When the Hummingbird Cake was first submitted to Southern Living in 1978 by Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina, we had no idea the cake would become our most popular and beloved Southern cake recipe ever. Without a doubt, the cake is a beauty with its three moist layers topped with cream cheese frosting and pecans; but it’s the taste that really keeps us coming back. There are a few rules for success in this recipe that make it truly stand out. First, vegetable oil is used instead of butter to get the moist, quick-bread-like texture of the layers. The original recipe, as printed below, calls for 1 1/2 cups of oil. Over the years we reprinted the recipe several times and, in keeping with cooking trends of the time, altered the amount of oil and sodium called for in the ingredient list. The quality of the finished product was never altered, however. Second, you need a can of crushed pineapple in its juices (such as Publix Crushed Pineapple in Pineapple Juice), which you will NOT drain. The juices add so much flavor to the cake batter and keeps it incredibly moist. Lastly, always take the time the toast your pecans. It’s a game-changer. Forty years may have passed since we discovered this Southern gem, but we keep making it year after year!
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (8-oz.) can crushed pineapple in juice, undrained (such as Publix Crushed Pineapple in Pineapple Juice)
2 cups chopped ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Cream Cheese Frosting
2 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 cup salted butter or margarine, softened
2 (16-oz.) pkg. powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup pecan halves, toasted
How to Make It
Prepare the Cake Layers: Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl; add eggs and oil, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, bananas, and toasted pecans.
Divide batter evenly among 3 well-greased (with shortening) and floured 9-inch round cake pans.
Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely, about 1 hour.
Prepare the Cream Cheese Frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Increase speed to medium-high, and beat until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.
Assemble Cake: Place 1 Cake Layer on a serving platter; spread top with 1 cup of the frosting. Top with second layer, and spread with 1 cup frosting. Top with third layer, and spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Arrange pecan halves on top of cake.