Bananas, pineapple, and pecans come together in this easy one-bowl Vegan Hummingbird Cake! It’s a moist and warmly spiced dessert that’s bursting with bright, tropical flavors.
This Vegan Hummingbird Cake has become one of my favorite desserts ever! Every bite has beautiful layers of fruity, nutty, warm, and sweet flavors while the cream cheese frosting on top perfectly complements the wide range of complexities. If you love carrot cake, then you may just love hummingbird cake even more.
Four key ingredients set this popular Southern cake apart from carrot cake and other spice cakes. They are:
- Warm spices, like nutmeg and cinnamon
- Toasted pecans
- Pineapple chunks and their juices
- Ripe bananas
Altogether, they infuse this cake with gorgeous tropical flavors that beautifully contrast the warming spices. Plus, with its moist and fluffy crumb, you’ll have a hard time stopping after only one slice!
Why is it called hummingbird cake?
The original recipe for hummingbird cake comes from Jamaica, where it’s known as the Doctor Bird Cake. It gets this name from its national bird, the swallow tail hummingbird.
Eventually, the recipe became popular throughout the Southern United States, where it was re-named “hummingbird cake”. Some say the name comes from the sweet flavors attracting hummingbirds or that it’s so good, you’ll want to hover around the cake until you get a slice (just like a hummingbird). The true reason, however, is up for debate.
How to make vegan hummingbird cake
Find the complete recipe with measurements in the recipe card below.
Start by whisking the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl.
Next, add the oil, crushed pineapple, mashed bananas, almond milk, vanilla, and pecans to the same bowl as the dry mix. Mix until just combined and no dry flour streaks remain.
Pour the cake batter into two prepared cake pans. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Set them aside to cool while you make the icing.
Once the cake layers are completely cool, add some frosting in between each layer before frosting the sides and tops. Sprinkle more pecans on the outside for decoration, then slice and enjoy!
Chopped pecans are a must-have hummingbird cake decoration, although you can also add toasted coconut, dried fruit, or other types of crushed nuts on top.
Vegan hummingbird cupcakes
You can use this recipe to make cupcakes by making the batter as normal, then pouring it into a lined muffin tin until each cup is ¾ full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Tips for success
- Always use toasted pecans! They’re 10 times as flavorful as raw pecans and will give your cake an added layer of warmth. Either buy pre-toasted pecans or toast them yourself in a dry skillet over medium-low heat.
- Overmixing the cake batter will lead to a dense cake. I like to combine the wet and dry ingredients by hand (with a wooden spoon) to avoid overmixing.
- You’ll know the cakes are ready to come out of the oven when the tops are set, the edges are turning golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (some crumbs stuck to the toothpick are ok).
- If you’re short on time, place the baked cake layers in the fridge to help them cool down faster. Only do this after they were left to cool in the pans for 15 minutes.
- This recipe makes enough batter for a two-layer cake. If you want to make a four-layer cake like in the photos, slice each cake layer in half lengthwise with a serrated knife.
Frequently asked questions
You can make a nut free hummingbird cake by omitting the pecans and using soy milk or oat milk instead of almond milk. Alternatively, replace the nuts with sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. The flavor will be slightly different but the crunch will still be there.
I haven’t tried making a vegan gluten free hummingbird cake, but a good quality gluten free flour mix, like Better Batter, may work in place of the all purpose flour.
Old-fashioned hummingbird cake recipes, like the original printed in the 1978 copy of Southern Living, were made with a generous amount of vegetable oil to achieve a decadent and moist crumb. While there isn’t as much oil in my version, it’s still crucial and should not be replaced. Even melted vegan butter shouldn’t be used as a substitute because it doesn’t provide the same amount of moisture.
The cake layers will stay moist and fresh for up to 1 week ahead of serving. Wrap them in a layer of plastic and keep them in the fridge, or in the freezer for longer.
Vegan buttercream or cream cheese frosting can also be made 2 to 3 days in advance. Keep it in an airtight container in the fridge until it’s time to decorate the cake.
Want more incredible vegan cake recipes?
Vegan Hummingbird Cake
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, with juice
- 2 cups mashed overripe bananas 4-5 bananas
- 3/4 cup almond milk
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped toasted pecans plus more for topping
- 1 Recipe Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and prepare 2 8-inch round pans by lining them with a circle of parchment paper on the bottom and spray well with non-stick spray.
- In a large bowl, add the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk well.
- To the dry ingredients, add the oil, crushed pineapple, mashed bananas, almond milk, vanilla and pecans. Mix until just combined, but do not over mix. It's helpful to mix by hand so you don't accidentally over mix the batter and cause the cake to be dense.
- Divide the cake batter into the prepared pans and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the tops of the cakes are set.
- Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then carefully remove them and let them cool on a cooling rack until completely cool. Please do not try to frost this cake when it's still warm at all, it will slip and break.
- For a four layered cake like my photos, slice each cake into two layers using a large serrated knife (or simply leave as two layers).
- Add frosting between each layer, then frost the outside and top of the cake as well. Sprinkle additional chopped or halved pecans for decoration, if desired. Serve and enjoy!
Store leftover cake in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or freeze for longer.
May omit the nuts if needed, or use sunflower seeds instead.
May use any plant milk instead of almond, such as soy or oat.
I haven’t tried this cake gluten free, but a good quality gluten free mix may work pretty well. I like Better Batter brand.