Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Spiced Carrot Hummingbird Cake with Labneh Icing

This is my take on the traditional Hummingbird cake, the main difference being that I have used grated carrot instead of mashed banana. For a start, the Hummingbird cake is made with oil rather than butter, and should contain more fruit than flour. The mixture doesn't need to be beaten just stirred, generally contains spices and nuts, and is delicious with a cream cheese icing. However I have chosen and love Labneh icing for a healthy and delicious alternative. It is my favourite icing at the moment. So dear reader, I hope I haven't committed a huge food mistake by calling this a Hummingbird cake, as I thought just a Spiced Carrot cake didn't do it justice at all. It is a cinch to make and moist and delicious. Living in a hot, humid climate can present challenges with storing softly iced cakes. This one keeps beautifully in the refrigerator in a covered container, and can be baked the day before serving if necessary. If using the Labneh icing, though, and I suggest you do, that will need to be prepared a day before the cake is to be eaten.

 I love a recipe with a good story, so here goes. The Hummingbird's origin is thought to be Jamaica in the late 1960's, hence the bananas and pineapple, and was originally called the "Doctor Bird Cake", which was a nickname for the Jamaican indigenous hummingbird called the Red-billed Streamertail. Not only does this bird have a long beak that probes into flowers, "like a doctor inspecting a patient", but some food historians also said the cake was named after the bird because it was sweet enough to attract hummingbirds, although most cakes probably are.

A Red-billed Streamertail, the national bird of Jamaica
 Back in the 1970's, there are countless references to the cake being judged in baking competitions across Southern America. I read that this cake has stood the test of time, and is still very popular in the United States.  I would love to hear from any American readers if this is still the case.I know it is still a very popular cake here in Australia, as we also love pineapples and bananas and nuts.


500g Greek yoghurt
1/2 cup (60g) pure icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups (300g) plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp each mixed spice and ground ginger
440g can crushed pineapple, drained
3 eggs at room temperature
3 peeled carrots, finely grated
1 1/2 cups (330g) caster sugar
1 1/2 cups (375ml) sunflower oil
1/2 cup (90g) chopped pistachios, and extra to serve
1/2 cup (110g) sultanas


As  part of the preparation for baking the cake, I would do the following things before mixing any ingredients:-

1. Strain the juice from the can of pineapple through a fine colander into a bowl, and leave it until ready to mix the ingredients.
2. Grate the carrot in your food processor, and leave it in a bowl until ready.
3. Chop the pistachios in your food processor, and leave them in a bowl until ready to mix in the ingredients. By using the food processor, but not for long, you will have a nice mix of roughly and finely chopped pistachios. Grating carrots by hand, and chopping pistachios by hand is too laborious for me, especially on a busy day. Also, I don't have a good safety record with graters. 😅 It makes this cake a cinch to make, as it is all mixed by hand.
4. Crack the eggs into a bowl, or take them out of the refrigerator the night before, as early as possible so that they are at room temperature to use. I realise though that if you live in a cool climate you probably don't need to keep your eggs in the frig at all.

Labneh Icing:

One day ahead of serving: Combine the yoghurt and 1/2 tsp. salt flakes in a bowl. Line a fine sieve with muslin or a clean Chux cloth and set over a bowl. Transfer the yoghurt mixture to the prepared cloth and fold up the edges to cover the yoghurt. Press down the yoghurt mixture with a plate and chill overnight to drain. The next day, place the labneh in a bowl with icing sugar and vanilla. Stir until smooth.

Labneh before adding the icing sugar and vanilla. At this stage it can be eaten as a cheese.
Making the cake:
Preheat the oven to 160 deg. C. Grease the base and sides of a 20 cm round cake pan and line with baking paper.

Sift the flour, bicarb soda, baking powder and spices into a bowl. Into a separate bowl, combine the drained pineapple, eggs, grated carrot, caster sugar, and oil. Add this mix to the sifted flour mixture and stir to combine.

Stir through the pistachios and the sultanas. Pour into the prepared cake tin.

Bake the mixture uncovered, for 1 hour, then loosely cover with foil and bake until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. My cake only took 70 minutes to cook in a fan forced oven. Yours might take longer. Remove from the oven and cool in pan for 20 minutes.

Remove the cake from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Spread icing over the cooled cake, then sprinkle with extra pistachios. If you have edible dried rose petals, you could also use those or any edible fresh flowers. This cake lends itself to lots of floral decoration.

As I write this it is teeming with rain outside, the thunder and lightning has relented, so I have just turned on my computer.  Some modern weather forecasters would call it a rain event, but here we just call it a storm.

Thanks for dropping by, it's time for a cuppa and some left over cake.

Best wishes,


(This recipe is based on one from 100 best Delicious recipes.)


  1. that sounds yummy, but a bit too sweet for me. I have always found hummingbird cake too sweet, so think I will stick to my regular carrot cake recipe that my Mom passed on to me! She, just like me would adjust the sugar to the least amount possible! I might try your idea for labne icing though, as I buy a huge tub of yoghurt every week so always have it on hand. Your cake looks beautiful with the pistachios and petals on it!

  2. I think using carrot instead of banana means it isn't as sweet. The labneh is delicious and not overly sweet either. Thanks for your comment, Pauline

  3. That cake looks delicious, Pauline. I have never made a hummingbird cake to be honest. I used to bake a lot of carrot cakes when the children were growing up though.

  4. Thanks Chel. Yes I like carrot cakes as well. This is just a slight twist on that theme really.Best wishes, Pauline

  5. What an interesting story about a cake that I've not ran across. We love carrot cake and pineapple so this sounds yummy, but we'll forgo the chopped pistachios. Thanks for sharing a recipe and story that is new to me.

    1. Thanks Ron, it was new story to me as well, makes the whole exercise more interesting. Nuts are definitely optional I think:) Best wishes, Pauline

  6. what a gorgeous bird pauline, and a gorgeous cake. it looks so moist. i've never heard of labneh icing. sounds yummy THat plate is so pretty too. cheers sherry

    1. Thanks Sherry. It was a delicious cake, and for some reason tasted even better the day after being made. One of my Mum's Shelley plates. Best wishes, Pauline

  7. I had no idea that rum cake could be made with different types of alcohol. I'll have to try making it with brandy next time.Rum Cake Jamaican


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