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!!
Gluten Free Hummingbird Cake
For the Cake
2 1/2 cups (350 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)
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.
Adapted from the original 1978 Southern Living Hummingbird Cake.
Looking forward to trying this one Nicole. I’ve never heard of humming bird cake, but it looks good.
Looks absolutely delish… but there are only 2 of us. What size pans would be used for half of the recipe? Or would you just make one layer and 1/2 the batch of frosting?
Nicole Hunn says
You guessed it, Brenda! I’d make half in one pan, with half the frosting.
Dale Lynam says
This has been my fav cake since it was first published. Didn’t expect to ever eat it again. This recipe is so on my holiday make-it list. Thank you!
I made a gluten-y version of this for the first time right before I was diagnosed, and I am so excited to be able to have it again! Yum and thanks!
You’re an angel , am making this tomorrow when I get home with the ingredients and if it turns out as great as I’m sure it will this is going on my Thanksgiving menu along with chocolate chip cheesecake and some kind of pie. Many ,many Thanks !!!
Oh how wonderful, it’s always been one of our favorites–thank you!! I don’t usually try cakes because we are at 4000 feet and I can’t seem to make my cakes come out without being flat and dense. But I would love to make this for my hubby (and me!). Any suggestions would be so appreciated!!
Mare Masterson says
Google “gluten free baking at high altitude.” I did and University of Colorado has some information that could be useful.
Thanks so much, will check it out.
Mare Masterson says
I never heard of humming bird cake until you. Where have I been all my life? Ray and I will enjoy. Amber is not a pecan fan (makes me wonder if I really carried and gave birth to her!).
Nicole Hunn says
Nicole the next “Amazing Kreskin” famous mentalist and mind reader!
You have once again read my mind! That’s really freaky :)
When is your show premiere? hehe…love ya!
Nicole Hunn says
You really have fellow readers to thank for this one, Lucy. It has been sooooo requested over the years. :)
I have never heard of Hummingbird Cake! Where have I been? As my kids are not big fruit flavored baked goods eaters (they like fruit, though, so not complaining), I will have to save making this for the right crowd of appreciative people. I do have to tell you about Andrew’s latest baking adventure. He has twice now tried to take a non GF recipe and replace the flour 1:1 with Better Batter. As you can imagine, it does not work! Edible, but not a state fair prize winner by any stretch. Since he is also not reading all the directions (hmmm…), or checking the oven temperature, he is having even less success. This is definitely a case of all of us applauding his efforts, but even the kids were telling him to find a recipe from your blog! He does use your cookbooks, so we are halfway there, anyway! As always, thanks for everything!
Nicole Hunn says
That is all so funny, Anneke. I never cease to be amazed by your patience in allowing other family members to dabble in the kitchen—not only your self-sufficient kids, but your husband too! Having my husband in the kitchen is definitely more trouble than it’s worth—unless he’s washing and drying dishes. He’s aces at that. I love that the kids are telling him to find a GF recipe. GF baking does indeed require GF recipes!! :)
Mare Masterson says
Anneke, I had the same reply – never heard of it until Nicole. I know I didn’t live under a rock, so it amazes me that I did not hear of it before.