For a cake so easy and delicious, Hummingbird Cake sure has a long and tangled story behind it. It’s main ingredients – tropical banana and pineapple – give a clue as to its origins. The story goes that it was first invented in Jamaica in the late 1960’s where it was known as “doctor bird cake.” (The national bird of Jamaica is the Red-billed Streamertail, a type of hummingbird, and it has been nicknamed the “doctor bird” because the way it pokes its beak into a flower reminds people of the prodding and poking they get at the doctor’s office.) Supposedly, the Jamaican tourist board sent out press kits to the United States with a few recipes to entice people to come visit, and they included one for their Doctor Bird Cake, adapted for American bakers.
From there, the cake started to pop up across the South under various names, like Doctor Byrd Cake, Granny Cake, and Don’t Last Cake. (And the latter is certainly true!) The first known published recipe was in Southern Living Magazine in 1978 by one Mrs. L.H. Wiggin of Greensboro, North Carolina. There, it was called Hummingbird Cake and it went on to be the most requested recipe in the magazine’s history.
It’s no wonder why this cake is so popular. With oil instead of butter, the batter doesn’t need to be beaten or babied, and the entire things mixes up quickly in one bowl. Lightly spiced, it’s moist and chewy with the delicious sweetness of banana and pineapple and a little crunch of pecans. It can be made in layer form or bundt form, but since it’s reminiscent of banana bread, we love to bake it up in a loaf pan. (Then we don’t feel too guilty eating it for breakfast.) We usually eat it just as is, but we will say, it goes awfully well with a nice blanket of cream cheese frosting!
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup oil
2 spotted bananas, mashed
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup canned pineapple chunks, undrained
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°F and grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, and cinnamon. Add eggs and oil and stir to combine.
Fold in vanilla, pineapple, banana, pecans, and raisins and pour batter into prepared pan.
Place pan in oven and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. (But start checking on it at 45 minutes just to be safe.) If cake is browning too quickly, lay a piece of aluminum foil over the top.
Let cake cool in pan for 20 minutes before removing to cool completely. Serve and enjoy!