One of the many reasons to reach for this sophisticated tropical recipe is to get yourself through spring’s lion-to-lamb passage. The fruity flavor, with just a touch of spice, will hint the return of warm weather.
But the main reason to make this treat is because of how moist and delicious hummingbird cake can be. Originally from Jamaica, where it’s known as doctor bird cake – another name for one of Jamaica’s national symbols, the hummingbird – a 1978 Southern Living recipe holds claim as the first printed recipe using its current moniker. Through a little digging, though, a recipe published in 1972 by a small newspaper in Mexico, Missouri, might test this widely held belief.
Either way, the cake has become entrenched in Southern baking tradition, especially when iced with cream cheese buttercream. The ripe bananas, crushed pineapple, coconut and toasted nuts combine to create a flavor that’s part carrot cake, part banana bread – and pure delight. Although the original recipe can resemble poundcake in texture, I lighten it here by reducing the oil, adding more leavener and changing the method a bit. I’ve included my favorite cream cheese frosting recipe, as well; I find that just the right “dose” of this nectar-sweet cake is actually in cupcake form. It also makes a wonderful layer cake or even Bundt cake – it’s easy to see why many a Southern baker calls this the “cake that won’t last.”
Christy Augustin has had a lifelong love affair with all things sweet. After working as a pastry chef in New Orleans and St. Louis, she opened Pint Size Bakery & Coffee in St. Louis’ Lindenwood Park in 2012. She calls herself the baker of all things good and evil. Learn more at pintsizebakery.com.
Yields | 24 to 28 cupcakes |
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup tightly packed brown sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup canola oil
- zest of 1 orange
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract or dark rum
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1⁄8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1⁄8 tsp ground cardamom
- 2 cups mashed ripe bananas
- 1 8-oz can crushed pineapple, undrained
- ½ cup sweetened, flaked coconut
- ¾ cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans
- toasted coconut, candied nuts or edible flowers (for garnish)
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 8-oz packages cream cheese
- 1 cup room temperature unsalted butter
- 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy
- pinch kosher salt
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
| Preparation – Hummingbird Cupcakes | Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line cupcake tins with paper liners. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on high, whip sugars, salt, oil, zest, eggs, vanilla and honey until fluffy, 4 minutes. Meanwhile, sift flour, leaveners and spices and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine bananas and pineapple with its juice. Add half of fruit mixture to sugar mixture, then mix in half of flour mixture, and repeat. Mix just until combined. Finish by stirring in coconut and nuts. Spoon into cupcake liners, about two-thirds full, and bake, 25 to 30 minutes. Finished products should be a dark, golden brown and spring back to the touch. Let cool completely before icing.
| Preparation – Cream Cheese Frosting | Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium, beat cream cheese to soften and remove lumps. Remove from bowl and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients and cream on medium-high until light and fluffy. Add cream cheese back and beat on medium-high until well-combined and super fluffy.
| Assembly | Ice cupcakes with the back of a large soup spoon, placing big dollops of frosting on top and swirling around. Garnish with toasted coconut, candied nuts or edible flowers. Refrigerate at least 1 hour, or up to 3 days.