Sweet, fruity, and fluffy, this Vegan Hummingbird Cake is absolutely delicious and easy to make. Impress family, guests, yourself, your dog--anyone will be begging for another slice of this tender fruit-filled cake.
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Hey Internet, I like to browse through cookbooks, the Internet--even Wikipedia for recipe ideas sometimes. (Or sometimes I just wake up in the middle of the night with a recipe idea!)
But today’s recipe idea did come from a session of Wikipedia rabbit-holing… I must’ve gotten hungry while researching Margrethe II of Denmark.
Hummingbird Cake, according to Wikipedia, is a spiced cake with pineapples and bananas that is popular in the South (United States, that is). However, the cake actually originated in Jamaica, where it was also known as the Doctor Bird Cake (as Doctor Bird is a nickname for hummingbirds in Jamaica).
The recipe was part of many exported by Jamaica’s tourism board in the late 1960’s to introduce Americans to Jamaican cuisine and entice them to visit.
Well honey, I don’t need to be enticed. I LOVE Jamaican food, and am fascinated by what I’ve read of their culture and history.
This isn’t even the first Jamaican recipe I’ve been inspired by--see my Vegan Rasta Pasta for a deliciously spiced 30-minute one pot meal.
I can’t WAIT to go experience what their beautiful island has to offer, respectfully of course, once it’s safe to do so.
However, today we’ll just have to settle for making a vegan version of this delicious-sounding cake at home.
I’ll bet you already know two of the ingredients, right? Banana and pineapple!
This cake is the baby of a spice cake and a fruit smoothie and it’s delicious. I even use coconut cream as a fat replacement and though you can’t taste it, I feel it does add to the tropical cred of the recipe.
Let’s hop into the rest of the recipe so you can see what you already have and what you can add to your next grocery order.
What You’ll Need
So you’ll need all the usual suspects in cake: flour, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla extract, and salt. I used both baking powder and soda to get a nice even rise and fluffy texture.
Since we’re using baking soda, we’ll need an acid to activate it. I used apple cider vinegar for this but any sweet or neutral vinegar will work, as will lemon or lime juice.
Flax eggs are the perfect binder in this recipe. Make them by mixing together ground flaxseed and water. The ratio is either 3:1 (water:flax) or 2:1 depending on who you ask. I do it differently for each recipe--I felt this recipe had enough other liquid so I kept it 2:1 here.
I used coconut sugar in this recipe because the flavor goes so well with the spices. That warm, almost brown-sugary taste is so good. But since we’re getting added sweetness from the fruit, coconut sugar is a little less sweet, so it balances out perfectly.
Speaking of the fruit… you’ll need about 16 oz of crushed pineapple in juice. I recommend always buying canned fruit in the juices because the heavy syrup is often too saccharine in baking recipes.
If you can’t find the crushed, you could always whiz up the slices or chunks in the blender, or food processor, but try to leave some tiny chunks whole if you can as it contributes a wonderful texture and a bit more pineapple flavor to the finished cake.
While vegan banana bread is a great way to use up overripe bananas, I definitely prefer this vegan hummingbird cake. I’m making it into muffins next.
And who can forget those spices! Cinnamon and nutmeg are DELICIOUS in this recipe so that’s what I used. You could also add a pinch of cardamom, allspice, or ground cloves if you’d like.
I purchase all my spices from The Spice House. I make an order anytime I start to get low, and just refill my spice jars from their flat packs which are SO much cheaper than buying new bottles all the time. The spices are also incredibly high quality and the flavor is incomparable.
I used solid canned coconut cream as the fat replacer in this recipe. Canned coconut milk or softened vegan butter are good substitutions if you can’t find coconut cream.
Finally, an optional fold-in ingredient is chopped toasted pecans. I try to keep this blog as close to nut-free as possible. BUT I will recommend one when it really enhances the flavors.
But if baking for someone with a nut allergy, just omit and this recipe will turn out just fine! You could replace it with some shredded coconut or dried fruit instead to make it fun and interesting.
How to Properly Measure Flour
We want to measure our flour by weight, not by volume. When you scoop flour out of a bag or tin with a measuring cup, you're packing it in there and not necessarily getting the same amount each time.
What's better is to use a food scale with a tare function (allowing you to zero out the scale after you've put the bowl on it so your bowl isn't playing a factor in your equation.
Working in grams, put your bowl on the scale and zero it out. Scoop the flour into the bowl until you reach the desired measurement.
Tips for Making Vegan Hummingbird Cake
- The first thing to do is toast the pecans if you are using them. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. In a 350 degree oven (177 degrees Celsius), bake the pecans for about 7-8 minutes, tossing every few minutes with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula. Remove from the oven and transfer to a plate or bowl to cool.
- While the pecans are toasting, you can do other prep work like lining your cake tins with parchment paper and greasing the sides with coconut cream or a cake or oil spray. Cut a circle just slightly smaller than the outside of the bottom of the pan, and insert it so it lays flat. Do that for both pans. I recommend these 9” spring form pans as it’s VERY easy to release cake from them, but you could do regular pans (8” or 9” are both fine), or even use a 13” x 9” rectangular pan.
- Also make your flax eggs by mixing the ground flaxseed and water in a small bowl and setting it aside to gel.
- Mix the dry ingredients (including the coconut sugar and spices, but NOT the pecans yet) in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, mash the banana until it gets somewhat glossy in appearance. You don’t need to pulverize every chunk, but it does need to come together as a gel-type mixture.
- Add the other wet ingredients to the banana: coconut cream (or softened vegan butter), crushed pineapple (do not drain the cans), gelled flax eggs, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla extract. Reserve the water at the bottom of the coconut pan, or have some juice or non-dairy milk on hand in case it's needed.
- Using a spatula, create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet, scraping the bowl to get it all in there. Mix gently, don’t worry if a little powder remains, it’ll get mixed when we add the nuts. Here’s where you can add a little of the reserved coconut water (or juice or non-dairy milk) if there is a LOT of powder at the bottom of the bowl. It just depends on your individual ingredients. The batter should be quite thick, but it should look like everything will get incorporated.
- Fold in 1 ¾ cups of the pecans (reserve a half cup for decorating the cake) (insert Schitt’s Creek meme here) into the mixture.
- Divide the mixture between your two lined/greased cake pans and level it with a spatula.
- Bake for 34-40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the tins for about 10 minutes before removing carefully and cooling on a wire rack completely before frosting.
- Level the “bottom” cake: using a large serrated knife, carefully slice the thinnest layer off--the dome--to make the cake relatively flat on top. This is optional but it will help your cake sit nicely together. If you don’t, it may slide off when you’re trying to cut it. I speak from experience here. Very embarrassing experience. Caught on camera. Someday I’ll show you our blooper reel. Still too embarrassed at the moment.
- Ideally using an offset icing spatula (serious gamechanger), add a generous layer of frosting on top of your bottom cake. Carefully place the second layer on top and add frosting to that as well. You can add it to the sides, or just keep it on top. Garnish with reserved pecans, or fresh or dried fruit, edible flowers, whatever you’d like. Enjoy!
- Refrigerate leftover cake in an airtight container for up to 4 days. It’s good cold or room temperature, so you can definitely take it out about 20-30 minutes before you’re ready to serve. You could also freeze the cake (wrapping slices individually is best, I’ve found) for up to 3 months.
More Impressive Vegan Desserts
I still consider myself a work-in-progress as a baker, especially when it comes to decorating.
Honestly I am far too critical of my stuff. Food that looks homemade is NOT inherently a bad thing, I just need to stop being so critical of myself.
Not everything needs to look like it’s straight out of a bakery.
I want to make desserts that you at home feel like you can recreate and enjoy with your family.
All this to say, here’s some other amateurly decorated but DELICIOUS vegan desserts to impress your friends, and family, leaving them looking forward to the next time you decide to bake something.
I really hope you like this recipe! I know I do and so does Mr. Zardyplants, who was happy to eat up all the extra cake we had from testing.
This vegan hummingbird cake is:
- Sweet but not too sweet
- Moist (sorry)
- And really easy to make!
Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe or tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!