A gluten free hummingbird cake recipe is so very often requested by readers, and it’s taken me all this time to comply. I think it’s because the original 1978 Southern Living Hummingbird Cake recipe is such a classic that I didn’t want to mess it up and risk sullying all of those precious decades-long memories so many of you have with this “Making the Best of Bananas” cake. For the uninitiated, a hummingbird cake is an incredibly moist banana-pecan cake made with canned crushed pineapple, covered in a soft cream cheese frosting (which you’ll want to eat with a spoon all on its own). The cake itself is so tender and flavorful that you’ll really want to be sure that you don’t make the frosting so sugary and stiff that it, well, clashes? You’ll see what I mean…
There’s no milk added to this cake (the pineapple juices and mashed banana add plenty of moisture). The original version uses all oil (no butter, like I did), and you’re welcome to try replacing the butter in my recipe with oil. I tried a half-recipe with just oil, no butter, and I found it to be bit too heavy (butter gets aerated in mixing, oil does not). If you’re dairy-free, I’d try using Spectrum nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening (a healthy vegan shortening) in place of the butter in the cake and in the frosting, and dairy-free cream cheese in the frosting. You’ll need plenty of ripe (but not overripe) bananas, too, as the recipe calls for 1/2 cup mashed and 2 cups diced (between 4 and 5 ripe bananas total). And if you don’t have crushed pineapple, you can crush whole or diced pineapple in a food mill or simply by placing it in a sealed zip-top bag and squishing it with your hands. Just be sure that bag is zipped up tight!
Can you see just how tender the cake is?? You can make the cakes ahead of time, but don’t refrigerate them or they’ll dry out. Wrap the cakes very tightly and freeze for up to a month. Then, just defrost at room temperature before frosting and serving. And remember that this is not a super stiff, thick frosting. I dare you not to sneak a spoonful of the frosting. I dare you!!
1 1/4 teaspoons xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1/2 cup (72 g) cornstarch (potato starch or arrowroot should work, too)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons (84 g) vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
3 eggs (180 g, weighed out of shell) + 1 egg yolk (30 g) at room temperature, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (100 g) mashed ripe bananas
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple in its own juices (undrained)
2 cups (200 g) diced ripe (but not overripe) bananas
1 cup (120 g) chopped raw pecans
For the Frosting
12 ounces cream cheese (1 1/2 8-ounce packages), at room temperature
12 tablespoons (168 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 cups (690 g) confectioners’ sugar, plus more as necessary
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped raw pecans
First, make the cake. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease well 2 9-inch round cake pans and set them aside.
In a medium-size bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, and whisk to combine well. Set the bowl of dry ingredients aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and oil on medium-high speed until well-combined. Add the granulated sugar, eggs and vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until well-combined and the mixture begins to become pale yellow in color. Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the mashed bananas and crushed pineapple with its juices, mixing on medium speed to combine after each addition and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. The batter will be thick. Add the diced bananas and chopped pecans, and mix by hand until the bananas and pecans are evenly distributed throughout the batter.
Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans, and spread into an even layer in each pan with a wet spatula. Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake, rotating once, until the tops are very lightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out mostly clean, or with a few moist crumbs attached (particularly if you happen to place the toothpick into a diced banana). Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the cake pans for 15 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
While the cake is cooling, make the frosting. In the clean bowl of a stand mixer or a clean large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt, and beat to combine. Add about half of the confectioners’ sugar, and beat on medium-low speed until the sugar has been absorbed by the butter and cream cheese mixture. Add the rest of the confectioners’ sugar about 1 cup at a time, beating on medium speed to combine after each addition. Once all of the sugar has been absorbed into the mixture, increase the mixer speed to high and beat until light and fluffy. The frosting should hold its shape when scooped, but should not be completely stiff.
To assemble the cake, place one of the cooled cakes upside down on a serving platter. Place about 1 1/4 cups of frosting on top and spread into an even layer. Invert the second cake place on top of the frosting and press gently to adhere. For the neatest frosted cake, cover the entire top and sides of the cake in a very thin layer of frosting (this is called the crumb coat), and place in the freezer until very firm (about 15 minutes). Remove the cake from the freezer and cover the top and sides with the remaining frosting, spreading into an even layer. Decorate with the 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped raw pecans and press gently to adhere. Refrigerate the decorated cake for at least 15 minutes before slicing with a sharp knife into generous slices, and serving.