Hummingbird cake is a classic Southern dessert. It has a similar look and feel to carrot cake, down to the light and tangy cream cheese frosting, but pineapple and banana take the place of the carrots for a tropical twist. It's almost always served as a stately layer cake, but a cast iron skillet dresses it down into a more casual affair, one that's easy to transport and perfect for potlucks and picnics alike.
Why It Works
- Puréeing the fruit maximizes its flavor more than simply chopping or mashing.
- A pinch of cloves intensifies the banana flavor.
- A 10-inch cast iron skillet is the perfect size for a casual cake to feed a crowd.
- Yield:Makes one 10-inch cake, or twelve 2-inch wedges
- Active time: about 45 minutes
- Total time:about 3 hours
- Getting Ready:
- 4 ounces pecan pieces (about 3/4 cup; 113g)
- 1 small pineapple
- 1 small banana
- For the Cake:
- 6 ounces plain or toasted sugar (about 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon; 170g)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoons (3g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 2 large eggs, straight from the fridge (about 3 1/2 ounces; 100g)
- 1/4 ounce vanilla extract (about 1 1/2 teaspoons; 7g)
- 6 ounces unsalted butter, melted (about 3/4 cup; 170g)
- 5 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour (a shy 1 1/4 cups, spooned; 155g)
- To Finish:
- 2 cups cream cheese frosting, cream cheese buttercream, or another topping of your choice
- Toasted pecans, to taste
Getting ready: Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350°F. Toast the pecans on a half-sheet pan until golden brown, about 10 minutes, and cool completely; this can be done in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several weeks. Meanwhile, peel, trim, and core the pineapple, and measure 5 ounces (about 2/3 cup; 140g) of fruit into the bowl of a blender, or a tall, narrow jar for an immersion blender. If you like, reserve the scraps to make fresh pineapple syrup. Peel a banana, and measure out 3 ounces of fruit (about 1/3 cup; 85g) to add along with the pineapple. Blend until smooth; use immediately, or refrigerate up to 3 days and bring to about 70°F (21°C) before use.
For the Cake: Combine sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, nutmeg, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on low to moisten, then increase to medium and whip until thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add melted butter in a steady stream, then reduce speed to low and add the flour. Once smooth, add the fruit purée and mix only until well combined. Fold in the toasted pecans with a flexible spatula, scraping the bowl along the bottom and sides to ensure it's well mixed throughout.
Bake until the cake is well-risen and golden brown, about 45 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center will have a few crumbs still attached when removed, and your fingertip will leave a slight indentation in the puffy crust. Transfer to a heat-safe surface or a wire rack, and cool until no trace of warmth remains, at least 90 minutes (the time will vary depending on the cast iron's gauge and the type of cooling surface).
To Finish: Top the cake with about 2 cups of your favorite cream cheese frosting or buttercream, along with a scattering of toasted pecans. Enjoy immediately, or leave at room temperature until ready to serve, up to 24 hours at cool room temperature. After cutting, wrap leftover slices individually and store at cool room temperature up to 2 days more.