Which Caribbean island is responsible for the original hummingbird cake?

The popular version of Hummingbird Cake is a banana-pineapple-spice layer cake with cream cheese frosting. An earlier version, called Dr. Bird Cake, was not a layer cake. Rather, it was baked in a tube pan. That recipe also did not call for cream cheese frosting. / Photo by Ligaya Figueras

The popular version of Hummingbird Cake is a banana-pineapple-spice layer cake with cream cheese frosting. An earlier version, called Dr. Bird Cake, was not a layer cake. Rather, it was baked in a tube pan. That recipe also did not call for cream cheese frosting. / Photo by Ligaya Figueras

When AJC food and dining editor Ligaya Figueras went on the hunt to find the backstory behind hummingbird cake, a staple on many southern dessert lists, she didn’t know it would take her to the Caribbean.

Anne Byrn, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution food editor known as the Cake Mix Doctor, discovered that the first hummingbird cake was not referred to by that name, but rather as Dr. Bird Cake. “It’s what they called a hummingbird in Jamaica,” she explained. “It’s also the logo on Jamaica Airlines.”

Sifting through newspaper archives, Byrn found out that Jamaica Airlines had held press parties in New York and Miami in 1969 to promote Jamaica as a travel destination. What did they serve at those parties? A cake containing tropical fruit flavors of bananas and pineapple. The bananas were mashed, the pineapple crushed and the cake was baked in a tube pan.

Want to find out more about the origins of the hummingbird cake? Click here.

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