Sara Foster’s Hummingbird Cake and a Cookbook Giveaway!

Christmas came early this year!!

Like many of my fellow food bloggers, recipe contesters, and passionate cooks, I have a cookbook collection that rivals any culinary section in a mid-sized bookstore. What once consisted of a few dozen titles, which were organized neatly in a designated kitchen space, now numbers well into the triple digits and takes up residency on just about every available bookshelf in the house.

I’ll be the first to admit it:  It’s an addiction.

Titles range from the very broad, such as Vegetables or Baking in America, to very specific, as in Just Add Rum! A Caribbean Cookbook. I have some older classics, like a beat up Joy of Cooking from 1964, along with some older not-so-classics, such a The Sesame Street Cookbook.

Hey, don’t judge. The Sesame Street Cookbook was my first cookbook, and I refuse to get rid of it. Sure, recipes such as “Snuffle Loaf in a Spaghetti Nest” and “Oscars Junk Food Pie” might not be James Beard-worthy, but they are a part of my culinary foundation (don’t quote me on that.)

While I would love to say that I am very familiar with the contents of each and every cookbook in my collection, that’s far from the truth. The ritual goes like this: Julie gets new cookbook. Julie reads new cookbook in bed. Cookbook eventually finds its way from nightstand to an available spot on aforementioned bookshelves, rarely to be opened again except for a quick reference or inspiration.

There are really only a handful of titles to which I refer on a regular enough basis so that their spines have become creased and their pages dusted with flour. These are the prestigious members of the “kitchen counter clique” and the “living room built-in-shelves club”, the most visible and easiest to access of all my cookbook storage areas. A very few authors are grandfathered access into these areas, meaning any of their future publications will instantly earn a coveted space (therefore knocking out another title.) Number one on this list of authors is Sara Foster.

I’ve mentioned several times in past posts that Sara Foster has been a huge inspiration in my cooking. For those of you who may not know, she is the owner of Foster’s Market in Durham/Chapel Hill, North Carolina, places that I used to stalk frequent during graduate school when I wanted good food in a welcoming environment. She is also the author of four fantastic cookbooks, all of which are front and center on my kitchen counter. Sara has been described as the “quintessential Southern cook”, and I love her recipes for their modern twist on the traditional, their seasonality, and their approachability (no foam in these books!)

Sara has become a friend of mine, and she was nice enough to send me a copy of her newest book Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen, when it was recently published. Little did she know that, as her biggest fan, I had pre-ordered the book from Amazon weeks before. I told her that I think this is her best book yet, so the creases and flour-dustings are just a matter of time.


So that left me with two books. Hmmm….. What to do, what to do……..

A giveaway you say? Great idea. So yes, just leave a comment and you will be entered in a drawing. Tell me what you favorite classic Southern dish is. Banana pudding? Shrimp and grits? Or maybe it’s Hummingbird Cake.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t know what Hummingbird Cake was before I flipped through Sara’s book. Sure, I’d heard of it. I’d also heard of Lane Cake, but I’d never seen one. The two were interchangeable as far as I was concerned. So, I decided to school myself via Sara’s recipe, which was adapted from Southern Living’s all-time most requested recipe. The sweet cake, studded with banana, pineapple, and pecans, apparently gets its name from the sugary nectar upon which hummingbirds lunch.  As for Lane Cake?  Still no clue.

Here are my extra tips for preparing this sweet southern treat:

  • I prepared the cake using three 8-inch cake pans, so I had a little bit of extra batter to play around with. I decide to make a mini version of the cake (below), but you could also easily make cupcakes or mini cupcakes.
  • I don’t like to mash bananas by hand. I find it to be time consuming, messy, and often inconsistent. Instead, I prefer to puree ripe bananas using my food processor. If you like a few banana “chunks” in your cake, you can also pulse the food processor.
  • If you don’t want to use the bourbon in the frosting, feel free to use more vanilla extract.
  • I’ve mentioned that I am not a fan of cream cheese, which is a bummer since I’m sure that cream cheese frosting is the perfect match for this cake. I prepared this recipe using all butter, which worked out fine.




Hummingbird Cake

Printable Recipe

Makes one 8 or 9-inch 3 layer cake


For the Cake

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup canola or other vegetable oil

3 large eggs, beaten

2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 4)

One 8-ounce can cushed pineapple with juice

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans

For the Frosting

1 pound cream cheese, softened

1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened

6 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 tablespoon bourbon

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted

Prepare the cake: Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Lightly grease and flour three 8 or 9-inch cake pans. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and nutmeg in a large bowl and stir to mix. In a separate bowl, whisk together the canola oil and eggs until combined. Add the bananas and crushed pineapple with juice and stir to mix.

Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon or spatula just to combine. Stir in the vanilla and the pecans.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake on the center rack of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool in the pans for about 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the edges of the pans before turning the cakes out onto baking racks to cool completely before frosting.

Prepare the frosting: Cream the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until all is incorporated. Beat in the bourbon and vanilla to combine.

Assemble: Once the cakes have cooled completely, use a long serrated knife to slice off the rounded top portion of each cake to make a flat, even surface. Discard the trimmings. Place one layer, cut side down, on a large plate or cake stand. Spread evenly with about one third of the frosting and sprinkle with about one third of the pecans. Repeat with the remaining layers.

If not serving within 2 hours, store in the refrigerator, then remove the cake about 1 hour before serving and let come to room temperature.


  1. says

    I would love to add this cookbook to my collection. My favorite Southern recipe in the summeris an ice cold potato salad. Southern style, of course.

  2. says

    I love Shrimp Remoulade!!! And so does my Mom…….and we love crawfish etoufee and chicken fried steak, and fried green tomatoes and the list goes on …and on….and on….

  3. Judi says

    I just returned to Oregon from my first ever visit to New Orleans, where I think I sampled every dish in every restaurant! My favorite was the Shrimp and Creamy Grits at Mr. B’s! Mmmmm – so good, we went back a second night!

    This cake sounds divine – if I don’t “win” the cookbook, I’ll probably order it even though I, like you, read and collect cookbooks like novels. My collection is probably in the ~250ish range + magazines (wouldn’t ever want to throw them out!) + a file-drawer full of recipes …….not to mention the ones I’ve saved on my computer! I love recipes – and cookbooks are even better! Wish I had more time to cook! :-)

  4. Cindy B. says

    If I have to choose one Southern dessert I love, It would be the well-known, Classic Pound Cake. It can be dressed-up with fruits, sauces, creams, made into a trifle or served plain. No matter how you eat it, it’s always delicious.

  5. Becky K says

    This cookbook would be a great addition to my collection! Looks FABULOUS! I also love cooking and love cookbooks!! I love anything and everything with cheese!! Pimento cheese, cheese grits, cheese everything!! And lucky for me in Georgia, so does everyone else!!

  6. janetwmarks says

    I am lucky enough to be close to both foster markets but don’t yet own one of sara’s books. how can that be?! hope I can add this one to my collection. favorite southern food? fried green tomatoes and banana pudding. the sad part is I just developed an allergy to bananas. boo hoo!!

  7. Jean says

    I cannot wait to try this. I grew up in the south but have never actually eaten this cake! Looks fabulous!

  8. Lesley says

    I’d have to say Red Velvet cake is my favorite Southern dish, but I haven’t tried the Hummingbird cake yet!

  9. LA says

    I like my southern recipes with a bit of heat — jambalaya is a favourite.
    Stumbled on to your site a few weeks ago and am enjoying your recipes.

  10. Kim Kenty says

    My grandmother’s neighbor used to make these as gifts every Christmas! Sooooo Good!! Brings back wonderful memories! THANKS!!

    My favorite Southern dishes are fried chicken and fried green tomatoes.

  11. Linda Williams says

    Who wrote the Sesame Street Cookbook? I would like to try to find a copy. Sounds great!

    This cake also is on my to-make list. Thanks for the posting.

    I need to get Sara Foster’s book. Thanks for the posting.

  12. Sarah walker says

    That look great! My family is from Kentucky so its nice to know what my aunt is talking about!

  13. Meghann says

    I recently moved to Raleigh, so I’m only a hop,skip and a jump from Sarah’s place. I can’t wait to make it over there. So far, my favorite dish here is fried Green Tomatos. Yum-o.
    PS. Love your postings :)

  14. Kitty says

    You’re cooking is inspiring as well as your blog! I’m surprised to say, I do love bourbon bread pudding!

  15. Norita Solt says

    I was already thinking Hummingbird Cake when I read your question. Then I saw the recipe!! Also Ham Hocks, Beans & Cornbread or REAL Southern Grits: not those namby-pamby kind from a box.

  16. says

    Hi Linda!
    My Sesame Street Cookbook is copyright 1978, so I dont know if it is still available, but it was written by Pat Tornberg.  Im sure that they at least have an updated version out there.  Hope you find it!


  17. Susan C. says

    My mother’s favorite cake has, for as long as I can remember, been hummingbird cake. I make it for her now that I’m a “grown-up” (HA!). She gave me a copy of the Southern Living version that I still use today. I’m certain she has a copy of the originally published recipe torn out from an old Southern Living magazine. She always loved receiving that magazine after we moved “to the south”. When we lived in California, where she grew up, I remember her flipping through copies of Sunset magazine (the west coast version of Southern Living for those who have never heard of it). I think this is the longest comment I have ever posted on a blog! Your question brought back memories…. My favorite “southern dish” — Shrimp and Grits and Key Lime Pie. YUM!!

  18. says

    Hi Janet!
    Oh no!  An allergy to bananas?  Hmmmm….  maybe Ill need to come up with a new variation on the classic banana pudding.  My wheels are turning…..
    Saras books are all wonderful, and I am so envious of your proximity to the markets.  I used to eat their Thai Chicken Wrap at least twice a week!

  19. Lizzie Bennett says

    My favorite Southern favorite besides pimento cheese has to be fried green tomatoes. P.S., I am a cookbook addict too!

  20. Trudy says

    My favorite southern dish has to be a sweet potato casserole with apple pie filling and streusel topping

  21. says

    Thanks, Debbie!  Mmmmm….. Chicken and biscuits is a good one!  When I lived in N.C., there was a chain called Biscuitville, which I always thought was kind of funny, but I also completely understood the draw!

  22. KellyY says

    I have heard about this hummingbird cake recipe but have been hesitant on making it. However, when I saw the finished product on your site, I knew I had to make it. The cake looked beautiful. I want to make cupcakes from the recipe and attempt to make them look so beautiful that everyone will have to try them. I then went through your site for a few additional cupcake recipes. I subscribed to your email after I had taken a look around. I can’t miss what is next on your plate. Thank you for sharing all of these great recipes!

  23. says

    Kelly!  Thank you so much for such a  kind and thoughtful comment!  You really made my day :)  So glad that you found and are enjoying my blog.

  24. says

    I’m the same way about cookbooks, and need a whole new bookshelf just for them, sigh.

    My favorite Southern dish, hmm, that’s tough but I think I have to go with fried chicken!

  25. Blythe Chapman says

    I was helping a friend look for a fire truck cake and stumbled across your blog! I have so enjoyed reading your posts and can not wait to get back home to try some new things.

  26. Jenifer says

    Southern bbq!

    Southern is the best,
    god for my tummy
    wins over the west!
    My tongue says yummy!

    Corn ballish 😉 I know!

    How about some Chicken and waffles?

  27. Terri Williams-Pressley says

    Hi Julie,

    I am a southern girl because I believe southern food has a certain level of comfort attached to them. I love hummingbird cake, and my recipe is modified by the addition of 1/4 tsp of ground ginger. I think it is a perfect compliment to the pineapple and bananas. My favorite southern recipes to cook are shrimp and grits, jambalya, and file gumbo. My maternal grandmother is Haitian and so I have a special relationship with the creole and french influences alive and well in Louisiana. BTW, would love to win the cook book. It would be a welcome edition to a collection that is eclectic and well used.

  28. Ally's Oma says

    Love ANYTHING sweet! I love your blog title too…found out I’m allergic to so many things, but peanut butter has become my best friend!

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