Saturday, 15 February 2014

Hummingbird Cake

We had a good day the other day. A good day! Reuben and Esther played together beautifully when he came home from kindy and that makes everything better. It was another hot day and I just felt like making a cake - and managed to do just that amid the peace and quiet. Actually, the quiet was interrupted just as I was about to put the cakes in the oven, by loud, crackling, heavy rain. It took me a moment to realise what the noise was, then I threw the cakes in to the oven and flew down the stairs to get the windows of the car up, the car in to the garage and the washing off the line - preferably simultaneously.

It all happened somehow, and how cosy it felt; to have the heavy rain beating down on a hot day, the washing and the children tucked up inside, and cakes in the oven.

I'd been plotting this cake for a while actually. I have heard talk of Hummingbird cake many times, but have never eaten it and never come close to making it. But curiosity eventually took over, so I've been looking up a few recipes and adding the necessary ingredients to my shopping list. Hummingbird cake originated in the south of the United States, and it seems to be enjoying quite a revival. There are lots of lovely stories about people humming with delight as they eat, hence the name. Which is certainly motivating for a curious cook/eater.

Very little research showed me that Hummingbird cake is a combo of banana, pineapple, pecans and spices. It often seems to be compared to a carrot cake, perhaps their combination of spices and fruit/veg gives them a (not very) close relationship.

Now here's the thing, I made the cake, and it's very nice, but it's really just an amped up banana cake. I wasn't quite expecting that. The main player is definitely the banana. The pineapple contributes not so much flavour as moisture, the spices give a wee hint that they are there, and I admit I kept the pecans down as I am not a big fan. But people seem to be so excited about it, someone even suggested, "you will never eat carrot cake again." (They're so different, I'm not up for the comparison).

But then I had a bit of an inkling and did a bit more reading, and I suspect that banana cake is an antipodean thing. Banana loaf and bread make an appearance in all sorts of places, but banana cake seems to only pop up in New Zealand and Australia. Am I right, international readers? Does anyone know more than I? The excitement over Hummingbird cake all makes sense to me now, if you have never had a banana cake you really have been missing out.

I was definitely expecting more flavours to come through, and I'm tempted to have a play around and see if I can add a little more to it and see if I can put together what I was imagining.

Have you ever had Hummingbird cake? What do you think of it? Do you have a great recipe that I should try, or suggestions for additions?

The recipe below is based on one from Joy of Baking, with a few changes from me. Give it a try. Being able to say Hummingbird cake, is so much more exciting than Banana cake, and there is a little more to it than that. I'd love to see what you think. Or pop over and I'll give you a slice.

Feel free to add more pecans, and you can adjust the icing measurements to taste.

Hummingbird Cake
3 cups flour
2 cups glucose/sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
3 eggs
3/4 cup oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 can crushed pineapple, approx 230 grams, do not drain
3 - 4 mashed bananas (2 cups worth)

50 grams butter
1 tub cream cheese
1/2 cup glucose
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the dry ingredients well, then add in the wet. Divide between 3 greased cake tins and bake for 25 - 30 mins at 180 degrees.

Mix icing ingredients together (preferably with a hand beater) and spread icing between the layers and over the top. Garnish with chopped pecans.                



  1. BEAUTIFUL! And delicious-looking...

    Yes, I'm with you on thinking that banana cake is quite a kiwi thing, so perhaps that's what the fuss is about.

    And amen to renaming all our banana cakes 'hummingbird cakes'! :)

  2. It looks divine. For some reason I thought Hummingbird cakes had poppy seeds in them.

    1. Ooh I'm glad you like the look of it! Perhaps you were seeing the little black flecks that you get from the banana?

  3. For what it's worth from one of your UK readers: I've had banana loaf many times, and in my head called it banana cake interchangeably - I had been unaware until reading this post that there is an actual thing called banana cake that is somehow different (how is it different, by the way? not being facetious, genuine enquiry) But then, I'd never heard of Hummingbird cake either, so perhaps I've just led a very sheltered baking life! Yours looks lovely, though. Next time I have some extra bananas to use up I might grab a tin of pineapple and give this a try rather than another loaf...

  4. I'm with Alex and as a UK reader the concept of banana cake is new, although banana loaf isn't. I love slightly green fresh bananas but don't really like them in things... But I know someone who does, so might give this a try next time there are over ripe bananas needing to be used up.

  5. Thanks Alex and Pippa, perhaps my suspicions were correct. Yes it's another great way to use up bananas (you see banana muffins here quite a lot too - do you have them?). Alex, cake is not very different to loaf at all except, you know, the shape. I would say the cake is lighter than a loaf. Once my brother and I got a little older, the family tradition was to choose a chocolate cake or banana cake for your birthday. My brother was crazy about banana cake. We always did (do) it with mock cream through the middle (equal portions butter, sugar, hot water, creamed with a beater) and chocolate icing on top. Bet you never see that done to a banana loaf ;) A friend of mine and her small boy in the UK are most definitely well acquainted with Hummingbird cake - I've seen a close up photo! - so keep a look out.