Today’s recipe was incredibly hard to photograph. I’m not sure why, but there’s something about a hummingbird sheet cake that just doesn’t come across well on screen. Too much brown and beige I think. It’s basically the cake version of me – as soon as you point a camera at either of us, everything just goes to hell.
On the plus side, it tastes like a tropical paradise. So at least there’s that.
I love making a sheet cake, mainly because it’s easy. Way less fuss to decorate than a layer cake, plus you only need one tin instead of three. Spread some tasty buttercream or cream cheese frosting on top, sprinkle with some goodies, and you’re done. See my chocolate sheet cake for another example of my laziness! Somehow that one photographed a lot better than its exotic cousin though.
If you’ve never made a hummingbird cake before, I like to think of it as a tropical carrot cake. Instead of carrots, you’re going to add crushed pineapple, chopped pecans, mashed bananas, and a glug of coconut oil to the batter. Sounds like heaven, right?
This batter comes together pretty quickly, and you’re not even going to need an electric mixer. Yep, just a couple of decent sized bowls and a wooden spoon should do it. Oh, and a potato masher for those bananas. Can’t forget that.
Speaking of bananas, please make sure they are ripe – the riper the better – as you definitely don’t want to put a hard banana in a cake. If, like me, you struggle to remember to buy bananas ahead of time when baking, I’ve got a tip for you on my chocolate peanut butter banana bread recipe that will save your bacon every time. Head on over there and prepare to be amazed!
When it comes to icing this bad boy, I’ve gone for a classic cream cheese frosting. It worked amazingly well on my carrot cake cupcakes, so why mess with perfection? In the UK we don’t have the same type of block cream cheese that you can get in the States*, so I’ve adapted my frosting recipe to work with soft cream cheeses, like Philadelphia. Some American recipes can leave a Brit with icing sliding off his or her cake, but you won’t have that problem here, promise!
*Before you ask, no I didn’t bring any cream cheese back with me in my US baking haul. For starters, it’s illegal to bring dairy products back to the UK (who knew?), but most importantly, who would want to eat cream cheese that had been in a suitcase for the best part of 12 hours?
I topped my hummingbird sheet cake with some toasted coconut flakes, but you can use chopped pecans or bits of crystallized pineapple too if you like – be as creative as you want!
Even though it’s not the prettiest, don’t let that stop you.
Poor hummingbird. He just wants to be loved.
- 170g (1½ cups) pecans, chopped
- 250g (2 cups) plain or all-purpose flour
- 3⁄4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
- 3 ripe medium bananas, mashed
- 225g (8oz) crushed pineapple, drained
- 2 large eggs
- 80ml (1/3 cup) melted coconut oil
- 150g (3⁄4 cup) light brown sugar
- 100g (½ cup) caster sugar (US granulated sugar)
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 180g (1½ cups) full-fat cream cheese - I used Philadelphia
- 25g (13⁄4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 500g (4 cups) icing sugar (powdered sugar)
- 100g (1¼ cups) sweetened coconut flakes
- Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F (160°C fan). Place the roughly chopped pecans onto a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5 minutes, being careful not to burn them. If you want to top the cake with toasted coconut, you can also toast this now by placing it on a separate baking sheet and toasting for up to 5 minutes - it may be ready before this, so please keep an eye on it! Once the pecans and coconut have been toasted, leave to cool on wire racks for use later.
- Grease and line a 9x13 inch cake tin, and set aside for later. Place the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl, and whisk together until nicely mixed. In a separate bowl place the mashed bananas, drained pineapple, eggs, coconut oil, both types of sugar, and the vanilla extract. Mix together until completely incorporated - this can be done by hand, you don't need an electric mixer for this recipe.
- Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, along with the toasted chopped pecans, and fold together gently until just combined. Make sure there are no lumps of flour hiding in there though! Once happy, pour into the prepared cake tin and level out, making sure the batter has gone all the way into the corners. Pop in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack.
- Place the cream cheese and butter into the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large bowl) and beat well until smooth and creamy, and there are no lumps of butter left visible. Add the vanilla extract and half the icing sugar, and beat well on high. Add the remaining half of the icing sugar and beat again, scraping down the edges if needed. Spread the frosting over the completely cooled cake, and sprinkle with the toasted coconut flakes.
- The cake will stay fresh for 3-4 days if stored in an airtight container. There is no need to refrigerate, unless it is a very hot day (as the frosting may melt). The unfrosted cake can be frozen for 2-3 months, and then defrosted at room temperature - overnight works best. The cream cheese frosting can also be frozen for 2-3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge and use straight away.