Golden hummingbird cake

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Howard Middleton's majestic gluten-free hummingbird cake recipe is topped with a grand crown of pineapple 'flowers' – a colourful clue to the ingredients found within the cake. Packed with tropical fruits and finished with a decadent Malibu-laced frosting, this is a great celebration cake for summer parties.

First published in 2016

The origin of the hummingbird cake is questionable. Some say its name comes from a nectar-like quality – others claim that you can’t eat it without humming with pleasure. It hails from the Deep South of America (picture teatime at Tara) and features a tropical fruit basket of ingredients – coconut, pineapple, banana, pecans and passion fruit. For extra glamour, I add pineapple ‘flowers’.

This particular hummingbird winged through fields of golden corn and came out gluten-free. Add white coconut rum to the frosting and its journey will take you somewhat off course to Malibu – geography has never been my strong point.

If you make the flowers, you can save enough fresh pineapple for the cake. If not, use tinned or chilled chunks. Soft, ripe bananas work best but if yours are too firm just pummel them a little before peeling.




Pineapple flowers

Hummingbird cake

  • 125ml of light olive oil, or sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 125g of caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 75g of nut butter, such as cashew, almond or peanut
  • 75g of pecan nuts, roughly chopped
  • 100g of pineapple, chopped (fresh or tinned)
  • 1 passion fruit
  • 200g of banana, mashes (approximately 3 medium bananas)
  • 100g of maize flour
  • 100g of desiccated coconut
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla paste, or vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon


  • 150g of unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g of icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 lime, or lemon, zested
  • 1 dash of Malibu, or other coconut rum (optional)
  • 280g of full-fat cream cheese


Preheat the oven to 110°C/gas mark ¼ and line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment
To make the pineapple flowers, trim the top and bottom of the pineapple, then stand it on its bottom and trim away the skin
Now you have 2 choices – you can either fillet out the brown ‘eyes’ with a small sharp knife (some suggest a melon baller, but I find this takes away too much flesh) or proceed to the next step and then pick out the brown bits later
Put the pineapple on its side and, using a large sharp knife, slice it as thinly as you can. You’re bound to get some ‘fails’ but these are chef’s treats
If you’ve not already removed the brown bits from the edges, do it now with a sharp knife or apple corer
Now pat the pineapple slices with kitchen roll to remove as much juice as possible
Put the slices on the lined baking sheets and bake for at least 1 hour, turning them over after about 30 minutes. When the slices are dry to the touch and beginning to turn papery, carefully transfer them to a mini muffin tin (or any similar bun tin) to shape them into flowers
Reduce the oven temperature to its lowest setting (if it will go any lower) and keep checking until the pineapple flowers have dried out completely. You can even turn off the oven and leave overnight. Store the flowers in an airtight container until needed
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Grease 2 15cm (6 inch) loose bottom or springform cake tins and line with baking parchment
To make the cake, whisk the oil with the sugar in a large mixing bowl, then add the egg yolks, nut butter, chopped pecans and chopped pineapple
Scoop out the passion fruit seeds and pulp and add this to the mix, along with the mashed banana. Stir in the flour, coconut, baking powder and flavourings and mix well
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff, and then carefully fold them into the cake mixture, so they are incorporated without losing too much air
Divide the mixture between the 2 tins and bake for about 30 minutes, until the cakes have shrunk slightly from the sides of the tins and a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out reasonably clean
Let the cakes cool in the tins for a while, then turn out onto a wire rack
To make the frosting, whisk the softened butter with the icing sugar, lemon or lime zest and a little coconut rum, if using. Add the cream cheese and keep whisking until light and fluffy
To assemble, slice each cake in 2 horizontally and place 1 half on a plate or cake stand. Sandwich the cakes together with 3/4 of the frosting, then top with the rest. Decorate with pineapple flowers before serving
The unfrosted cakes will keep in an airtight container for a day or 2 (though they become a little stickier). The frosted cake needs refrigerating

Howard is a food writer and presenter from Sheffield, who first caught the public’s attention on series four of The Great British Bake Off, going on to win their affection with his quirky style and love of unusual ingredients.

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