{recipe} Spiced Coconut Hummingbird Cake

All of a sudden, Hummingbird Cake is everywhere. I saw it on two popular blogs the day after I first tried it at Dixie in San Francisco. I had questions, like what the heck is it? Why is it so good? And why is it called “Hummingbird Cake?”

The answers to those questions, in brief: It’s allegedly the most-requested recipe in the history of Southern Living magazine, and it’s kind of like banana bread, except more cakey and with the addition of crushed pineapple and cream cheese frosting. It’s usually made as a 3-layer cake. I’m sorry to say that I don’t know why it’s called Hummingbird Cake.

But I still had one more nagging question: how and why would someone make a cake that has pineapple, bananas, and pecans in it and not put any coconut in it? Criminal! This combination demands coconut! And I found the original recipe to be severely lacking in spices, so I tweaked that in both the cake and the frosting. Plus, the pineapple amount was far too measly.

And finally, call me old, call me lazy, call me a curmudgeon, but lately I’m just not into massively tall 3-layer cakes, for a variety of reasons. They are hard to make, hard to transport, hard to frost, hard to cut, and hard to eat. (OK, not that hard to eat.) Give me a single layer any day. The fact that I was making this cake to bring for lunch on a friend’s sailboat pretty much sealed its fate as a simple, single layer dessert; a 12-inch tall frosted monstrosity has no business taking an hour-long car ride and then safely settling on a rocking watercraft.

Enjoy this updated twist on a Southern classic!

RECIPE: Spiced Coconut Hummingbird Cake
serves 8


for the cake:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple with juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large banana, mashed
  • 1 2/3 cup clour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice

for the frosting and assembly:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • about 1 lb. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted in a dry pan
  • 1/2 cup coconut, toasted in a dry pan


make the cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a springform pan or round cake pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk egg and oil together well. Add pineapple and juice, vanilla, and banana and mix well.
  • Add remaining ingredients and switch to a spatula or wooden spoon. Mix gently, just to combine.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes, then unmold from pan to finish cooling completely.

make the frosting and assemble:

  • Combine cream cheese and butter in a mixer and beat well until fluffy and smooth.
  • Add about half of the powdered sugar and mix well.
  • Add vanilla and spices, and more powdered sugar, a bit at a time. Mix well after each addition. Add sugar until a thick frosting consistency is reached. If it gets too thick, you can thin it with a bit of milk.
  • Frost top of cake in a thick layer (or top and sides, if you prefer.) Sprinkle with pecans and coconut and press gently into the icing. Serve within 4 hours or put in the refrigerator to keep longer. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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4 Responses

  1. Sarah says:

    Yum, this looks awesome! I’ll have to think of an occasion to make it for, though, since (gasp!) my husband hates coconut.

  2. Carole says:

    Lovely work, Karen! Would you be happy to link it in to the current Food on Friday which is all about cakes? This is the link . There are lots of great links there already. I do hope to see you there. Cheers

  3. Carole says:

    Karen, thanks for joining in the cake extravaganza. I hope to see you again soon. Cheers