Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Hummingbird Cake

When I was a student in Melbourne, it was hard to find a cake display in a cafe that didn’t include a hummingbird cake. Having plenty of banana and pineapple from the basket of fruit I had been given, I decided to it was time to revisit my trusted recipe - ideally while E was soothing the crying baby.

I suspect my recipe in my notebook came from a newspaper or magazine but I have had it too long to remember the origin. It is one that I come across every now and then and am hit with a burst of nostalgia for the time when it was the height of fashion. It is fruity and moist, a little spicy and is pleasingly indulgent with the added richness of mandatory cream cheese frosting.

The recipe I had was for 3 x 20cm diameter round cakes sandwiched together with frosting and then covered with it. But that seemed excessive for a homely cake and I didn’t have quite enough butter, so I scaled down the ingredients to about two thirds to make 1 x 22cm diameter round cake. I halved the frosting and found that I only needed half to ice the cake, so I have the remainder in the freezer. My recipe also called for decoration with passionfruit and mango slices but I am not keen on mango and thought strawberry and kiwi fruit would give an equally exotic feel. Unfortunately I had that fruit but not the energy to decorate so I just served it with frosting.

I have sought out hummingbird cake since making it and found that it is indeed a layered cake which is traditionally made with banana, pineapple, spices and cream cheese frosting, although it seems the quantities varied in the versions I found. But there is not much history of it. According to FoodTimeline the first printed reference to the cake is 1978. It seems odd that there are not older records, as it seems a classic cake in my book. It was nice to make it again and to have a smaller version of the recipe that is more fitting for our household.

Hummingbird Cake

150g butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
2½ small bananas, mashed
⅔ cup chopped/crushed pineapple (not drained)
⅔ cup raw sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups self raising flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom seeds, ground
2 cloves, ground
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp bicarb soda
¼ tsp salt

Cream Cheese Frosting:
60g butter, softened
125g cream cheese, softened
½ tsp vanilla essence
juice of ½ a lime or lemon
1⅓ cups icing sugar

Grease and line a round 22cm cake tin (or if you want layers you could do two 20cm tins).

Mix butter, eggs, pineapple, banan, sugar and vanilla together. Add dry ingredients and mix to combine but do not overbeat.

Pour into prepared tin and bake in 180 C oven for about 45 minutes or til a skewer stuck in the middle comes out cleanly. Sit in tin 5 minutes and then turn out onto wire rack to cool.

To make frosting, mix butter, cream cheese, vanilla essence and lime juice together with spoon or electric beaters. Add icing sugar gradually til all is incorporated. Spread frosting over cooled cake and decorate with fruit if desired.

On the Stereo:
Serpents in the Dawn - Neutral


  1. Banana, Pineapple, and Cardamon, oh my! This looks delicious!

  2. Yum, this cake sounds like a great way to make use of the last of the summer fruit. It is funny that it's so modern. It sounds like one of those classic recipes that mums and grandmas make.

  3. Wow! You've made cake! With a baby! That's so awesome. I was lucky to open a jar of tomato sauce and boil some pasta when the kids were born :P

    And what an amazing cake. It sounds just perfect!

  4. Ooooh yum, hummingbird cake! I'd never had it until my friend made it for my birthday cake this year. Delicious!

  5. i love the rustic, earthy look of all your creations. they evoke comfort food.

  6. How funny - I'd never heard of this cake until I started reading blogs, and then I assumed it was American. Evidently not! The combination of bananas and pineapple sounds very tasty indeed.

  7. I'm amazed you had energy to bake a cake at all, let alone decorate it with fruit!! Fabulous. Sounds like a delicious treat. And hope the little one got the soothing she needed to calm down! :)

  8. I've never heard of hummingbird cake, but the flavors sound just spectacular (And I'm always looking for new recipes to try!).

  9. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  10. thanks jodye - it is indeed!

    thanks Arwen - I thought this cake had a long heritage too

    thanks Vegetation - there are moments when doing anything else seems impossible but it is lovely when she sleeps and I can cook - although nothing complicated

    thanks Claire - can't believe you haven't stumbled across it at cafes - I thought it still was something served quite often - maybe not!

    thanks Bee - comfort food is exactly what I am after!

    Thanks Lysy - I wasn't quite clear about the origins from what I read but I think it maybe american - although I know it from melbourne cafes!

    Thanks Ricki - it was delicious and Sylvia has her calm moments which are always delightful

    Thanks Chris - the flavours are great - hope you get to try

    Thanks Ruth - always nice to hear from anyone who reads my blog - glad you are enjoying it

  11. Never heard of this but it certainly looks and sounds lovely.
    And I adore the name!

  12. I'm surprised it's not got a longer recorded history, too. It's such a romantically-named cake, I'd assumed that it was a Traditional one.

    Don't you love that half the frosting will do these days? Too much and you feel lethargic.

    Hope your gorgeous baby quietened down. I keep hoping to pop in and find that E's musical choices have become The Wiggles or High Five (just kidding - my partner refused his kids any sort of 'kiddie' music. They were forced into Tom Waits and Van Morrison very early on and have more than lived to tell the tale!).

  13. Yum! Hummingbird cake is one of my favourite cakes ever! It's so moist and I adore cream cheese icing. I always think it's best to use less frosting, it's so yummy and I could easily go overboard eating it! :)

  14. How absolutely heavenly!! I am still so impressed by your amazing energy level - baking cakes and raising a beautiful baby all at once! You're incredible!

  15. Thanks Wendy - it is worth making just for the name isn't it!

    Thanks Lucy - I am concerned we have a neofolk baby - that is the music on the stereo a lot at the moment - though I do have some rolf harris and some britpop sings kiddie songs for her

    Thanks Lorraine - yes I love the cream cheese frosting - could have eaten the remainder but was disciplined and froze it :-)

    thanks Astra Libra - my energy comes and goes but I have got better at seizing the moment when it comes my way!

  16. this sounds amazing :)

  17. it is an American cake - it was originally published in Southern Living magazine in 1978.

    Southerners are well known in the US for their very sweet tooth and their rich cakes and pies! There are quite a few Southern recipes like this--moist, sweet, and a mile high. Usually frosted with marshmallow frosting, too.

    (I found this post when I was Googling for more information on this cake--as a Northerner I wasn't familiar with it until a friend served it.)


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