Hummingbird Cake

  • Serves

    serves 18


This hummingbird cake honors the legacy of the Southern cook Edna Lewis. The luscious, fruit-and-nut-studded layer cake is served in Atlanta's Watershed restaurant; the recipe first appeared in Christiane Lauterbach's feature about the restaurant, which ran in our April 2009 issue.


For the Cake

  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3 cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 12 cups sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 (8-oz.) can crushed pineapple, juice reserved
  • 2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 5 bananas)
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the Frosting

  • 34 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1" cubes, chilled
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 12 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 12 cups chopped pecans
  • 3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, cut into 1" cubes, chilled


Step 1

Make the cake: Heat oven to 350°. Line the bottoms of three 9" round cake pans with parchment paper. Grease each pan with 1 tbsp. butter and dust with a little flour; shake pans so that flour evenly coats them. Invert pans and tap out excess flour; set pans aside.

Step 2

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; stir in the pecans and set aside. Using a handheld mixer set on high speed, beat the sugar, brown sugar, and eggs in a large mixing bowl until smooth, 1 minute. Add the crushed pineapple and juice, bananas, oil, and vanilla and mix until combined. Add the pecan mixture and mix on low speed until evenly combined.

Step 3

Divide the batter evenly between the 3 prepared cake pans, smoothing the tops with a rubber spatula. Bake cakes, rotating occasionally, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer cakes to racks and let sit for 15 minutes; invert pans and unmold each cake; discard parchment paper. Let cakes cool.

Step 4

Make the frosting: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat until creamy, 1–2 minutes more. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix on low speed until incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and continue mixing until the frosting is light and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Remove any dust from the pecans by shaking them in a wide-mesh sieve over the sink; using a rubber spatula, fold the pecans into the frosting.

Step 5

Assemble the cake: Place 1 cake layer on a cake stand. Using a butter knife, spread 2⁄3 cup frosting evenly over the top. Place second cake layer atop first one and frost top of it with another 2⁄3 cup frosting. Repeat with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over the sides of the assembled cake. Serve immediately or wrap loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate.