Birthday Cake Club: Hummingbird Torte
A single layer cake packed with pineapple, banana, and cream cheese icing.
A few years ago, I ate one of the best carrot-cheesecake hybrid desserts of my life. It was the first time taking the kids to Hawaii to meet my family and we made a mandatory stop at Ted’s Bakery near Sunset Beach. We ordered teri burgers for lunch and slices of pie to go. It was the Pineapple Macadamia Nut Cheesecake that stuck with me.
As I stuffed forkfuls of the spice cake layered with a cheesecake filling and crushed pineapple, I had three thoughts running through my mind. One - this reminds me of Hummingbird Cake. Two - how did they get that cheesecake layer in the middle? And three - I’ve got to try and make this at home!
Several years later, I am excited to share with you this Hummingbird Torte with spiced pineapple and loads of cream cheese frosting.
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This single-layer spice cake is thickly frosted in enough cream cheese to hold the pineapple topping in place. The issue with layering cakes with cream cheese icing is that you have to add loads of confectioners’ sugar to thicken the frosting enough to stack and not fall apart.
What I like about a single or short two-layer cake is that you don’t have to worry as much about structural integrity. You can get away with using less confectioners' sugar, yielding a tangier, cheesecake-like flavor.
I also spice up the pineapple with cinnamon and vanilla bean. A ripe pineapple is hard to beat, but anything less will need a boost in flavor. I poached fresh pineapple in a simple syrup made with brown sugar and a vanilla bean pod - seeds scraped and added to the pot as well.
Dice the pineapple before adding to the top of the cake to make it easier to slice and serve.
Why is it Called a Hummingbird Cake?
Hummingbird cake was first developed in the late 1960’s by the Jamaican Tourist Board. Utilizing the fruits of the island, this banana and pineapple laden cake was made as part of a press package to attract visitors. News of the recipe traveled to the southern United States before its popularity spread across America and landed itself in print in Southern Living magazine.
The cake’s namesake is the national bird of Jamaica. Some say it is named after the hummingbird due to its sweetness (how nectar attracts the bird), but it is more commonly linked to the scissors-tailed hummingbird, or Dr. Bird.
Ripe bananas and crushed pineapple (fresh or canned) are responsible for making this extremely moist spice cake. Think of it as carrot cake’s tropical sister. The dense cake stands up to a thick slab of cream cheese icing the way other lighter or sponge cakes can’t. But don’t mistake dense for being dry - it is anything but!
Variations for the hummingbird cake have made their rounds since its inception, the first layered version appearing in print in 1978. You could certainly turn this recipe into a layer cake, but I love cutting thick slices of this single-layer cake that doubles as a celebration cake or snack cake. The puffy border and pecan encrusted sides give retro diner vibes that are fancy enough for a dinner party but won’t make you think twice serving as an afternoon snack.
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Let’s get to the recipe…
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