This New Take on Hummingbird Cake Captures the Nostalgia of a Timeless Southern Dessert

Although popular in the South, hummingbird cake was not something I grew up eating. In fact, I had never even had a slice until about 10 years ago. This classic dessert is usually baked like an ice cream cake, but I make a bundt versionthanks to Sharon, my friend who made me discover it during an unforgettable lunch on the bay.

While Sharon has shared many of her recipes with me over the years, this cake was one of the very first. Food is such a part of my memories. Smells and tastes instantly take me back in time to specific people, places and times in my life. This cake takes me back to one of my most perfect memories – the day Sharon threw a birthday party for our friend, Dawn.

The early morning thunderstorm had set the stage for what was to be an absolutely idyllic spring afternoon with blue skies and sunshine as far as the eye could see. Sharon had prepared a delicious seasonal meal of steamed prawns, fresh snow peas and the finest asparagus I have ever seen. She opened a bottle of chilled, crisp white wine – and the aroma of that beautiful cake greeted us as we entered her kitchen.

Sharon lives in Perdido Bay, which is not far from where I live. It’s a pretty lovely place, and Sharon is even more beautiful, inside and out. She creates a relaxed elegance and ease of being so effortless – making her guests feel right at home, but completely spoilt.

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The quintessential southern hostess is Sharon, who is truly the last of her kind. Unpretentious, his table is set in polished silver. Yesare, you read correctly: polished silver. Everything is homemade, there are always fresh cut flowers (most of which are from Sharon’s garden) and her home is spotless without feeling uninhabited or sterile.

The beauty of Sharon’s house begins as soon as you leave the main road to join the long driveway that winds up to her house. Once there, you are immediately charmed by the peaceful beauty of the land. The house itself has deep, inviting porches, beautiful pine columns, and gorgeous brickwork. Lady Banks roses grow up the main staircase and all the way down the walkway back to the main front door. Tall, bushy white azaleas by George Taber, along with old, long-established hydrangea bushes, help create cozy spots for hammocks and chairs. It’s just enchanting.

Once inside, you have stunning views of the bay from every room in the house. In front, facing the water, the land is a bird’s paradise with lots of greenery and flowering plants in tidy flowerbeds. Sharon even has a once injured but now healed great blue heron who is practically a pet at this point and shows up every afternoon for the hot dogs she buys just for him.

That day, the three of us friends spent the whole afternoon laughing, relaxing and sitting outside in the sun. We extended our lunch/birthday party for three as long as we could. Then we decided to end our little party with dessert on the dock so we could watch the pelicans dive in to fish and listen to the water lapping on the shore. The cake was outstanding, superbly moist from the fruit and nicely textured from both the fruit and the chopped pecans. It was perfect for the day and for the season.

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Every time I eat this cake, I remember that magical moment that provided such respite from all our worries and concerns. Each of us had our own “current stressors,” but our friend, the birthday girl, had really been through a lot. Within months, she lost her husband to cancer and nearly lost her son in an accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury. I think it was the first day she laughed in a very long time. Food and friendship can certainly help heal the soul.

Once you try it, I bet this hummingbird cake will be part of your seasonal rotation. I make it almost every spring, always grateful for that beautiful day when I tasted it for the first time. I feel grateful for the friends and family I have with whom I regularly share good food and drink.

Long live the season! Long live friendship, family and the healing power of laughter.


Bananas and pineapples

You need very ripe to overripe bananas. They should be easy to mash with a fork.

You will probably be disappointed if you decide to use fresh pineapple and its juice for this cake. I’m not saying it’s not possible, but it would be easier to reach for a can.

Use crushed pineapple, but don’t drain the juice like I accidentally did the first time I made this recipe – you’re using the juice in the cake.

sugar and flour

It is common for me to replace some of the sugar with Yaw, which is the best sweeter erythritol brand I know and an easy 1:1 substitute for sugar. Swerve also makes a powdered variety which can be used in frosting, if desired.

This cake can stand to be made gluten free or with another flour. You should, however, ensure that the flour you choose is mixed with what is needed for it to be used as an all-purpose flour. All gluten-free baking mixes work well; I use frequently king arthur brand.

That said, my mom would tell you to disregard all of the above and use Martha White flour and real sugar. Period.

Cream cheese and milk

If you struggle with lactose, Green Valley makes a lactose-free cream cheese that I’ve used several times. I also used an alternative dairy cream cheese that works for the frosting. (One problem is that the color doesn’t turn out as attractive and light, but you can definitely use it.) The only thing I would caution against is using a variety of fat-free or low-fat cream cheese. low fat. Other than that, any type of milk or cream, dairy or non-dairy, should work just fine.


Recipe: Hummingbird Bundt Cake


The cake

  • 1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped, toasted and divided
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 3/4 to 2 cups mashed banana (2 cups at most, 1 3/4 at least)
  • 1 8 oz. can of crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 3/4 vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

The icing

  • 4 oz. Cream cheese
  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons milk or cream, plus extra (you may need a little more.)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Toast pecans until fragrant and crisp but not burnt, 5 to 8 minutes.

  3. Oil and flour a frying panskimming off any excess flour and set aside.

  4. Once the pecans are toasted, sprinkle 2/3 prepared cake tin.

  5. In a mixing bowlmix flour, sugar, soda, cinnamon and salt.

  6. In a second bowlmix the eggs, bananas, pineapple and its juice, oil and vanilla.

  7. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until just combined and the dry ingredients are evenly moistened.

  8. Pour or pour the batter over the pecans in the bent mold. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

  9. Let the cake cool in the pan on a grid for 15 minutes, then remove and let cool completely on wire rack.

  10. Combine and stir all the ingredients for the frosting until well blended. Add milk or cream if needed to achieve desired consistency. (You should be able to pour it over the cake using a rubber spatula.)

  11. Once the cake has cooled, pour the glaze over the cake and top with the remaining toasted pecans.

Cook’s Notes

I use either cold pressed organic sunflower seed oil or avocado oil. They are both pleasant and neutral in taste, but any oil of your choice should work for this cake. However, I wouldn’t recommend olive oil, as it would add extra flavor.

The amount of mashed banana I suggest is not exactly exact. I found that if I had a little extra banana after I hit the 1 3/4 cup mark, adding the rest worked great. No need to waste.

If I have cream on hand and am using it for the cream cheese frosting, I often have to add a little water to get the consistency of something runnier. What you want is thick frosting or thin frosting if that makes sense.

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