Jamie Oliver's Hummingbird Cake

I'm back from a week off in Italy and couldn't wait to get back in my kitchen. It was pouring down rain, the children were behaving--for the most part--so I decided to tackle Jamie Oliver's Hummingbird Cake. It is featured in his new cookbook, 'Comfort Food'. I had never heard of hummingbird cake before, but from what I've read, it's popular in the southern U.S. Jamie adds his own spin with a crunchy brittle on top. There is nothing technically challenging (unless your bad a making candy like me) about this recipe, and comes together in three parts--the cake, the frosting, and the topping.

The cake, or "sponge" in the U.K., is so moist and oozing with the flavor of banana and bits of pineapple. Crunchy pecans round it all out. The cream cheese frosting is heavenly, scented with lime zest. On top, crunchy brittle and edible flowers are suggested for decoration. There is no way I was finding edible flowers in this country, at this time of the year, so tacky birthday cake flowers it was. It took me six tries and half a kilo of sugar to get the brittle right. Turns out I was doing it correctly all along, I simply wasn't patient enough. The brittle alone is bitter. But, when it sinks into the cake on your fork, the flavor is lost in all the other goodness, and you're left with a candy crunch--a pleasant surprise. If you don't want to deal with brittle, then simply top the cake with chopped pecans. Serve the cake with a cup of hot tea or coffee for a most delicious dessert!

If the measurements seem odd below, that's because the original measurements are in metric. I did my best to weigh and measure with standard tools used in the US. Both will be listed below.

Jamie Oliver's Hummingbird Cake

Serves 8 (depends on how big you cut the slices)


For the cake:

  • 1 cup (240 mL) olive oil, plus more for greasing
  • 2 1/2 cups + 2 Tablespoons (350 g) self rising flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 cups fine (caster) sugar
  • 4 medium, very ripe bananas
  • 16 ounces (450 g) canned pineapple, drained and diced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) pecans

For the icing:

  • 3 cups (400 g) powdered sugar
  • 11 Tablespoons (150 g) unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 7 ounces (200 g) cream cheese
  • 2 limes

For the brittle:

  • 1/2 cup (100 g) fine (caster) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) pecans


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease two 9-inch (23 cm) cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Sift the flour and cinnamon into a mixing bowl, then add the sugar and a large pinch of sea salt (or table salt). Combine it all together and set aside.

Peel and mash the bananas in another mixing bowl. Add the pineapple (drained and diced), oil, eggs, and vanilla. Mix until combined thoroughly. Fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture until smooth. Finely chop the pecans and fold them into the batter.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the cakes are golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Run a knife around the edges and allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing them to finish cooling on wire racks.

While the cakes are baking, sift the powdered sugar into a mixing bowl and add the butter. Beat until pale and creamy. Add the cream cheese, the zest of one lime, and the juice of half the lime. Beat until well combined, but don't over do it. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the brittle, place the caster sugar in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add just enough water to begin dissolving the sugar (sludgy consistency). Leave the sugar alone,over medium heat, don't touch it. If your sugar looks like dried up white grit, have no fear. I used a whisk to break it up, without stirring--it's doing it's thing underneath! Bump up the heat if needed. Once the sugar turns lightly golden, add a pinch of salt and the pecans. Swirl the pan so the pecans are coated. Once nicely golden (it will go fast!), pour the mixture out onto a greased parchment paper (use extreme caution, the sugar will burn you!). Allow the brittle to cool, then smash it up as fine as possible (I used then end of a wooden rolling pin and a metal pan).

To put the cake all together, place one cake on a serving plate or cake stand. Spread half the icing over the layer. Top with the other cake and spread over the rest of the icing (doesn't need to look perfect!). Grate over the zest of the other lime, the brittle (don't need to use all of it), and edible flowers (or other decorations). Serve with a cup of hot tea or coffee!

Slightly adapted from jamileoliver.com/comfortfood

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