Fruity, light and creamy cake full of harmonious flavours

Hummingbird cake is a gorgeous mix of banana, pineapple, pecans and cream cheese

It was tempting to veer down the rich and luxurious chocolate route in the lead up to Valentine’s Day, but I have opted instead for a beautiful springtime cake to share with your loved ones. This cake is the epitome of spring, and the name alone makes me want to bake and eat it.

Hummingbird cake is a gorgeous mix of delicious ingredients: banana, pineapple, pecans and cream cheese, that work together in cake form. While flavoured with pineapple and banana, this cake is not overly tropical, even though you would assume it would be.

A little background on this cake. It hails from Jamaica, where it is said to be named after the island’s national bird, a doctor bird, which is a type of hummingbird. It eventually spread in popularity across Southern America in the 1960s and 1970s and remains a firm favourite today.

It has a banana bread feel to it, but the addition of pineapple, nuts and spices turns this simple bake into a moist and deeply flavourful cake. It is similar to a carrot cake in that it uses oil rather than butter, and using light brown sugar rather than caster sugar adds caramel notes and enhances the fruit. While the banana is mashed into the sponge for moistness, the pineapple is finely chopped, resulting in little chewy pieces of sweet pineapple dispersed throughout the cake. The pecans add crunch, and the cinnamon and vanilla provide a warming back note.

This recipe makes a substantial three-sponge layered cake and I use 20cm loose-bottomed round tins for these. The cream-cheese frosting works perfectly with this cake, and I add a little honey to mine here to give a different flavour. I finish my cake with beautiful edible flowers and crystallised pecans. The pecans are optional, but they are an interesting addition and add sweetness and crunch to the cake.

As the cake is quite moist it will keep well for a few days, but it freezes equally as well. Freeze the sponges individually unfrosted, or ice the cake and cut into slices to freeze.

Recipe: Hummingbird cake