Small Batch

Hummingbird Cake: Carrot Cake's Southern Cousin

June 16, 2015

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Marcella DiLonardo of modest marce makes Hummingbird Cake—a southern gem destined to become a staple in your kitchen.

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Telling people I was raised in Central Canada often elicits several assumptions about my favorite foods. Yes, Canadians generally love dill-flavored chips, and poutine is inarguably delicious, but it’s a classic Southern American dessert that makes me swoon. Filled with bananas, pineapples, and pecans, and layered with thick cream cheese frosting, Hummingbird Cake is carrot cake’s lesser-known (but hunkier) cousin. 

I accidentally stumbled upon this Southern gem when I was looking for an interesting way to use ripe bananas (not that I don’t love making a weekly batch of banana bread, but sometimes I want to go all-out). The cake was so sweet, moist, and dense, with the perfect amount of crumble to each bite—I could hardly put my fork down. Now, it’s the cake that I request every year for my birthday. I prefer the cream cheese frosting to remain somewhat tangy, so I don’t overkill it with the sugar in the icing—but I won’t judge you if you do. So let the Carrot Cake 2.0 baking commence:

Hummingbird Cake

Serves 10 to 12

For the cake:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/4 cups raw sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup crushed pineapple
4 ripe bananas
3/4 cup shredded coconut (optional)
3/4 cup chopped raw pecans

For the frosting:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 cups powdered sugar, or as desired
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
16 ounces cream cheese

Note: No hummingbirds were harmed in the making of this cake.

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Grease two 8-inch circular cake pans, and set them aside. In a mixing bowl sift the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a separate mixing bowl, use a wooden spoon to mix together the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla until well combined. Stir in the pineapple and bananas. Add the coconut, if desired.


Add the sifted dry ingredients to the egg mixture and stir them together until just combined. It is important to not over-mix this batter. Stir in the pecans and evenly divide the batter between the two cake pans. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, approximately 25 to 30 minutes.

Let the cakes cool completely before removing them from the pans and frosting them.


To make the frosting, attach a whisk attachment to your stand mixer. In it, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.

Once the sugar is well incorporated, add the cream cheese in chunks and mix until it is evenly combined. Do not over-mix after adding the cream cheese as the frosting will become runny.


Frost cake as desired (I usually slice each cake in half length-wise, then frost each of the layers, then around the exterior) and enjoy!

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here. 

Photos by Marcella DiLonardo

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • ellie
  • LisaMarie Artino Schultz
    LisaMarie Artino Schultz
  • Kim Hubbard Oglesby
    Kim Hubbard Oglesby
  • burning-ice
  • terri draeger
    terri draeger
baker + blogger + city dweller | modesty is the best policy.


ellie May 15, 2016
Hi, this looks amazing. I have to make one for about 50 people. I was wondering approx how many serves this cake makes for? Thanks! Ellie
LisaMarie A. June 19, 2015
If I were to use white sugar instead of raw would it be the same ratio?
modest M. June 19, 2015
yes! maybe even just do 2 cups as white sugar is a bit sweeter then raw:)
Kim H. June 19, 2015
This is my favourite cake of all actually originated in my Jamaica and was brought over to Charleston, SC....divine...I use whipped coconut cream for the icing with roasted coconut chips folded into it.
burning-ice June 19, 2015
How do you "crush" pineapple? Is this fresh pineapple, or from a can?
modest M. June 19, 2015
i use canned "crushed pineapple" as the level of sweetness is more consistent then a fresh pineapple!
terri D. June 18, 2015
This is the cake I ask for on my birthday every year, too! It's a FANTASTIC cake!
FAV U. June 18, 2015
Fantastic recipe Double 'M'. The cake looks great in the pictures but would look better on my kitchen counter. :) Any plans to post a recipe for them cakes i.e. a VAN HALEN R/B/W Striped Cake?
Hannah P. June 17, 2015
This looks wonderful! Do you think I could get away with substituting the canola for melted butter or coconut or olive oil?
modest M. June 17, 2015
thank you! for sure you can. butter may not turn out as moist but it will still work and give it some butter flavour. if it's extra virgin olive oil i would say no, but regular olive oil is fine:)
Hannah P. June 17, 2015
ok cool! Thanks, I can't wait to make it :) Would the ratio for the butter be 1:1?
modest M. June 17, 2015
yep :) hope it's delicious!
Cynthia C. June 17, 2015
One of my all-time favorite cakes! This looks so incredible, Marcella!
modest M. June 17, 2015
thank you cynthia! xo
Asa M. June 16, 2015
I love the idea of this being Carrot Cake 2.0 - I already love carrot cake. A cupcake place I loved in Seattle (Trophy Cupcakes) used to make a Hummingbird cupcake that was outstanding. I might give this recipe a try. However, this seems like a crazy amount of sugar - 2 1/4 cups in the cake and 3 cups in the frosting? I don't think I would use that much and would be tempted to halve it.
modest M. June 16, 2015
you can for sure cut back on the sugar! i prefer the cake sweet & the frosting tangy so i suggest cutting back on the amount in the frosting first:)