Hummingbird Cake

We first discovered the delightful Julia Busuttil when she generously contributed the most delectable Hummingbird cake for our epic cake table at the Rooftop Cinema screening we hosted recently.  Julia’s cake was the first to go – this lady can BAKE!  An Italian teacher by day, self taught culinary whizz by night, Julia has the most brilliant food blog called OSTRO which you should most definitely check out.  We are so chuffed to be sharing four of Julia’s most amazing home made cakes with you each Tuesday in May.

Julia Busuttil Nishimura of Ostro

Ingredients for the Hummingbird Cake. Recipe by Julia Busuttil. Photo – Eve Wilson. Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull for The Design Files.

Julia topping the Hummingbird Cake with pecans. Wooden Cake Stand from Country Road. Photo – Eve Wilson. Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull for The Design Files.

A slice of the delicious Hummingbird Cake by Julia Busuttil. Kami Mug from Mr Kitly, Oslo Copper Pink Tableware fork from Third Drawer Down, No 14 Vienna Chair from Thonet.  Photo – Eve Wilson.Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull for The Design Files.

The spectacular Hummingbird Cake by Julia Busuttil. Wooden Cake Stand from Country Road. Photo – Eve Wilson. Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull for The Design Files

Julia Busuttil Nishimura of Ostro
6th of May 2014

A  cake that has pineapple, bananas, pecans, cinnamon, and cream cheese frosting may appear to be a little confused. But somehow it works, and really well! Hummingbird cake emerged from a kitchen in North Carolina, America in the late 70’s, and is really a banana cake turned up a notch (or three)! With gems of pineapple studded throughout, and the crunch of the lightly toasted pecans, not to mention the frosting, this cake wins friends!

I’ve tasted some very sweet versions of this, but if you find the right balance, it is one of the best cakes you will ever eat!  It’s a big statement, but once you try it for yourself, I guarantee you will be a hummingbird cake advocate too.

You can make it as easy or as complicated as you like – just one cake smothered with cream cheese frosting is lovely for a simple afternoon tea, or a few cake layers, filled with extra pineapple, banana and frosting for something special. I love how impressively tall the layered cake looks, especially once you cut into it. This recipe makes enough for three cakes. You can halve the quantity if you’re after something a little more modest.

If you’ve decided to fill the cake with the extra banana and pineapple, the cake will be even more delicious the following day!


For the cake

3 eggs
200ml olive oil
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
380g self-raising flour
300g caster sugar
140g pecans, lightly toasted, roughly chopped
2 tsp ground cinnamon
320g fresh pineapple
3-4 really ripe bananas, mashed

For the frosting

100g unsalted butter, softened
400g cream cheese frosting
500g icing sugar, sifted

For the filling

80g reserved fresh pineapple reserved, drained really well
1 ripe banana, mashed

To serve

Pecans, lightly toasted



For the cake

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line three 20cm round cake tins.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, oil, and vanilla until well combined. In another bowl, combine the flour, sugar, pecans and cinnamon and stir to combine. Incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and beat well.

In a food processor, blitz the pineapple until crushed, but not yet pureed. Reserve 80g for the filling and put the remainder into the cake mixture, juice and all! Add the banana too and mix until thoroughly combined.

Divide batter into the three cake tins and bake in the oven until a skewer or tooth pick comes out clean when placed in the centre of the cake. Leave to cool a little in the tin and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before assembling.

For the filling

Mash the banana and combine in a bowl with the reserved 80g of crushed pineapple.

For the frosting

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth and there are no lumps. Slowly add the icing sugar until well incorporated.

To assemble

Place one cake on the bottom of a serving plate or board. Spread with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting and distribute half of the filling mixture on top. Repeat with the next cake layer, making sure the cakes are in line with each other. Finish layers with the third cake.

Place a big spoonful of the cream cheese frosting on the top of the cake and with a palate knife, slowly work your way down and around the cake. This is the first layer of frosting (a.k.a. crumb coat), to smooth it all out and pack down the crumbs, so don’t be too pedantic. Once the whole cake is thinly covered, pop the cake in the fridge for about an hour or until the icing has firmed a little.

Finish the cake with the final layer of frosting. Top with lightly toasted pecans.

HUGE THANKS Julia Busuttil of OSTRO for sharing her amazing sweet recipes with us this month, and to Eve Wilson for the gorgeous shots! 

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