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Legend of the Hummingbird cake

Updated on April 17, 2008

Hummingbird cake history

Southern Living magazine generally is credited with the first referenceto Hummingbird Cake. It published the recipe in its February 1978 issue, submitted by a Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, N.C. But Mrs. Wiggins did not include an explanation of the cake's unusual name, which remains a mystery however folklore has it that the hummingbird is a symbol of sweetness.

The hummingbird is known to drawn to intensely sweet sources, they are able to assess the amount of sugar in the nectar they eat; they reject flower types that produce nectar which is less than 12% sugar and prefer those whose sugar content is around 25%.

the most searched for recipe, the perfect cake to take to gatherings, it's easy, freezes well, serves many. There have been other versions of the recipe since the 1978 version, such as a lighter version, a organic version, but not a low carb version to date that I am aware of. Of course any recipe can substitute some of the ingredients. If you really want to impress your friends and family imagine a Hummingbird cake for your wedding.

It's a southern delight that gives you the essence of the tropics with it's bananas and crushed pineapple. Restaurants from the east coast to the west coast have made this delightful cake for it's southern transplant customers. The cake has won many awards, The Kentucky Derby Cook Book[Kentucky Derby Museum:Louisville KY, 1986] contains a recipe for Hummingbird Cake on p. 204.A note printed in this book states "Hummingbird Cake. Helen Wiser's recipe won Favorite Cake Award in the 1978 Kentucky State Fair."

Cooks in 1978 baked the cake when they had overipened bananasit was the perfect way to use the bananas.The recipe and the cake has many names.Never Ending Cake is the name turned in by Pauline Isley. A Benton respondent supplied Jamaican Cake,a title that might not be far afield considering the ingredients.Ella Sheets knows it as Granney's Best Cake.Nothing Left Cake is the name supplied by Patricia H. Downes of Jacksonville, who, with her 8-and 11-year-old sons, prefers it sans icing.

More than 75 copies of the recipe have been received, most of them identical. The variations _ notably in mixing directions,oil measurement and additional fruits _ are incorporated in the recipe that follows. Cake That Won't Last." ---Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock, AR), April 3, 1985

Here is the 1978 recipe


Mrs. Wiggins' recipe [1978]

"Hummingbird cake

  • 3 cups all-pupose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups salad oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts, divided
  • 2 cups chopped bananas

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl; add eggs and salad oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. Do not beat. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, 1 cup chopped pecans, and bananas. Spoon batter into 3 well-greased and floured 9-inch cakepans. Bake at 350 degrees F. For 25 to 30 minutes; remove from pans, and cool immediately. Spread frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Sprinkle with 1 cup chopped pecans. Yield: one 9-inch layer cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 (16 ounce) packages powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine cream cheese and butter; cream until smooth.Add powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla. Yield: enough for a 3 layer cake.--Mrs. L.H. Wiggins, Greesnboro, North Carolina" ---"Making the most of bananas," Southern Living, February 1978 (p. 206)

PER SERVING: Calories 1,245 (50% fat) Fat 71 g (24 g sat) Cholesterol 130 mg Protein 13 g Sodium 548 mg Fiber 4 g Carbohydrates 149 g



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    • Cindy Downs profile image

      Cindy Downs 3 years ago from St. Charles, Missouri

      My mother was making Dr. Bird cake for us in the 60's, 50 years ago. She got the recipe from the St. Louis Globe Democrat, which no longer exists. But I'm sure they were making it in Jamaica, where it came from, long before that. Even this article from the Spartanburg Herald Journal in 1970 proves that the recipe was around long before Southern Living REprinted it in 1978.

      And I've never seen it made in anything expect a bundt or tube pan (the middle is so moist it won't get done otherwise) or frosted. Even with the tube pan it takes between and hour and a quarter and an hour and a half to bake.

      The cake is so sweet and moist that I can't imagine ANYone wanting frosting on it...

    • profile image

      Steven R. Cox 5 years ago

      Mrs. Frances Reynolds Lokey of Mayfield, Georgia was a distant relative and close family friend. She made this cake for special occasions. When asked about the origin of the name, Frances noted the shape of the pecans. She sliced the pecans from side to side (rather than lengthwise). Hold a slice upright by one end (the "tail") you can see a hovering hummingbird in flight!

    • MyGenie profile image

      MyGenie 9 years ago

      Carly, thanks very interesting

    • profile image

      Carly 9 years ago

      This is a re-post my last one was all garbled.

      In Jamaica it is called a Dr. Bird cake. They call the hummingbird a doctor bird because it hovers over a flower like a doctor tending to a patient. A recipe was printed in 1969 in the Jamaica Daily Gleaner. I came across this while looking in to the Hummingbird cake, and thought I would pass it along.