Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Hummingbird Cake Adventure

When you ask someone what kind of cake they want for their birthday, you presume the reply will be a bog standard answer like: “chocolate” or “vanilla”. However, when the birthday boy has a wicked sweet tooth (and a cake addiction to boot!) you get the reply “I’d like a Hummingbird Cake please”.
If I’m honest, I had absolutely no idea what it was and was slightly embarrassed as a fellow lover of cake that I had to begin by researching it.  As it turns out, it is a cake made famous years ago (1978 apparently) when someone submitted the recipe to a popular American magazine.  
Of course like many other cupcake fans I had immediately made the assumption (due to the name of the cake) that this recipe must be a creation of the Hummingbird Bakery.  For those of you not aware, it is a London bakery that makes amazing cakey things and those of us with serious hankerings for sugar outside of the London area are especially appreciative that they have indulged us with gorgeous cookbooks that provide many of their fantastic recipes.   
Meanwhile, back in the kitchen ...
As it turns out, this is a perfect example of a straight forward not-too-much-fuss recipe with a quite impressive end result. Just the kind of thing I like to try my hand at!
The ingredients were basic items found in any grocery store or even already in your store cupboard if you are lucky and they were not pricey at all (love that fact the most!).  The only ‘fancy’ ingredient was actually the pecans, and in the end I opted for walnuts because my local grocery store, good old Aldi’s, didn’t have any pecans in stock that day. The only other slight deviation from the recipe was the fact that I used only two cake layers since storing an iced three layer cake would have been a bit of a nightmare with the tools I have at hand.  
Aside from those slight blips the recipe was followed step by step and turned out pretty well in my humble opinion. The birthday boy gave it a thumbs up and I suppose in this case that is what really counts.
Layer one and layer two of the cake with icing in between, ready for the final icing touches.
It starts to look like a proper cake, just needs finishing touches of cinnamon dusting & walnut halves.

One giant 'Birthday Boy' slice o' cake coming up!

The UK version of the recipe (the one I used):

Hummingbird Cake
from the Hummingbird Cookbook published by Ryland Peters & Small (via a print out from the following link which no longer works:

300g caster sugar
3 eggs
300ml sunflower oil
270g peeled bananas mashed
1tsp cinnamon, plus extra to decorate
300g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp vanilla extract
100g tinned pineapple, chopped into small pieces
100g chopped pecans or walnuts plus extra to decorate

Cream cheese frosting:
600g icing sugar
100g unsalted butter at room temperature
250g cream cheese

Prep time: 25 min
Cook time: 25 min
Serves: Makes 10-12 slices

This recipe is classed as easy.

1.       Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3.
2.       Put the sugar, eggs, oil, banana and cinnamon in an electric mixer or use an handheld electric whisk and beat until all the ingredients are incorporated. Don’t worry if the mixture looks slightly split at this stage.
3.       Slowly add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and vanilla extract and continue to beat until everything is well mixed.
4.       Stir in the chopped pineapple and nuts by hand until evenly dispersed.
5.       Line the base of three 20cm cake tins with greaseproof paper. Pour the mixture into the tins and smooth over with a palette knife. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched.
6.       Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

For the cream cheese frosting:
7.       Beat the icing sugar and butter together using an electric mixer until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.
8.       Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until completely incorporated.  Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy at least 5 minutes.
9.       Place one cake on a stand and spread about one-quarter of the cream cheese frosting over it with a palette knife.  Place a second cake on top and spread another quarter of the frosting over it.  Top with the last cake and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides.  Finish with pecans or walnuts and a light dusting of cinnamon.
Another version of the recipe but with American measurements:


  1. I made this for mother's day last year and it was a hit! Good find! AND yesterday I went to Louise's Trattoria for lunch and they offer it on their dessert menu, so of course- we ordered it!

  2. The uk version recipe link is broken. Can you please help if you have the copy of the recipe.

  3. Sorry Alice, I hadn't realised the link wasn't working any longer. I will hunt down the hardcopy I used and post the UK recipe as soon as I can. Thanks!

  4. I've now updated the post with the UK version of the recipe, enjoy! :)