Chopped bananas, chopped pecans and crushed pineapple add a lot of delicious texture to this very moist cake — a delicious tropical-style dessert that keeps well and only improves with age.
And if you’ve ever wondered why it’s called hummingbird cake in the first place (what do birds have to do with it??), read on! We found the very interesting answer to this question — originally shared with newspaper readers in Wilmington, Delaware in 1987.
How to make a Hummingbird cake (1978)
The single most requested recipe in Southern Living history. One taste, and the reason is obvious!
Why it’s called a Hummingbird Cake, or a Doctor Bird Cake
by Nancy Coale Zippe – The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware) July 1, 1987
Every once in a while, a truly outstanding recipe makes an appearance in What’s Cooking. Topping the list of the most distinguished is the doctor bird cake.
It made its debut in this column in September 1981, and returned in March 1984 under its alias, “hummingbird cake.”
No fewer than 45 readers submitted the recipe for those two columns. Several had been photocopied from Southern Living magazine and included the editorial comment: “We’re not sure what hummingbirds have to do with this cake, but it certainly caught our readers’ attention in the February 1978 issue. In fact, we’d rate it as our all-time most-requested recipe.”
Here’s the tale of the tie that binds. The doctor bird is a streamer-tailed hummingbird. It is the national bird of Jamaica, and is native to the Blue Mountains of that Caribbean island. It is also the symbol for Air Jamaica, and the recipe for the cake originated in the airline’s kitchens.
When Margaret Garris of Hurlock, Md., recently wrote to request the hummingbird cake recipe, I recalled the popularity of those past columns.
I normally avoid repetition through personal correspondence, but in this case, I decided that a true winner is always worth repeating.
Easy cream cheese frosting for hummingbird cake
Anne Gore wrote, “On a scale of 0-10, this cake is a 10-plus.”
Cream cheese frosting
1 package (8-ounce) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 pound powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Combine cream cheese and butter, beating until smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy.
Yield: enough frosting for one 3-layer cake. Spread frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake; then sprinkle 1/2-cup chopped pecans on top.
The printed recipe came with the cream cheese frosting. Other readers suggested “a thin white icing sprinkled with coconut,” “a dusting of confectioners’ sugar,” “a brandy custard” and “a brandy glaze.”
Brandy sauce/custard recipe for hummingbird cake
This suggestion was originally shared by Janet Grimmel.
3 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons brandy
In a medium saucepan, beat egg yolks; add sugar, vanilla and milk and combine thoroughly. Cook over medium heat, stir- ring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil.
Mix cornstarch and water until smooth; add to milk mixture and continue to cook, stirring, until sauce is thickened. Add brandy and mix. Serve hot or cold with hummingbird cake baked in tube or Bundt pan. Makes about 2 cups of sauce.
Linda Crocker submitted this recipe in 1981.
2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons hot milk
1-1/2 tablespoons brandy
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 tablespoon salt
Put sugar in medium-size bowl. Gradually beat in hot milk, then remaining ingredients. Beat until smooth. Let stand until desired spreading consistency is reached. Glaze cake in tube or Bundt pan.
Another way to frost & decorate your cake
The classic hummingbird cake recipe from Southern Living
Food tips: How to make your bananas last
Bananas have been a favorite fruit for thousands of years. In fact. two ancient names for this fruit mean “fruit of the wise men” and “fruit of paradise.”
In these recipes, bananas lend flavor to desserts, a salad and bread.
When buying bananas, choose those in a bunch; single bananas are more likely to be bruised or cracked.
Here’s a guide to the amount to buy: There are usually two or three bananas in 1 pound, and 1 pound yields 2 cups sliced or 1-1/2 cups mashed bananas.
For best flavor, store bananas at room temperature to ripen. Leave them attached to the crown until ready to use.
Once ripe, bananas can be stored in the refrigerator several days to slow over-ripening. Although skins may darken, flavor and texture will stay the same.