the first cup of sugar is incorporated, add a second cup of sifted powdered sugar. Finally, add one teaspoon of vanilla extract and whip until everything is combined and the icing is creamy.
You can coat the entire top of the cake with icing using a butter knife or spatula. I wanted to do something more elegant with my icing, but I am not a cake decorator! I picked up this Wilton Cake Decorating Kit from Hobby Lobby and it worked like a charm! I can’t wait to try the other tips in the future.
How to Store Hummingbird Bundt Cake
Because of the cream cheese, I do recommend storing any uneaten cake in the refrigerator. It will last about five days if kept in an airtight container such as a cake saver.
Hummingbird bundt cake can be frozen. For cake that is not iced, simply wrap it in a layer of plastic wrap followed by a layer of aluminum foil. If the cake has been iced, place the entire cake, uncovered, on a flat surface in the freezer. Once the cake is frozen solid, wrap it in a layer of plastic wrap and aluminum foil. I recommend eating the cake within six months.
Did you know you can also freeze cream cheese icing? Because if its high fat content, cream cheese icing freezes beautifully. Simply spoon the icing into a plastic freezer bag, squeeze all the air out, seal then freeze. You may need to whip it up a few times before using.
Hummingbird bundt cake tastes like a spiced banana bread. It’s not too sweet, which is why it pairs well with the smooth and decadent cream cheese icing. Sprinkle a few chopped pecans over the top and you’ve got yourself once elegant show stopper of a cake.
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Hummingbird Bundt Cake
For the cake:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 large eggs lightly beaten
- 1 ½ cups vegetable or canola oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
- 1 8 ounce can of crushed pineapple, undrained
- 2 cups chopped pecans divided
- 2 cups chopped bananas
For the cream cheese frosting:
- 1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.
- Stir in the eggs and the oil. Mix, by hand, just until the dry ingredients are moist.
- Add the vanilla extract, pineapple with juice, one cup chopped pecans and bananas.
- Grease a 9-inch bundt or tube pan with cooking spray. Coat with a fine layer of granulated sugar.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Gently run a knife around the edges and the center of the pan to loosen the edges of the cake. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for five minutes before inverting it onto a cooling rack. Allow the cake to cook completely before icing.
For the cream cheese frosting:
- In a large mixing bowl, combine softened cream cheese and butter until smooth using an electric mixer at medium speed.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add one cup of sifted powdered sugar to the cream cheese mixture. Once the powdered sugar is combined, add another cup of sifted powdered sugar. Continue to beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
- Spread or pipe the cream cheese over the cooled cake. Sprinkle the top with additional chopped pecans.