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Published April 8, 2019. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
This classic four-layer Hummingbird cake recipe is loaded with homemade buttercream, coconut, and pecans for the ultimate dessert. It’s easy to make and perfect for family and friends.
If you’ve never heard of a hummingbird cake, it’s essentially a carrot cake but swap out the carrots for mashed bananas. It has an incredibly light flavor and is most commonly served with homemade buttercream. Hummingbird is classically served as a single or double-layer cake with the frosting in between and on top of the cake.
Southern Living Humming Bird Cake Recipe: The cake supposedly was created by a young woman from North Carolina who submitted it to Southern Living Magazine in the late 1970s. It is said to be the most popular recipe in the magazine still to this day. The dispute is that the cake was created in Jamaica and was originally known as the doctor bird, which is another name for the hummingbird in Jamaica, and is its national bird.
With all this being said, this is incredibly easy to make and can be altered in this recipe from 4 layers to a simple 3 or 2 layered by simply scaling back the ingredient amounts by 1/4 or 1/2.
How to Make It
- Step 1: Start by whisking together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon in a large bowl until combined. Set aside.
- Step 2: In a separate medium-size bowl whisk together the eggs, oil, and vanilla and then whisk it into the large bowl of whisked dry ingredients until combined.
- Step 3: Fold the bananas and 1 cup of the pecans into the cake batter until just mixed in.
- Step 4: Distribute the batter between 4 8″ prepared cake pans and bake in the oven at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes. The cake should be browned, firm in the center and when pushing a toothpick into the center of the cake, it should come out clean.
- Step 5: Completely cool the cakes on cooling racks for 45 to 60 minutes. Note: This is important because if the cakes are even still warm, they will melt the buttercream frosting and your cake will fall.
What Pan to Use: I prefer to use an 8″ cake pan for this hummingbird recipe because it holds the cake in tight. However, you can absolutely use a 9″ prepared cake pan and if you are doing so divide the cake batter into 3 pans instead of 4.
The frosting used on a classic hummingbird cake is buttercream. Buttercream is made by simply whipping softened unsalted butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on high speed until it becomes light and fluffy. This part usually takes around 6 to 8 minutes to achieve. The butter should be smooth and creamy with no chunks.
The next process would be to sift some powdered sugar and add it to the whipped butter of low speed until incorporated and then whip on high speed for 2 t0 3 minutes to ensure it is combined. Finish by folding in some flour and add in some heavy cream if the buttercream is too thick. I like to use a slightly thinner buttercream so that it spreads easier on cakes.
How to Frost It
Once the buttercream is finished and the cakes are cooled it is now time to frost the hummingbird cake. Follow the steps below.
- Place the cooled bottom layer of the cake onto your cake platter that it will be served on. If you are a more experienced cake decorator place the bottom layer onto a cake pad that is set on a revolving cake stand. If you are doing this simply transfer the cake once it is frosted onto your serving platter.
- This part is optional but using a sharp serrated knife even out the top of the cake layer by slicing across the cake making it flat on top. I chose not to do this in this hummingbird cake recipe.
- Place 1/4 of the buttercream on top of the bottom layer of the cake and spread out evenly completely covering the top of the cake using a knife or an offset or straight cake spatula.
- Repeat the process with the remaining 3 layers of cake and buttercream.
- Add the remaining pecans and toasted shredded coconut to the top layer of buttercream and serve.
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I wanted to try something new so I didn’t ice the sides. I personally love the way this looks and trust me it tastes even better than it looks.
So if you are like me and are struggling to make something delicious and different, then I promise this Southern Hummingbird Cake Recipe is where it’s at! It’s also a nice consolation in case you forget your mom/wife :-).
More Cake Recipes
Hummingbird Cake Recipe
For the Cake:
- 4 cups of all-purpose flour
- 2 2/3 cups of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon
- 4 lightly beaten eggs
- 2 cups of vegetable oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla
- 2 ½ cups of mashed ripe bananas
- 2 cups of toasted chopped pecans
- 1 cup of toasted shredded coconut
For the Buttercream:
- 2 ¼ cups of softened unsalted butter
- 3 cups of powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.
- Slowly whisk in the eggs, oil, and vanilla just until combined and then gently fold in the bananas and 1 cup of toasted chopped pecans.
- Divide the batter between 4 prepared 8” cake rounds and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and firm in the center.
- Cool the cakes in the pans for 30 minutes and then out of the pan on a rack for 45 minutes or until completely cool.
- While the cakes are cooling whip together the butter, powdered sugar, heavy cream and vanilla in a standing mixer on high speed until light and fluffy.
- Ice each layer of the cake and top off with pecans and coconut shreds.