I have always associated this cake with the south and indeed it is an all time southern favorite. I was surprised to find that it didn’t get its start in the south but as a promotional idea for Jamaica Airlines back in the 1960s. The cake, with its bananas and pineapple was supposed to conjure up images of tropical destinations. It so happened that the tail logo for Jamaica Airlines was a hummingbird. When promotional parties were held to promote Jamaica as a destination, the cake was also promoted and called the hummingbird. The recipe was shared with readers of various newspapers and it eventually made its way through the south were it became and remains a favorite.
I always associate the hummingbird with the south but more specifically with the late 1960’s as that is when I first heard about it and my young palette was just beginning to branch away from Little Debbie cakes. I have several recipes for hummingbird cake and they are all basically the same. I prefer this one simply because I love banana cake and this recipe uses more bananas than any other recipe I have for it.
Vegetable shortening or butter and flour for prepping the pans
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple packed in juice, drained
1 cup finely chopped pecans, if desired
2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 4 medium)
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans for garnish
Cream Cheese Frosting
Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 9″ round cake pans. Shake out the excess flour, and set the pans aside.
Place the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, and whisk to combine well. Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla, and blend with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer on low speed. Increase the speed to medium and blend until well combined, (1 minute), or stir more briskly until well combined. Fold in the pineapple, pecans, if desired, and the bananas. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, and place the pans in the oven.
Bake until the cake just pulls away from the edges of the pans, 18 to 22 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pans, and give them a gentle shake to loosen the cakes. Invert the cakes once and then again onto the racks. Let the layers cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. If using the pecans as a garnish, toast them in a 350°F oven for 4 to 5 minutes.
To assemble the cake, place 1 layer on a serving plate. Spread with about 2/3 cup of frosting. Top with a second layer and repeat with the frosting. Top with the third layer and frost the top and sides of the cake with smooth strokes. Garnish the top of the cake with pecans. Slice and serve. Or chill for 1 hour uncovered for easier slicing.
Cream Cheese Frosting
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Place the cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, 30 seconds. Add the pinch of salt and half of the confectioners’ sugar. Blend until smooth. Add the vanilla and the rest of the confectioners’ sugar, and blend until smooth. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the frosting until fluffy, about 1 minute more.