How to Make Hummingbird Bread

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What is hummingbird bread – and is it made of hummingbirds?

Gladly, the answer to that is no! However, in the same way hummingbirds enjoy sweet, colorful nectar, this bread provides a fruity, nature-friendly, and colorful taste to your snack or meal line-up.

banana pineapple bread

As a perk, it’s highly customizable to your unique tastes; so if you feel like banana pineapple bread with sweet, tart dough and a fluffy cream cheese topping – hummingbird bread has you covered!

While it looks fancy, with its frosting and fruits and nuts, hummingbird bread is a kind of recipe that’s easier than it looks.

How do you make it, where did the recipe come from, and how can you personalize the flavor? Let’s dive into all that and more.

History and Origins

The origins of hummingbird bread aren’t well-known. What’s certain is its popularity in the South of the United States, and its delectable flavor.

Who do we credit for this tasty treat?

Jamaican Theory

The first popular theory states that hummingbird bread didn’t originate in the United States at all – but rather in Jamaica.

This would explain the name for the bread, as hummingbirds are the Jamaican national bird. An alternative name for the treat, Doctor Bird, can first be credited to the Jamaican Daily Gleaner in March of 1969, where the recipe is described as cake, rather than bread.

This predates the first publication of hummingbird ‘cake’ in the United States: Southern Living Magazine published Mrs. L.H. Wiggin’s Hummingbird Cake Recipe in February 1978.

Wikipedia states that the recipe came to the United States by way of media press kits.

In an effort to entice consumers to visit the island, the press kit included a ‘Jamaican menu modified for American kitchens, and featured recipes like the doctor bird cake,’ as reported in Jamaica’s Kingston Daily Gleaner on March 29, 1979.

Southern Roots

On the other hand, there are theories of the bread-cake hybrid simply originating in the southern United States.

hummingbird bread

The ingredients used in the bread can be likened to many of the classic Southern dessert recipes, which give credence to this theory. As for the name, this could be a result of its sweetness – sweet enough for hummingbirds to eat!

No matter the origin, the hummingbird cake proved to be a fan favorite. In its publication in Southern Living Magazine, the banana pineapple cake recipe was elected as a favorite recipe in 1990, winning various awards, and it’s considered to be the most requested recipe in the magazine’s history.

Even in recent years, people flock to a serving of hummingbird cake or bread – much like hummingbirds crowding around a particularly juicy flower.

How to Make Hummingbird Bread

Here is the classic hummingbird bread recipe, based on the traditional hummingbird cake.

Classic Hummingbird Bread Recipe

Hummingbird cake is traditionally made with three layers of banana spice cake, topped with cream cheese.

If you don’t want to go through the hassle of separating layers, you can do so without changing the flavor of the cake, like this recipe does.

This recipe will yield two loaves, making it easy to store excess for later cravings!

Ingredients

For the Bread:

  • 2 ½ cups of flour.
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda.
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
  • 1 teaspoon of salt.
  • ¾ cup of white sugar.
  • ¼ cups of brown sugar.
  • ½ cup of unsalted sweet cream butter.
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.
  • 2 large eggs.
  • One 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple.
  • 1 cup of sweetened shredded coconut.
  • 1/3 cup of chopped pecans.
  • 1 1/2 cups of mashed bananas.
hummingbird bread

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For the Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup of unsalted sweet cream butter, softened.
  • One 8-ounce of cream cheese, softened.
  • 1 cup of powder sugar.
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
  • 3/4 cup of chopped pecans.

Instructions

For the Bread:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and grease both loaf pans.
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk until combined.
  3. Cream the butter and sugars in a standing mixer. Mix until creamy and fluffy.
  4. Mix in the eggs and vanilla.
  5. Adding a bit at a time, incorporate the dry ingredients into the mixture. Make sure the dry ingredients are fully mixed in before adding more.
  6. Add in pineapple, coconut, and pecans into the mix.
  7. Add the mashed bananas.
  8. With all the fruits and nuts incorporated, pour the batter into loaf pans. Bake for 25 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Let cool.

For the frosting

  1. Combine all ingredients, except the pecans, in a standing mixer. Mix until smooth and fluffy.
  2. Ensuring that your loaf has fully cooled, scoop the mixture onto the loaf using a rubber spatula.
  3. Sprinkle the chopped pecans on top.

Here’s a video showing an example of classic hummingbird bread.

Healthier HMB (Hummingbird Bread) Recipe

A massive advantage to hummingbird bread is its health-wise quality; it’s arguably healthier than any normal cake! Because most of its sweetness and flavor comes from fruits, the sugars contained within are the pure, naturalistic variety.

However, for those who want a lighter version, Flavor the Moments has the perfect pineapple banana bread recipe for you.

This recipe uses whole wheat flour, but compensates for moisture using the classic HMB fruits, as well as Greek yogurt. It still uses a cream cheese topping, but with vanilla bean paste.

Ingredients

For the Bread:

  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour.
  • 1 cup of whole wheat flour.
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder.
  • ¼ teaspoon of baking soda.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  • 3/4 cup of light brown sugar.
  • 1/3 cup of canola oil.
  • 2 large eggs.
  • 1 cup of mashed bananas.
  • 3/4 cup of plain 2% Greek yogurt.
  • 1/4 cup of skim milk.
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.
  • One 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple, drained.
  • ½ cup of sweetened shredded coconut.

For the Glaze:

  • 4 ounces of cream cheese, softened.
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar, sifted.
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste.
  • 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons of nonfat milk.
  • ½ cup of chopped pecans.
hummingbird bread

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Instructions

For the Bread:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a standard loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, oil, and eggs. Mix until well combined.
  4. In this large bowl, whisk in bananas, yogurt, milk, and vanilla until incorporated.
  5. In that same large bowl, fold in crushed pineapple and coconut.
  6. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Make sure to stir until completely incorporated before adding more.
  7. Pour the batter onto the pan, spread evenly.
  8. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Let cool.

For the Frosting:

  1. In a medium bowl, add the cream cheese and powdered sugar. Using a handheld mixer, beat the ingredients on low speed until they’re incorporated. Then, beat using medium-high speed until smooth.
  2. Add vanilla bean paste and about 1 ½ teaspoons of milk. Beat until combined. The rest of the milk can be added if you want the glaze to be more watery and easier to pour.
  3. After ensuring the loaf is entirely cool, spread the glaze on top. To have an even spread, start from one end of the bread, in the middle of the loaf.
  4. Sprinkle with pecans. You can also sprinkle with shredded coconut, if desired.

Vegan Hummingbird Bread Recipe

For a vegan alternative, this hummingbird recipe comes from The Baking Fair.

It still uses the classic HMB fruits, like banana and pineapples, as well as pecans. This vegan pineapple cake recipe is also done in one bowl, making clean-up as easy as pie.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium ripe bananas.
  • ¼ cup of vegetable oil.
  • One 20-ounce can pineapple in 100% juice.
  • ¼ cup of pineapple juice (from the can).
  • ½ cup of light brown sugar.
  • 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract.
  • 2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour.
  • ½ cup of pecan pieces.
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda.
  • ½ teaspoon of salt.
  • Pecans, for decoration.hummingbird bread

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Prepare a 9×5 loaf pan by coating it with nonstick spray and dusting with flour.
  3. Mash the bananas in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Add brown sugar, oil, vanilla, and pineapple juice. Whisk ingredients until fully incorporated.
  5. Set aside pineapple rings (at least three) for toppings. Chop remaining pineapple rings into small pieces. Stir into the batter.
  6. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon into the mixture. Mix using a wooden spoon.
  7. Fold in pecan pieces.
  8. Bake for about 45 minutes. Then, cover with foil and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting Alternatives

The fun thing with hummingbird cake is that you can customize its frosting depending on your pallet.

The classic cream cheese frosting is an excellent go-to for a traditional hummingbird cake taste, but you can always tweak the topping with a few clever substitutions.

Lighter Cream Cheese Substitute

While HMB cake is rather nutritious, thanks to all the fruits and nuts, its topping isn’t exactly the healthiest.

To ensure that your HMB is great for your body, as well as your taste buds, here are a few substitutes for a lighter version of the classic cream cheese topping:

To substitute cream cheese, Allrecipes recommends either using 1 cup pureed cottage cheese or 1 cup plain yogurt, strained overnight.

Both options will keep the same texture of cream cheese, with significantly less fat. With the right flavoring, it can be hard to distinguish this alternative from the usual variety.

Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Substitute

When going for a vegan version of HMB, you can always top your bread without cream cheese, and just add pecans and shredded coconut.

However, if you want that added bit of moisture and flavor, there are dairy-free cream cheese substitutes that you can easily find on the market.

One great example is a tofu spread. You can also create your own with this recipe from Go Dairy Free.

hummingbird bread

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Hummingbird Bread Twists

HMB is a fun bread to serve during every occasion. It’s both simple and sophisticated, perfect for a summer brunch as well as a fancy dinner dessert.

But sometimes, you may just get tired of the same taste. Why not add a fun twist to the classic HMB recipe?

HMB Muffins

Here is the muffin version of hummingbird bread, which uses whole grain wheat, as well as the usual HMB fruits.

This makes it the perfect snack in the middle of a workday, or for a packed lunch for your kiddos.

HMB Pancakes

If muffins still won’t do it for you, why not transform your HMB into pancakes? In this recipe by Southern Living, the magazine that may have launched hummingbird bread into its fan-favorite status, the treat becomes a breakfast staple.

The classic layers in the HMB cake are mimicked by the layers of fluffy pancakes. Each layer sandwiches the classic cream cheese frosting. And, of course, the stack is topped with a dollop of cream cheese, pineapples, pecans, and bananas.

This version is packed with all the flavor and nutritional value of its traditional cake and bread incarnations. So, if you’re looking to spice up breakfasts instead of dinner or lunch, this recipe has you covered.

Here’s a recipe for hummingbird bread cupcakes.

Your New Favorite Recipe

While it’s not as popular outside of the Southern U.S., it’s easy to get people to love hummingbird bread. It’s tart, sweet, and healthy, which makes it a favorite for both kids and adults alike.

You’re sure to get questions on just what this hummingbird bread is, and maybe get a few new hummingbird bread converts!

Indeed, hummingbird cake is a go-to recipe for many Southern bakers, and for good reason. With a few fruits, some pecans, and a bit of love, you can serve a dish that people will be quick to gobble up.


Have you tried or tried making hummingbird bread?

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