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Delightful, incredibly moist, and unmistakably Southern, this Hummingbird Cake Bar is packed full of banana and pineapple goodness! This easy bar cake version of the classic recipe is layered with a pineapple cream cheese frosting and topped with toasted pecans for a crowd-pleasing crunch.
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Hey, hey! So…I know it’s totally January.
Most food blogs you visit are full of all the greens and smoothies and health food.
Everyone’s on a diet and stuff.
But I made this cake for New Year’s Day and I really think you need to push your resolutions aside – if even for a moment – and eat some.
JUST TAKE ME TO THE HUMMINGBIRD CAKE BAR ALREADY!
If you’d rather skip my (pretty darn helpful) tips and tricks, essential cooking info, and similar recipe ideas – and get straight to this deliciously easy hummingbird cake recipe, just scroll right on down to the bottom of the page where you can find the printable recipe card!
Would it comfort you to know that I replaced some of the oil in it with applesauce?
And that I reduced the sugar a bit? And that it’s a 2/3 adaptation of the classic Southern Living recipe, meaning it’s smaller in size as well as portions?
How would you feel if I told you that I further reduced fat and calories by using my favorite Eggland’s Best eggs in this baby? Compared to ordinary eggs, Eggland’s Best eggs also contain way more vitamins, antioxidants, and Omega-3s.
Well, I did. So there – this may not be a health food, but you can rest easy knowing there’s some good stuff in there!
And while we’re on the subject of good stuff, let’s chat about these flavors.
What Is Hummingbird Cake?
Aside from “Heaven on a Plate”, Hummingbird Cake is a common dessert found in the Southern United States.
It draws its flavors heavily from over-ripe bananas (tasting very much like banana bread). The other main ingredient is pineapple, giving the cake a slightly tropical flavor, but and even more interesting texture.
Other ingredients of note are cinnamon (which gives it a spice-cake quality), and toasted pecans for a lovely crunchy texture.
Unlike many other cakes, the Hummingbird Cake uses vegetable oil as its fat, creating an intensely moist and tasty cake.
I chose to replace some of the oil with applesauce in this recipe, making it slightly more dense than a classic layered version.
Hummingbird Cakes are filled and iced with fluffy cream cheese frosting, and this one is no exception.
The cream cheese frosting I made here, however, is a 1:1 ratio of cream cheese and butter, with less powdered sugar. This makes it thicker and more cheesey (my preference). I also folded in drained crushed pineapple for extra flavor and a little color.
How Did The Hummingbird Cake Get Its Name?
Don’t call PETA – no birds were harmed in the making of this cake.
There are obviously no hummingbirds in this namesake cake – but it was named after them! Created in Jamaica in the 1960s, the cake was named after the country’s national bird. It is also known as Doctor Bird Cake and Jamaican Cake.
So, if it was dreamed up in a tropical paradise, how is it considered Southern?
In an attempt to get more visitors to the island in the ’70s, the Jamaican Tourism Board sent press kits to the US that included the original cake recipe.
It wasn’t long before the first known printed reference to it appeared in Southern Living magazine in 1978, written by Mrs. L.H. Wiggins. To this day, it is the magazine’s most popular and requested recipe!
Southern Living is kind of like a dessert bible down here, so you can imagine the kind of adoration this cake receives.
This bar cake version is so easy to make! If you’re more of a round layered lover, feel free to split the batter between a couple of 8-inch pans and stack it up tall.
You can also leave it as a sheet cake and pile that icing on if you’re looking for a potluck-sized dessert that everyone will go crazy for!
Tips For A Perfect Hummingbird Cake:
- Always use the ugly bananas. Just like with banana bread, the browner they are, the better they taste…in cake anyway! If you’ve only got yellow bananas, just pop them (unpeeled) in a 350 degree F oven for 15 minutes. Cool them, peel them, and go to town.
- Never drain the pineapple! All that glorious juice helps give the cake that incredibly moist crumb.
- Don’t like pecans? Replace them with 1+ cup of shredded coconut! You can also use walnuts if you prefer those.
- Play with your frosting. I folded drained crushed pineapple in mine, but you can also add finely chopped nuts, (toasted) coconut flakes, different flavored extracts – even a splash of rum or bourbon, if you like it a little boozy. Get creative!
- Have patience. This Hummingbird Cake is delicious the day it’s made – but the flavors meld and deepen over time. If you can hold off until the next day to eat it? Oh my. Even a few hours of waiting will be a sweet reward.
- Chill your leftovers for up to 5 days in the fridge. You can also freeze the cake, well-wrapped, for up to 2 months. I don’t know why you’d have any left, though.
LOOKING FOR MORE EASY CAKE RECIPES?
- Chocolate Zucchini Cake
- Chai-Spiced Banana Zucchini Cake
- Nana’s Million Dollar Cake
- Chocolate Wacky Cake
HELPFUL KITCHEN TOOLS FOR MAKING HUMMINGBIRD CAKE:
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Hummingbird Cake Bar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup brown sugar packed
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large Eggland’s Best eggs beaten
- ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 8 ounces crushed pineapple undrained
- 1 ½ cups ripe bananas mashed (3-4 bananas)
- 1 ½ cups chopped pecans toasted; divided
Cream Cheese Frosting
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup crushed pineapple drained (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13x9 cake pan with parchment, spray with non-stick cooking spray, and set aside.
- Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl
- In a separate bowl, whisk together sugars, eggs, applesauce, and oil until well combined. Add vanilla, pineapple, and bananas and mix until combined.
- Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in 1 cup chopped toasted pecans.
- Transfer batter into the prepared cake pan and spread evenly.
- Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow cake to cool completely.
- Remove cake from pan and place on a large cutting board. Trim edges of cake, then cut in half lengthwise, creating two long pieces.
- Place one half on a serving platter or cake board. Spread half of the cream cheese frosting on top, then layer the other cake half on top.
- Spread the remaining cream cheese frosting on the top half, then sprinkle with the rest of the toasted pecans.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to blend butter and cream cheese until fluffy.
- Add powdered sugar and mix until fully dissolved and incorporated.
- Blend in heavy cream and vanilla, mixing until light and fluffy.
- Fold in drained pineapple, if desired, for an extra tropical kick!