An Easy Recipe for a Southern Classic: Hummingbird Cake

by Culinary Spelunker /
Culinary Spelunker's picture
Apr 27, 2015 / 2 comments


Pecan pie. Bananas foster. Red velvet cake. Lemon meringue pie. Doctor bird cake?!

Desserts in the South are well known for their sumptuous ingredients, bright flavors, and a dash of flare. And yet one dessert seems to stand apart—Doctor birds cake, more commonly called Hummingbird Cake.

I first heard of--and sampled--this sweet concoction a couple years ago in downtown Roanoke, Virginia. The combination of ripened bananas lapping up the sweetness of crushed pineapple gives the cake its signature sweetness, and dense yet airy texture.


Hummingbird cake recipe!


This Southern tradition seems to have Jamaican roots. A detailed history of the hummingbird cake from Jonny Garrett traces its origins to savvy marketing:

In 1968, the Jamaican tourist board decided to try attracting tourists by sending out press kits to the US. In the packs were a few recipes from the island, including one for the Doctor bird cake. Over the next few years, similar recipes started to crop up in local papers and community cookbooks across the South under various different names, including the prophetic “Cake that doesn’t last”.

By all accounts the cake took off among Southern cooks—becoming a specialty in the region. An entry for ‘Hummingbird Cake’ in Southern Living magazine in 1978 cemented the cakes’ popularity.
While its clear when the first Hummingbird cake was published, it’s unclear how the Jamaican variety got its name. Doctor birds are a type of hummingbird found only in Jamaica—but why name the cake after it? Food enthusiasts like to point out the cake’s sweet flavor as the possible inspiration.
Today, recipes for Hummingbird Cake abound. The basic elements of the cake are always the same—bananas and pineapple. Yet the additions differ widely: Some recipes include dried fruit, others candied fruit. Other cookbooks call for chopped nuts. The cakes are baked up in in bundt pans, brownie pans, cupcakes, layer cakes, even pancakes. In other words, this is one recipe you can make your own.
For my recipe I wanted it to be quick and easy to put together with my kids. I skipped making the cake from scratch and relied on a boxed mix instead. I boosted the flavor of the cake with extra spices and the addition of citrus zest in both the batter and the glaze. The first cake I made disappeared within hours. I couldn’t even find a slice left to take a picture.
So I made another. And another.

For a taste of a true Southern delight, whip up this simple cake with your family.

Easy Hummingbird Cake

1 butter pecan cake mix (or spice)
1 3.4-oz. box instant banana pudding
1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple
2 ripe bananas
4 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ tsp. almond extract
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. orange zest
3 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp. fresh orange juice (or 1 tbsp. each lemon and orange juice if you like it tart)
½ tsp. orange zest
Dash of salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Coat a bundt pan with cooking spray and then sprinkle with flour. Shake out any excess flour.
In a large bowl, mix together the cake and pudding mixes along with the crushed pineapple, eggs, ripe bananas, and remaining ingredients.
Spread batter into the bundt pan and bake for 40-50 minutes until cooked through.
Cool for 20 minutes and then invert onto a plate.
Meanwhile mix up the powdered sugar glaze and let stand for several minutes until it thickens. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake.


Easy hummingbird cake recipe




Kristen J. Gough is the Global Cuisines & Kids Editor for Wandering Educators. She shares her family's adventurous food experiences--and recipes--at


All photos courtesy and copyright Kristen J. Gough


Comments (2)

  • Elle (not verified)

    9 years 1 month ago

    That sounds lovely!
    A question though... is the banana pudding like a powder mix that you add milk to in order to get a creamy dessert? It sounds a bit like the British Angel Delight, which I can get here in Spain.

    E x

  • Jeff Titelius (not verified)

    9 years 1 month ago

    Everyone who knows me knows that I am all about cookies and cake and this post is right up my alley!! What a scrumptious read! And the recipe looks easy enough too!! Thanks for sharing this! 

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