Hummingbird cupcakes

A lightened-up version of a classic Southern dessert!

I first learned of hummingbird cake while reading the extraordinary book Call Your Daughter Home by Deb Spera. I was intrigued and immediately started looking for recipes. I was a little startled to discover that the most-popular recipe of this treat – which purportedly traces its roots back to Jamaica where it’s called doctor bird cake (after the local name for the scissor-tailed hummingbird) – contains one and a half cups of oil. I knew there had to be a way to lighten things up, so I tinkered with the recipe to preserve its rich flavour and moist texture without needing all that oil. The good news: it was a big success. I made cupcakes because I love how easy and pretty they are to serve; you could also bake this in round cake pans or even a Bundt pan (baking time will need adjusting and you may wish to double the frosting). If you want to get really fancy, decorate the cupcakes with additional chopped toasted pecans or free to put some toasted coconut in the batter or on top as well.



  • 1 1/2 cups (185 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.4 g) each baking powder and baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.4 g) cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 g) freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.5 g) salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup (130 g) white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) canola oil
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) buttermilk *
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla extract
  • 2 large, ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) crushed pineapple in juice
  • 1/3 cup (60 g) chopped toasted pecans

*make your own by adding 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of lemon juice or vinegar to 2/3 cup (160 mL) of milk which has been brought to room temperature. Stir and let sit 3 minutes.

Cream cheese frosting:

  • 8 ounces (227 g) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups (454 g) powdered sugar


  • Preheat oven to 350F. Line 18 compartments of a muffin pan with paper liners. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl (use a stand mixer if you have one), beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric mixer on high speed for 2 minutes. Add the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, bananas and pineapple. Beat on low until well-blended. Add the flour mixture and the nuts. Mix just until all ingredients no traces of flour are visible – be sure not to overmix.
  • Scoop the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 20 to 22 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.
  • While cupcakes are baking, make the frosting by beating together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla in a large bowl. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Refrigerate until needed.
  • Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool completely before frosting.
  • Cupcakes can be refrigerated, with or without frosting, for up to 3 days and frozen for up to 3 months.

Makes 18 cupcakes.

Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. If you enjoy this space be sure to check out my Rogers TV Ottawa cooking show, Paula Roy's Favourite Foods, available on local cable, streaming and a dedicated playlist on Rogers TV's YouTube channel.

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